Top Artists – Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Willie is front and center – this copy is guaranteed to fill your listening room with The Red Headed Stranger’s uniquely gifted voice and guitar
  • Big time kudos upon the album’s release: #183 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Number One on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music. In 2010, it was inducted to the National Recording Registry
  • 5 stars: “… a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover, told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing… a phenomenal blockbuster…”

If you made the mistake of buying the awful Impex Heavy Vinyl pressing that came out in 2011 — the CD has better sound, if that tells you anything — all is not lost. Here’s your chance to hear how good the album can sound!

It took 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…)

Letter of the Week – Taking Another Crack at Willie and Nat

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

Hello team,

I’ve been a little distracted here, I got married over the weekend! So, haven’t done as much listening over the past couple of weeks. However, I did have a chance to listen to Stardust and Love Is The Thing. They were both different than their Classic Records and Analogue Productions counterparts. Willie sounded a little smoother, more organic, and more integrated. The strings on Love Is The Thing were very different, more pronounced and emotional, but Nat’s voice, and the sound overall, sounded a little strident, maybe “too” hot. I’d like to send them both back to you, and if you have a chance to send back the discs I sent to you I’d very much appreciate it. All told, the two big sets of Better Records are really incredible, and only serve to make my want list grow. Here’s to you and the next set!

Douglas

Doug,

I, along with the two other guys in our listening panels, sat down to play the Heavy Vinyl you sent us, and the long and short of it is that we were astonished that records that sound that bad actually were ever produced.

Nat is wrong six ways from Sunday, and Willie is not so much wrong as just not very good. Nat: “F”, one of the worst heavy vinyl disasters of all time, and Willie: “D” sound, more like a bad CD than a record. There are many pressings of this album that are not good, but this version is probably worse than most of them, hence the D grade. The old Classic pressing is probably better, and it would earn about a C grade.

I suspect the CDs of both these pressings are much better sounding than this vinyl. The DCC gold is definitely better by a long shot, and the plain old Willie CD is probably a step up as well.

I will be writing a review with more depth down the road, taken from my notes. How these records can be enjoyed by anyone is beyond me. Some of the worst sound I have ever heard, and I have heard plenty!

Take any and all of the above for what it’s worth.

Best, TP

Whoa!

I am surprised! Very different take from what I’m hearing at home – would it be okay for me to take another week or two to do some more A/B listening of Stardust and Love Is The Thing on my system?

I’d like to reread “what to listen for” and really do a deep comparison of a couple tracks on each.

* Really * appreciate your time and feedback!

Douglas

Douglas,

How did your shootout go? (more…)

Willie Nelson – Stardust – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

Finding this LP after a day of searching through about twenty mostly run-of-the-mill (and frustrating) copies was nothing short of a REVELATION! Yes, we had found a handful of wonderful sounding copies, but we were holding our hopes out for something that would really knock our socks off.. Sure, there were some solid A’s and even a few A+’s — those are grades we give to records that sound right, not to records that blow our minds. When we dropped the needle on this copy, it was like lighting the fuse on the dynamite in our heads. A living breathing Willie Nelson had suddenly appeared right in front of us.

Finally, here was the sound that lived up to the hype. Veil upon veil had lifted. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind

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  • With two insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this copy earned Top Honors in our most recent shootout
  • Just drop the needle on Bridge Over Troubled Water to hear Willie and his bandmates doing what they do best
  • Both sides are clean, clear, open and spacious with a huge three-dimensional soundstage and a solid bottom end
  • …Throughout the late ’70s, Nelson’s freewheeling, organically eclectic music was not just the biggest thing in country, it was also some of its best, most adventurous music… At the time, it was a huge, huge hit — his biggest ever, actually, spending 22 weeks at the top of the country charts…”

This is one of Willie’s best-known and best-loved albums, and when you get the right copy the sound can be excellent. This copy is guaranteed to be a big step up from any other copy you’ve heard. With these grades, at these kinds of prices, it had better be!

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Willie belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band of industry session masters. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on Bridge Over Troubled Water to hear these guys doing what they do best.

Much like Stardust, a top quality pressing of this record is a real treat for the audiophile, no matter where they may be on the audio scale. The transparency and clarity on the best copies will be nothing less than astonishing. Even if your system isn’t at its best, a great copy of this record will still be musical and involving. On the other hand, if you’ve spent the time and energy to really get your stereo cooking, you’re going to be in for some amazingly soulful country-tinged midrange magic! (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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There’s a reason Willie Nelson’s Stardust is on HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Willie Nelson record. You wouldn’t have a clue how magical this recording can be if you dropped the needle on the average copy, a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be exactly the pressing that Harry Pearson recommends on his Super Disc list. The catalog number may be the same, but the sound won’t even hint at Super disc status. (Which, sad to say, most audiophiles don’t seem to notice.)

Get real. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record (and we had more than double that) you have very little chance of finding even one side with exceptional sound.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover.

Without at least the right stampers, the amount of work required to find a copy that deserves a Super Disc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles are in a position to devote to such a difficult and frustrating project. The average copy of Stardust just plain sounds wrong, and finding one that sounds right is no mean feat. 

Letter of the Week – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, A Little Touch of Schmilsson and Stardust

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

Hey Tom, 

I was totally blown away by the Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 album you sent me. The lovely, sweet female vocals and the awesome percussion was to die for. For a supposed easy listening album, I was getting very excited! In fact, I cannot stop listening to it. My only compliant is it is too short in duration. When it is over, I want (need?) more! Do his other albums sound like this? If so, I will be buying more.

This is what I love about you guys, you turn me on to albums I would never have even thought to listen to. For example, on your recommendation, I ordered Harry Nillsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night. This is an album I would never have given a second look at, yet, as soon as the needle hit the groove, I was floored. The vocal presence is startling. It is like Harry is in the room singing to me. It reminds me a lot of one of my other favourites I bought from you a while back – a White Hot copy of Willie Nelson’s Stardust. 

Willie, Harry and Sergio as demo discs…who would have thought! (more…)

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

More Willie Nelson

Always On My Mind

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this Columbia pressing was second to none. Side one has MASTER TAPE SOUND — super dynamic and OFF THE CHARTS presence and transparency!

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Wille belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band of industry session masters. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on Bridge Over Troubled Water to hear these guys doing what they do best. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Without A Song – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Without A Song

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

A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND and QUIET VINYL on BOTH SIDES! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this Columbia pressing was second to none.

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Wille belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band fronted by the one and only Booker T. Jones. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on Autumn Leaves or A Dreamer’s Holiday to hear these guys doing what they do best. (more…)

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…)