Top Artists – Neil Young

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

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  • Harvest Moon finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Full-bodied, big, rich and solid, this album has the kind of analog sound we did not expect to find, but were pleasantly surprised, thank goodness
  • Turn this one up good and loud (which you can do when the sound is THIS good) and you’ll have a living, breathing Neil Young standing right between your speakers
  • “Harvest Moon manages to be sentimental without being sappy, wistful without being nostalgic… a beautiful album that proudly displays scars, heartaches, and love.”

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Neil Young / Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)

Neil Young – Old Ways

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  • This superb pressing of Old Ways boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, full-bodied and energetic, with wonderfully present vocals – shocking for a recording from 1985
  • Neil’s unabashed country album is guaranteed to make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was in ’96
  • “… this turns out to be his most carefully crafted album since Comes a Time… Pretty amazing.” – Rolling Stone
  • “Old Ways [is]…cut in the style of Harvest and Comes a Time, but with a stronger country leaning. Young depends heavily on friends, especially for vocals – Waylon Jennings sings harmony…

This is Neil heading out to the sticks with his buddies, authentic country greats such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and others (nice friends to have), doing what Neil loves to do — making the music that HE wants to make, not the music that anyone else wants him to, including David Geffen and his lawyers. Old friend Ben Keith (a huge part behind the sound of Harvest) shows up with his pedal steel guitar on a couple of tracks.

This probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite Neil Young album, but when it sounds like it does here it sure makes a lot more sense than it did when we heard it on the more mediocre pressings. The MoFi is a muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the dark and disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the string arrangements from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. (more…)

Neil Young’s Guitar Masterpiece – Danger Bird

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Listen to the way Danger Bird opens. Each instrument, one by one, slowly, deliberately, one could almost say haltingly, feeds into the mix, until the churning guitars give way to Neil’s spare vocal — fatalistic, doomed, already resigned to some fate he barely understands. 

Even though the song has just begun, you sense that Neil feels a weight and a darkness bearing down on him, that it’s ongoing, that it’s already started, that somehow you’re coming into it in the middle, well after the weight of it has begun to crush and perhaps even kill him. He knows the story of Danger Bird all too well.

It’s as powerful and intense a piece of music as any I have ever experienced; sublime in its simplicity, transcendental in effect. You feel yourself swept along, an out of body experience that you can’t control. When Neil launches into the first of many guitar solos the sense of journeying or exploring with him the imaginary musical world he is creating is palpable. He doesn’t seem to know where it will lead and neither do you. There is no structure to reassure you, no end in sight, only the succession of notes that play from moment to moment, first tensing, then relaxing; cresting, then falling away.

Music has the power to take you out of the world you know and place you in a world of its own making. How it can do that nobody knows. Whatever Neil tapped into to make it happen on Danger Bird, he succeeded completely. If you’re in the right frame of mind, in the right environment, with everything working audio-wise, a minute into this song you will no longer be sitting in your comfy audio chair. You won’t know where you are, which is exactly where you should be. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides and fairly quiet vinyl, this was clearly one of the most enjoyable copies we played in our last shootout
  • Relaxed, rich and tubey, yet clear, this is the kind of sound you always wanted from The Buffalo Springfield but had no way to hear, until now
  • Some of the best songs the band ever wrote are right here: I Am A Child, Kind Woman and too many more to list
  • If Buffalo Springfield Again deserves a Five Star rating then Last Time Around does too – it’s equally brilliant, and a real Desert Island Disc for yours truly

These two sides are relaxed, rich and tubey, giving you exactly what you would expect from a Top Quality pressing — without the noise, veiling and distortion that you’re used to hearing on the copies you picked up locally, or the one you mistreated back in the day (didn’t we all?).

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it right, you find that some of these pressings are a damn sight better than the most audiophiles think they are.

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy — it breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway, the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all. (more…)

Neil Young – After The Gold Rush

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  • This outstanding pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides for its remarkably Tubey Magical sound from start to finish
  • This is the vinyl embodiment of the Classic Analog Rock sound we love – smooth, rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear
  • 5 Stars in Allmusic, Top 100, and a Demo Disc that is guaranteed to knock your socks off
  • “It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark on the edge makes 9 light to very light tics. On side two, a mark on the edge makes 30 moderately light to light tics at the beginning of Track 1, Oh Lonesome Me.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG and may be a bit better than that.


Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Rock Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album. That’s why it’s been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Title right from the start. (more…)

Neil Young – Decade (3 LPs)

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This is a Reprise 3 LP set. This album can basically be broken down into thirds: about a third of the material sounds really dull. The next third sounds surprisingly good and the last third is decent, like a typical Neil Young record. (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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Neil Young – Time Fades Away

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  • A stunning vintage pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Front Row Center sound on both sides
  • A huge step up from every other copy we played in our shootout – full-bodied, smooth and musical, the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • Never released on CD, this is one of the toughest Neil Young albums to find in the bins, especially with sound like this
  • 4 stars: “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)

Neil Young – American Stars ‘N’ Bars

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  • This stunning Shootout Winning copy boasts Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Side one of this album was recorded just before Comes A Time and it shows — the music is country-flavored and relaxed
  • Side two’s material was recorded throughout the ’70s and has more of the dark, heavy sound that we know and love from albums such as Zuma and Tonight’s The Night
  • Superb sound for some really great songs, including Like A Hurricane and Star Of Bethlehem 

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 3 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, The Old Country Waltz.

This album consists of tracks recorded over the course of three years so naturally there is some variation between songs, particularly on side two. Star Of Bethlehem, one of the most underrated Neil Young songs ever, sounds great here with strong vocal presence and an open, spacious top end.

Side one of this album was recorded just before Comes A Time and it shows — the music is country-flavored and relaxed. Side two’s material was recorded throughout the ’70s and has more of the dark, heavy sound that we know and love from albums such as Zuma and Tonight’s The Night. The tracks on side two seem to have a little more sonic potential. (more…)