Top Artists – Willie Nelson

Letter of the Week – Belafonte at Carnegie Hall and Stardust

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

Hey Tom, 

My July 4 weekend was great. I had lots of company this weekend for three days straight. I slayed a bunch of them with my new collection of Hot Stamper LPs from Better Records. Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it suddenly. I played Harry Belafonte (Carnegie Hall Live Concert) and Willie Nelson (Stardust) for some guests that grew up in another part of the world who had never ever even heard of these people. They had no clue about what they were going to hear. I watched them and they were mesmerized – leaning forward in their seats practically holding their breath – holding themselves still like a deer caught in the headlights. Not a sound spoken – even the females! The sense of being live was so palpable that most were simply speechless. Confusion was rampant since all that sound was coming from OLD BLACK VINYL.

My smile was a mile wide. Thanks for that satisfying experience.

John R. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Sings Kristofferson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Sings Kristofferson

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

A MINDBLOWINGLY GOOD A+++ SIDE ONE, the best we heard in the whole shootout! Side two earned an A++, making this the best copy to ever hit the site! We’ve heard great copies of this one in the past, but after throwing one on just for fun last year and hearing pretty mediocre sound, we decided that we’d collect a bunch of them to find out just how good the best pressings could sound — and how mind-numbingly average the typical copy can be. It’s not easy to find a copy that gets EVERYTHING right, but this side one seems to do it all.  

This is one of the better Willie Nelson records, not quite in the same league as Stardust (musically or sonically, I’m afraid), but certainly one of his strongest efforts from the period. Some songs are recorded better than others (when ain’t that the case?) but just about everything sounds great and the best stuff is out of this world. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Sweet Memories

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Sweet Memories

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

Excellent sound for these tough-to-come-by early Willie Nelson songs! This is a compilation of material from some of Willie’s earlier albums, records that are very hard to find these days and almost impossible to find with great sound and clean surfaces. Fortunately, this record was cut very well, giving us a chance to hear just how good this music can sound.   

This album features a bunch of Willie originals plus great covers of Help Me Make It Through The Night, Everybody’s Talkin’ and Both Sides Now. Tracking down the original albums these songs come from would be a tough task for anyone, and acquiring Hot Stamper copies would be prohibitively expensive for all but the most die-hard fans of the Red Headed Stranger. (more…)

Willie Nelson – The Troublemaker

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The Troublemaker

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is an excellent copy from our most recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • It’s richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Willie’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find
  • “The Troublemaker is Willie Nelson’s first all-gospel album, but country gospel in his hands doesn’t sound like traditional country gospel — it’s a Willie album, through and through… Consequently, it’s every bit as wonderfully idiosyncratic as any of his other mid-’70s work and, in some ways, even more so, because inspirational songs and religious material are usually not given arrangements as imaginative and free-spirited as this… “

This Columbia LP has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from The Typical Modern 180 Gram Reissue. This record is dramatically more real sounding than anything that’s been remastered for the audiophile market in years. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Stardust

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Stardust

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this exceptionally well-recorded album, this copy surely qualifies as an Audiophile Demo Disc, the best copy to hit the site in years!
  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”

(more…)

What’s the Right Grade for the CBS Half-Speed of Willie Nelson’s Stardust?

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More Stardust

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Sonic Grade: B to F, depending on the copy

This Hot Stamper CBS Mastersound LP has the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for the half-speed of this title. It KILLED the other two CBS Audiophile Stardusts we played. If you think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that any two records — domestic, import, audiophile, 180 gram, or otherwise — sound the same, then you simply need to do a shootout or two with records like these to be disabused of that notion.

One copy was awful; I’d have to say it’s one of the worst sounding audiophile pressings I’ve ever played. Somebody is going to buy it thinking it somehow guarantees them a higher quality pressing, and to that person I say, think again. That’s not the way it works.

This copy, on the other hand, sounds so good you’d think it was one of our hand-picked multi-hundred dollar Hot Stamper pressings. (One of them sold for $750, FYI.) It may not be the ultimate copy, but it sure sounded amazing to us. On the half-speed scale we give it Two Pluses. That’s the highest grade we’ve ever given ANY half-speed; from guys who can’t stand half-speeds as a rule, that’s high praise indeed. 

Check out Audiophile Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Willie Nelson – Phases And Stages


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Stunningly good Triple Plus (A+++) from the first note to the last; you’ll have a hard time doing any better than this
  • The overall sound here is big, full, solid and musical with excellent bass and none of the harshness that plagues most copies
  • This is the first Hot Stamper to make it to the site, and we’ve been trying for a long time! Not so many good sounding copies out there…
  • “Make no mistake – the deceptively relaxed arrangements, including the occasional strings, not only highlight Nelson’s clever eclecticism, but they also heighten the emotional impact of the album.”

See all of our Willie Nelson albums in stock

The first Hot Stamper copy of this great album to ever hit the site and it’s one for the ages. It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble. The presence and immediacy here are outstanding. Turn it up and Willie is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. He’s clearly one of our favorite male vocalists, and this superb copy will show you why. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Tougher Than Leather

 


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) on side one and almost as impressive on side two, this is as good a copy of Tougher Than Leather as can be found
  • It’s richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Willie’s unique voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy not heard on other copies
  • This is the first Hot Stamper to make it to the site, and we’ve been trying since 2011! Not that many good sounding copies out there…
  • As one Amazon reviewer wrote “This is a must buy album for any true Willie Nelson fan. This is good Willie – THERE IS NO BAD WILLIE!”

See all of our Willie Nelson albums in stock

The first Hot Stamper copy of this great album to ever hit the site and it’s one for the ages. It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

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

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

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

Imagine the sound of a Hot Stamper Stardust, but instead of Pop Standards you hear Willie, his voice still in its prime, singing Christmas songs, backed by similarly tasteful and understated arrangements. That’s what you get on this copy of Pretty Paper in a nutshell.

Released just a year after Stardust in 1979, many of the same musicians are featured, as well as the same producer, the amazing Booker T.. And the most shocking thing of all is just how good the sound is.

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Next to Stardust I’d have to say this is the best sound Willie has ever had. It’s so rich, smooth and natural — in other words, analog sounding — that it puts to shame what has come to be expected from pop recordings over the course of the last thirty years.

Yes, records used to actually sound like this, as hard as that may be to believe after playing so many dismal sounding modern recordings, modern reissues and audiophile “product”. A good pressing of this album is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a high quality turntable these days. I find it hard to imagine that the CD would sound remotely as good.

Note that this record sounds even better when played loud, no doubt the result of having no trace of phony top end boost and very little processing throughout, unlike — you guessed it — much of the vinyl product being produced today. (And of course all digital releases, which should go without saying to anyone reading this commentary I suspect.) Many if not most pressings of the legendary Stardust album have some phony top added to the sound. The good ones — meaning the Hot Stamper copies — are the ones that sound more like this: natural up top and and throughout the midrange.