Top Artists – Graham Nash

James Taylor – Gorilla

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  • Two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides for one of James Taylor’s best softer rock albums
  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by our man and one that belongs in your collection
  • Mexico, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and I Was A Fool To Care are standouts – there are no weak tracks here
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 12 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Mexico.

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a good sounding record, not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners

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  • With two amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • We love the All Analog Tubey Magical sound of the recording, especially on a copy as rich and full-bodied as this one
  • Arguably the best of the solo CSN albums – a founding member of our Top 100 Rock and Pop List and, with grades like these, a True Demo Disc
  • 4 1/2 stars: “From the soaring “I Used to Be a King” through the gossamer “Simple Man” to the wah-wah-laden “Military Madness,” the record is filled with gorgeous melodies, flawless singing, and lyrical complexities that hold up decades later.”

When you hear Chicago here you will not believe how cinematic the sound is! It’s everything we love about analog and then some.

Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best. Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better.

Others (Sleep Song, Wounded Bird) are quiet and intimate. Their subtlety is highlighted by the big productions surrounding them. This is the rare album in which every aspect of the production, from the arrangements to the final mix, serves to bring out the best qualities in the songs, regardless of scale. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

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Graham Nash – Wild Tales – A Forgotten Classic

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard on Nash’s underrated second album
  • The sound is Classic 1973 Analog – smooth, rich, warm and tonally correct, with real energy and the kind of natural sound that’s a hallmark of the better Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recordings
  • Filling out the band: Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Dave Mason, Neil Young, David Lindley and too many others to list
  • “Nash speaks from his heart on Wild Tales and those that are willing to get past its sparse arrangements will be able to accept it for the masterpiece of folk-rock that it is.”

This is a criminally underappreciated album, and perhaps that has to do with just how poor the average copy sounds. When you get a copy like this one you cannot fail to appreciate how powerful and deeply emotional these songs are. Drop the needle on the title track or Grave Concern to see what I mean. To read what another fan, and much better writer, had to say about the album, click on the Rave Review tab above.

The sound has the LIFE and ENERGY of rock and roll. This is Graham fronting a band, and on the best copies the recording and the music both work together to make them sound like they’ve been playing together forever. This is not the Big Production that Nash’s first album was. Been there done that; who needs the headache?

Working Their Magic

This is an album where top players got together and worked their magic on a bunch of good songs, playing for the most part live in the studio, which is practically the only way to communicate the feel of a real band (cf. Almost Cut My Hair).

What happens when you clean and play a bunch of copies? You come to recognize what the best ones are doing that the average ones aren’t. And the effect of that understanding on this particular title was simply to recognize the nature of this project, that these are a great bunch of well-crafted songs played with energy and enthusiasm by a very talented group of top flight musicians, totally in sync with each other. This is what they were trying to do, and really, what more can you ask for?

This copy had the kind of transparency that allowed us to really hear into the soundfield and pick out every instrument and recording effect. If your stereo is up to it you can hear some of the band members talking during the music and before the songs. (more…)

Andrew Gold / Andrew Gold – A Fab Favorite from 1975

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are dripping with Analog magic — transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end and the bass is especially meaty and well-defined
  • Those of you who have tried our Hot Stampers of JT will know exactly what to expect; Garay LOVES BASS and so do we
  • “An abundance of riches can be heard in Andrew Gold’s first solo album. There are great Beatlesque melodies here, as well as heartfelt love songs that are Gold’s specialties. Playing nearly all of the instruments himself makes this a truly “solo” effort.” – All Music, 4 Stars

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. My comments for this copy note how spacious and present and full of energy it is. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.

As with any pop album there are always some tracks that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material. This Hot Stamper copy brings Andrew Gold’s music to LIFE.

This record is dripping with Analog Tubey Magic. It’s transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end. The bass is especially meaty and well-defined. Val Garay puts plenty on his recordings, one of the reasons we love listening to them. The vocals are present and clear, the studio is huge, and the snare is FAT the way it always is on Val’s recordings. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper copy has TWO AMAZING sides back to back, with a side two that is so off the charts we seriously considered giving it Four Pluses. The Four Plus copies have to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” The Triple Plus side here is doing what it should — it’s correct from top to bottom, full of energy, transparent, and musical. It’s exactly what you want it to sound like in every possible way.

