Top Artists – Little Feat

Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

On the better copies the title track has Demonstration Quality Sound – the soundstage is huge and the multi-tracked vocal parts are energetic, clear and free from congestion and distortion. If your copy doesn’t blow your mind on this song, try one of ours.

The next track, Rocket in My Pocket, kicks off with a big, fat drum sound that’s present and punchy on the better copies. The album finishes with the controversial jazz-rock fusion of Day at the Dog Races, a song the band used to open their live act with in order to get in the groove. If the band wants to stretch out a bit, we don’t have a problem with it.

On side two Old Folks’ Boogie rocks with the best of them; it’s a must for any Greatest Hits compilation. Red Streamliner has a strong Doobies vibe, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about that band. (We’re big fans.) (more…)

Letter of the Week – Dixie Chicken

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Stop putting records I want on your site. I’m finding them very difficult to resist. I’ve come to expect my socks to get blown off every time. The recent Dixie Chicken was no exception, by the way. I dropped the needle on side one and knew within a couple of seconds, “Oh yeah, this is the shit!”. My socks were across the room, needless to say.

Robert B.

Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus – A Passable (!) MoFi

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Mobile Fidelity Pressing reviewed. Our Audiophile Scorecard has plenty more where this one came from

This is actually a pretty good sounding record, all things considered. We put this one through our cleaning process and gave it a listen. Although our Hot Stamper copies do sound better, they’re also quite a bit more expensive. This copy had the best sound we heard out of the three or four we played, which makes it a Hot Stamper I suppose, but we are instead just calling it a Very Good Sounding Copy.

Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.

We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better. (more…)

Little Feat – The Last Record Album – Leaner and Cleaner Just Won’t Cut It

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To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to properly judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving? Can they get it to ROCK? Will they even turn it up loud enough to find out? My jaded money is on no, for all three. 

Rockin’ The Last Record Album is a much, much tougher test than what they are used to, one that their systems will struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?)

Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Houses of the Holy, or the hundreds of other Classic Rock  records we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is all about the cake, not the frosting.

Bear that in mind when they tell you at your local salon that the record you brought with you is at fault, not their expensive and supposedly “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. If you’ve put your audio time in, their excuses should fall on deaf ears. 

Whose Fault Is It?

Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they lack faith in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one that sounds like this. (more…)

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is.”)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – His Best Album By Far

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A distinguished member of the  Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this British Sunray Island pressing. SSTTA is very hard to find nowadays, but we managed to put together a big enough stack to make a shootout possible, and this copy acquited very well indeed — it was miles ahead of the typical pressing. As is usually the case with these originals, the vinyl is a bit noisier than ideal at Mint Minus Minus.

No doubt this is the best album Robert Palmer ever made. With Lowell George’s unmistakable slide guitar and members of the Meters providing backup, as well as the amazing Bernard Purdie on drums, it’s the only Robert Palmer release that consistently works all the way through as an album. The entire first side is excellent from top to bottom, with the title track being our favorite RP song of all time.  (more…)

Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero – Another Bad Nautilus Pressing

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing. After playing a killer Hot Stamper pressing of the album a few years back we wrote the following: 

If you own the Nautilus Half-Speed, a record we actually liked years ago even when we had long since forsworn those kinds of pressings, you are really in for a treat. THIS is what the band sounds like in the REAL world, not the phony audiophile world that so many seem to get stuck in.

Just listen to how punchy the drums are, a perfect example of what proper mastering does well and Half-Speed mastering does poorly. When you listen to a top quality Hot Stamper pressing you feel that you are hearing this music EXACTLY the way Little Feat wanted it to be heard. I just don’t get that vibe from the half-speed. It sounds like someone messed with it, and of course someone did. That’s how they get those audiophile records to sound the way they do. For some reason some audiophiles like their records to sound pretty and lifeless with blurry bass. That is not our sound here at Better Records. (more…)

Little Feat – Dixie Chicken – How Does the MoFi Sound?

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings. 

How does the MoFi pressing sound?

