Top Artists – Willie Nelson

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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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. (more…)

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

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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…)

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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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.