Top Artists – America

Listening for Harmonically Correct Acoustic Guitars on America’s Debut

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of America

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. As it says below, most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. They often sound veiled and dull, and on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle.

This kind of sparkle can be heard on many records Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of MoFis with sparkling acoustic guitars would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!

Three Roses and Rainy Day

The key song on side one that we use to test is Three Roses. There are three sonically-separated individuals each playing six string acoustic guitars, and when this side is cut right the guitars sound just gorgeous: sweet, with all their harmonic structures intact. (It’s also my favorite song on side one.)

The real test on side two is the song Rainy Day. Lots of guitars, and when the close-miked descending guitar figure comes in after the first few couplets, if it’s too bright, you’re going to know it. This song is the hardest one to cut and almost never sounds right. Some copies are cut JUST RIGHT. The vocals are breathy, the guitars are full-bodied, and the overall sound is airy, open, and spacious.

On the best copies Rainy Day is Demo Disc material — they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like that anymore. You have to go back to 50-year-old records like this one to find that sound.

Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency, all the things that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

Of course, many 50 year old records are beat to death, and many of them don’t sound any good anyway. It’s no mean feat to find quiet, superb pressings of albums like this, but you can be sure that Better Records is up to the task.

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America – Homecoming

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  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • AMG raves; “The songs here are tighter and more forthright… The sound quality is clear and bright; the colorful arrangements, while still acoustic guitar-based, feature more electric guitar and keyboards. The performance quality is more assured, among the most urgently committed the group would ever put on vinyl. This top-flight album is a very rewarding listen.”

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments tend to be right as well.

Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 49 year old records like this one to find that sound. (more…)

America – Hideaway

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  • Both of these sides are clean, clear and full-bodied with breathy, less gritty vocals and more transparency than every other copy we played
  • “Hideaway is the sixth original studio album by American folk rock trio America, released in 1976. The album was produced by legendary Beatles producer George Martin. The album was a hit in the US, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard album chart and being certified GOLD by the RIAA.” – Wikipedia

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America – Harbor

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Produced by George Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick, this is the last America album to feature Dan Peek before he took off for a career as a solo Christian musician – while it’s less folky (and less popular) than their earlier work, there are still plenty of great songs here

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America – Self-Titled

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More Hippie Folk Rock

  • One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices are so well recorded they will seem to be floating right in front of you
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
  • A tough record to find these days on the early Green Label with sound this good and audiophile playing surfaces that are this quiet
  • 4 stars: “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”

This is clearly America’s best album, and on the better pressings like this one, the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.

The version we are offering here has the song A Horse With No Name. Some copies without that song can sound very good as well, but with grades this good, this copy is going to be very hard to beat.

Interestingly, A Horse With No Name never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album. It was recorded in 1971, after the album had already been released, and subsequently added to newer pressings starting in 1972. Unlike the rest of the album, it was not engineered by Ken Scott at Trident, but by a different engineer at Morgan Studios. The engineer of that song took a different approach to the one that Scott had, and we leave it to you to decide how well that approach worked.

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Letter of the Week – “I have been listening to this record for 50 years and I have never heard it sound like this!”

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America Records We’ve Reviewed

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

Hi Fred,

I received the new copy of America last night. I have been listening to this record for exactly 50 years and I have never heard it sound like this! That big sound and tubey magic is there in abundance, the guitars sound like real guitars, the “jawbone” on Donkey Jaw vibrates forever, and the surface is amazingly quiet as well.

I know that 2020 was hard for everyone, and those of us who spent the year trying to cure kids of cancer while keeping them from catching and dying from COVID had a particularly hard time. I do not know if I would have made it through 2020 without the records that you guys sent me. It was a great stress relief to come home at night, put on one of my “Better Records”, and be transported back to a simpler time. Thank you for all that you and the entire team at Better Records do for us. (more…)

America – Hearts

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • With George Martin producing and Geoff Emerick engineering, maybe it’s not surprising that this album sound so good!
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “This album was a big hit in the US, reaching number 4 on the Billboard album chart and being certified Gold by the RIAA. It produced three hit singles: ‘Sister Golden Hair’, ‘Daisy Jane,’ and ‘Woman Tonight.'” – Wikipedia

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America – Hat Trick

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  • This original Warner Brothers pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Rich, full-bodied and spacious, with wonderfully sweet, breathy vocals – this is the sound we look for on America’s classic Folk Pop albums
  • “Hat Trick, the trio’s third effort in as many years, is an admirable and ultimately successful attempt at fleshing out a sound that at one time consisted almost entirely of crisp acoustic guitar interplay, two-fingered elementary piano progressions and saccharin-sweet three-part harmonies… [it] should hopefully dispel America’s once notorious reputation as a “pubescent Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.” – Cameron Crowe, L.A. Times

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Letter of the Week – “Un******believable that any record could sound that good.”

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

Hey Tom, 

I want to tell you I bought America’s 1st LP from you some couple of years back. White Hot designation at that time. I don’t know if you have found one better since then. Paid big dollars and I still cannot believe the sound. Worth every penny. 

 

When I play that LP, I cannot avoid getting goose bumps or getting totally enveloped with the music. The guitars and vocals are flat out surreal.

It is just as amazing as the Eagles 1st lp Hot Stamper. Un******believable that any record could sound that good.

Bill P.

America / History: America’s Greatest Hits

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • “Master Tape” sound lets this Greatest Hits compilation hold its own against the originals
  • 4 1/2 stars: “History: Greatest Hits perfectly spotlights both the polished and layered production of British studio legend George Martin and the West Coast tones of the band’s folk-pop style. Featuring the group’s many chart toppers from the first half of the ’70s, this definitive roundup includes Neil Young-style acoustic sides like “Lonely People,” the hippie MOR of “Muskrat Love,” and breezy acid rock like “Sandman.” An essential collection for fans who like their ’70s folk with a pop sheen, loads of hooks, and top-drawer arrangements.”

THE BIG SOUND on both sides lets this Greatest Hits compilation hold its own against the originals. They have plenty of bottom end that drives these songs with energy and life. Listen for the bells on ‘Tin Man’; they have the correct transients and harmonics. You never quite get back all of the Tubey Magic of the originals, but the detail and richness are enough to make you fall in love with this high quality George Martin (re) production.

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