Side two does all that and more. It’s BIGGER, richer and more clear than it has any right to be. We’ve played thirty or forty of these over the past ten years, and this one just takes the sound of the recording to another level we had no idea was even possible.

To be honest, the recording itself cannot begin to compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. This can be a good sounding record, not a great one, in league with those.

But the average copy is so flat, lifeless and hard sounding that you might just wonder if there isn’t something wrong with your stereo when the needle hits the Gorilla groove. Most copies are awful, and the same goes for the albums that came before it and after it, Walking Man and In the Pocket, respectively. (more…)

Graham Nash’s Wild Tales

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1974. 

Like the man’s first album, no one pays much attention to this music nowadays, but Better Records is trying to remedy that situation by making available to the audiophile public numerous copies of this album, every one of which is guaranteed to turn you into a fan. This is not new music, but it may be new music to you, so “discovering” it will be every bit as much fun for you in 2016 as it was for me in 1973.

This is not an “audiophile” record. It ain’t never going to make the TAS List or get a mention by anyone in the Audiophile Press Corps. This is a record for music lovers who care about good sound. If you’re reading this, that’s you. Us too, and proud of it.

From one audiophile to another, this is a great record that belongs in your collection. (more…)

Crosby / Nash – Graham Nash / David Crosby

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  • Close to Shootout Winning sound on both sides – Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) – one of the best copies of this shockingly well recorded album to hit the site in years
  • The vocals are exceptionally breathy, smooth and sweet here – this recording is the very definition of Midrange Magic, thanks to the engineering of Bill Halverson
  • 4 stars: “This self-titled release is one of most impressive side project to arise from CSN. The best elements of each are readily available here, punctuated at every turn by their complicated vocal arrangements and air-lock harmonies.”

Where in the world did all the Midrange Magic that we were hearing on this copy of the album come from?

On a song like Where Will I Be the sound is so unbelievably transparent, open and intimate it sounds like an outtake from David Crosby’s first album, one of the ten best sounding rock records ever made. How did Bill Halverson learn how to record as well as Stephen Barncard all of a sudden?

I was in high school when I first played this album and I remember being disappointed with it, mostly because I was expecting another Deja Vu. As I grow older I appreciate other qualities in a recording; I’ve come to appreciate this album for what it is: not the Grand Musical Statement that Deja Vu is, but a simpler, more intimate portrait of two artists at the start of a lifelong harmonious collaboration. With a damn fine batch of songs to sing.

Top Quality Sound

The Midrange Magic on some of these tracks is off the scale. The transparency is also remarkable, with richness and sweetness matched by few copies in our huge shootout.

Listen to the three-dimensional quality of the piano on the first track of side two. Skip to the second track and you will hear some of the best bass to be found on the side. The song is not about the bass, obviously, so we hasten to point out the vocals and harmonies — the sine qua non of any CSN or Y record — are Truly Right On The Money as well. (more…)

Crosby / Nash – Whistling Down The Wire

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  • Insanely good sound from start to finish for this ABC pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides were noticeably richer than most of the copies we played, which generally tended to be lean and dry
  • We played a big pile of these, but finding the Tubey Magical, spacious, sweet ANALOG sound we were after was not easy
  • Fortunately this copy showed us that it indeed was possible to get the clear, breathy vocals necessary to bring out the wonderful harmonies these two are so rightly famous for
  • “Wind on the Water has an instant classic, lived-in sound and is a definite must-have.” – All Music, 4 Stars

Music Does the Driving

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year. As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some will be revealed, but for the most part, vintage pressings should sound better each time you play them with continual refinements and improvements to your system, room and cleaning techniques.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

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Graham Nash’s Wild Tales and Their Mysteries Many and Deep

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What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a lack of presence. Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies, or was it bad vinyl that couldn’t hold the energy of the stamper, or perhaps some stampers just weren’t cut right — these are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one thinks about them. As we like to say at every turn, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.

Not surprisingly, we’ve found that cleaning them and playing them seems to work the best. They work the best because nothing else works at all.

What More Can You Ask For

What happens when you clean and play a bunch of copies? You come to recognize what the best ones are doing what the average ones aren’t. And the effect of that understanding on this particular title was simply to recognize the nature of this project, that these are a great bunch of well-crafted songs played with energy and enthusiasm by a very talented group of top flight musicians, totally in sync with each other. This is what they were trying to do, and really, what more do you want?
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