Top Artists – Booker T. & The M.G.’s

Willie Nelson – Without A Song

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout 
  • As he did so brilliantly on Stardust, here Willie brings his inimitable singing style to classics of love and loss taken from The Great American Songbook
  • Top quality arrangements – drop the needle on Autumn Leaves or A Dreamer’s Holiday to hear Booker T and his bandmates at their best
  • Top tracks include Autumn Leaves, As Time Goes By, Harbor Lights and of course, Without a Song
  • The critics may not have been impressed, but music lovers sure were – Amazon buyers award the album more than 4 1/2 stars

Once again Willie is backed by a top-notch backing band fronted by the one and only Booker T. Jones. Drop the needle on “Once In A While” and dig the uncanny presence of the vocal and astonishing clarity of the ensemble.

Much like Stardust, a Hot Stamper pressing of this record is a real treat for we audiophiles. This is some amazingly soulful music with midrange magic to spare.

There’s lots of air up top, giving the instruments plenty of room to breathe. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied; if Willie’s voice doesn’t sound a bit gravelly, you’re probably playing an overly smooth or lo-rez copy, and we take away a lot of points for both.

This copy gives you everything you could ask for from this music — tight bass, clearly audible guitar transients, generous amounts of warmth and sweetness, vocal immediacy and studio ambience like no other.

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Booker T & The M.G.’s – Melting Pot

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  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout- exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Both sides here are super rich and Tubey Magical with a huge bottom end and tons of energy  
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Melting Pot could be the most well-realized of all the albums by Booker T. & the M.G.’s, a smooth and soulful, yet expansive 35 minutes of all originals…” – All Music

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – A Copy This Good Deserves to Be on the TAS List

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

  • 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…”
  • If you’re a fan of The Great American Songbook, this is a killer recording from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience on this copy. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate.

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection. (more…)

Willie Nelson / Pretty Paper – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

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.

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, the result no doubt 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. 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.

Willie Nelson / Stardust – Resolution and Warmth Are Key to the Best Pressings

This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978

Warmth and Resolution

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate. 

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection.

Awareness

Many copies of this album suffer from an phony hi-fi-ish quality (which is probably the reason why Stardust made the TAS List in the first place). You’ve got to play a big stack of copies to come up with a pressing that offers this kind of relaxed, natural sound. That’s our job here at Better Records — playing bad records so you don’t have to.

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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