We have no idea; we’ve never bothered to order one, for at least one very good reason. This is an album about rhythm. Half-Speed mastered records have sloppy bass and, consequently, lack rhythmic drive. Who is his right mind would want to half-speed master an album by Little Feat, one of the most rhythmically accomplished bands in rock and roll history?

The obvious answer is that it was a bad idea. But, if you’re Mobile Fidelity, and that’s the only idea you’ve ever had because you are in the half-speed mastering business, then what else can you do? As the old saying goes, to a hammer everything looks like a nail. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity’s Approach to Mastering – I Have a Theory

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I have a theory about why MoFi’s mastering approach here tended to work for the album when it failed so miserably for so many others. It goes a little something like this. 

Back in their early days MoFi tended to add bass and treble to practically every record they mastered, regardless of whether or not the master tape they were using needed any such boost. A little extra sparkle up top and a little extra slam down below was what the audiophile public seemed to want. Truth be told, I was a member of that group and I know I did.

Fortunately for them Waiting for Columbus is an album that can really use a little at both ends. Rarely did The Mastering Lab supply it, making the original domestic pressings somewhat bass-shy and dull up top. The MoFi clearly corrected the poor EQ choices The Mastering Lab had made for the most part.

The Bottom

But at what cost? At a very high one, revealed to us during our shootout by the killer pressings we uncovered. On the MoFi the bass, although there is more of it, just the right amount in fact, is BLUBBER. The lack of definition is positively painful, once you’ve heard how well-recorded it is, which is what the best copies can show you. (more…)

Little Feat – The Last Record Album

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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Little Feat – The Last Record Album

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1975.

This White Hot Stamper pressing has the sound I’ve been trying to find on a pressing of The Last Record Album for more than thirty years. Finally, here it is! This was my first Little Feat album, purchased way back in 1975, and it’s still my favorite by the band. The recording is notable for having amazing bass; it goes REALLY deep in places (Long Distance Love) and it’s punchy and rich throughout the album.

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The problem has always been an overly smooth top end and a serious lack of presence. The good news is that if you clean enough copies with the advanced cleaning techniques we’ve developed (using an $8000 RCM helps) and you make enough improvements to your stereo, room, etc., with the right copy you can actually get this album to sound REALLY GOOD. This is one of those amazingly good copies, the best we have ever heard. It easily won our shootout on both sides. From start to finish it’s As Good As It Gets.

Side One

A+++ White Hot stamper sound! So transparent, big and open, with huge space and 3-dimensional like no other copy we played, without sacrificing any of the richness and bass that the best copies have. This one does it all.

Side Two

A+++, not quite as rich in the lower midrange as the side one we discuss above, but very high-rez (listen for the vocal reverb, not audible on most copies) and by far the best side two we played. See if you don’t hear the change in the lower mids we mention when switching sides.

The piano is key here. On track three it should sound rich and full and solid, yet percussive. Rarely does it sound right, which is what makes it a good test for side two.

Whose Fault Is It?

Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they don’t believe in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one like this.

This one has the kind of super transparency that allows you to hear the space around all the instruments. Most copies have a bad case of ‘cardboard drums”; even the best copies have a bit of that sound. But when you have one of these high-rez copies spinning, the sound of the drums doesn’t call attention to itself. It may not be the BEST drum sound you ever heard, but it’s a GOOD drum sound, and in a lot of ways you could argue that it’s the RIGHT drum sound. It’s rich and fat, a perfect match for the sound of the album as a whole.

A True Test

Now if you have mini-monitors or screens, some of that sound won’t come through nearly as well as it might with another speaker, a big dynamic one for example. To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record that one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving.

This is a much tougher test, one that most systems struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?) Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Bad Company, or the hundreds of other classic rock albums we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is about the cake, not the frosting.

Keep that in mind when they tell you at your local audio salon that the record you brought in is at fault, not their expensive and therefore “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. To mangle another old saying, if you know your records, their excuses should fall on deaf ears.

One of the Greats

Little Feat is one of the ten best rock bands in the history of the world. Their live album Waiting For Columbus is, in my opinion, the greatest live rock album ever recorded. If you don’t own a copy of it, buy that Little Feat album next.