Top Artists – Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More Recordings by Robin Black

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when it’s done well.

The recording also has an unprocessed quality which we have always found attractive, with some songs sounding more like demos than finished takes, about as far from Abbey Road as it is possible to get.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

McCartney Checks Off Some Big Boxes for Us

It’s a Must Own record.

It’s a Rock and Pop Masterpiece.

And it’s a Personal Favorite of mine, one which I have been obsessed with since I first discovered how well recorded the album was sometime in the early ’90s.

The blog you are on now as well as our website are both devoted to very special records such as these.

In my opinion, this is also a record that should be more popular with audiophiles. If you have not heard this classic, check it out.

It is the very definition of a Big Speaker album. The better pressings have the kind of ENERGY in their grooves that are sure to leave most audiophile systems begging for mercy.

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of size and power, don’t expect to hear them the way McCartney, engineer Robin Black and anybody else involved in the production wanted you to.

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Paul McCartney and Wings – Ram

  • This vintage pressing of McCartney’s 1971 Classic boasts outstanding sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • A copy like this is a real audiophile treat – here is the rich, warm, clear, natural and lively sound you want for Ram   
  • Many of the man’s most memorable songs are here: Too Many People, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Monkberry Moon Delight, Heart Of The Country and more
  • 5 stars: “These songs may not be self-styled major statements, but they are endearing and enduring, as is Ram itself, which seems like a more unique, exquisite pleasure with each passing year.”

I remember this album being dismissed as lightweight back in the day and I may have even felt the same to be honest. Heck, compared to Abbey Road and The White Album, the very same thing could be said about most of McCartney’s albums.

McCartney isn’t out to blow you away with high-production value rock here, apart from Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. He’s making some lovely pop music with his wife and sharing it with the world. And what’s so wrong with that? (more…)

Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America

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  • This vintage copy of Wings Over America boasts INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • SIX sides of live Wings music, phew! As I’m sure you can imagine, this shootout was quite the undertaking
  • All sides here were just BIGGER and RICHER than any others we played – they’re clean, clear and full-bodied with a solid bottom end, tons of energy and lots of space around all of the musicians
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “… the Beatles mystique was still very much attached to record and artist alike… and it seemed like McCartney represented the part of the group’s legacy that came closest to living up to fans’ expectations. Thus the album ended up selling in numbers, rivaling the likes of Frampton Comes Alive and other mega-hits of the period, and rode the charts for months.”
  • If you’re a McCartney fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have the first album, Unplugged and Band on the Run, and maybe Ram – Must Own Titles or something close to them

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Paul McCartney – McCartney

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  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer sound  from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

Paul McCartney / Wings at the Speed of Sound – In 2016 We Had to Raise the Bar

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries Like This One

Okay, we are not too proud to admit it. We Was Wrong about Wings at the Speed of Sound as a recording.

Yes, that kind of thing happens when you regularly play thousands and thousands of records year after year. The right pressing can show you that your understanding of a given recording was, shall we say, incomplete.

The great thing about our business is that, whenever we have new data that serves to corrects a previously mistaken judgment, the result is that we are then able to offer even better sounding pressings to our customers.

That way everybody wins. We’ve never pretended to know it all, and there’s no reason to start now.

Back to Wings at the Speed of Sound. Previously we had written:

I can’t even begin to convey to you what a rough shootout this was. Copy after copy bored us to tears and most of them were too noisy. It was one of those shootouts that almost defeated us, but we persevered and managed to find a few Hot Stampers. They didn’t do miracles and turn Speed Of Sound into a stunning Demo Disc, but they sounded musical, correct and enjoyable, and that seems to be all you can ask for on this album. 

This is not true. We played a copy that earned our very special grade of Four Pluses (on one side, two sides would have been too much to ask for) because it showed us an At the Speed of Sound that we had no idea could possibly exist, this after having played dozens of imports and domestic pressings over the previous twenty years or so.

It was DRAMATICALLY bigger and more transparent, with no sacrifice in richness or smoothness. Here was a Wings at the Speed of Sound we had no idea could possibly exist, simply because we had never managed to clean and play a copy with the right stampers that could show us the kind of sound that must be on the master tape.

Before we did this shootout, we had no idea how high to set the bar. Which leads us to:

This Key Takeaway 

In that respect we were in exactly the same place as every record loving audiophile on the face of the Earth.

How good can the record sound? How high is up?

We discussed this all-too-common mystery [1] in a listing we wrote for an amazing sounding copy of Heart’s Little Queen album we discovered many years ago, linked here.

In our old listing, we noted: Now that we know what stampers to look for, future pressings are likely to be very, very good sounding, if everything goes the way we hope it will.

[Things did go our way, with plenty of Shootout Winning White Hot copies having been found since we made that breakthrough all the way back in 2016. The right stampers are about five times more rare than the wrong ones, but they can be found. You just have to know what to look for.] 


[1]  What is the synonym of mystery?

Mirriam-Webster answers:

“Some common synonyms of mystery are enigma, problem, puzzle, and riddle.
While all these words mean “something which baffles or perplexes,” mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation.”

Welcome to the mysterious world of records!

We had written about the subject many years ago under the heading: Graham Nash’s Wild Tales and Their Mysteries Many and Deep. A relevant excerpt from that commentary:

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 tries.

As we never get tired of saying, 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.

Those two things work the best because nothing else works at all.


Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run

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  • A stunning British pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Another record that rarely can be found with audiophile playing surfaces – those of you who like their vinyl quiet should give this one a serious look, there aren’t many like it
  • The legendary Geoff Emerick engineered the album, a Top 100 title here at Better Records – it’s an impressive recording when it sounds as good as this copy does
  • The title track, “Jet,” “Bluebird,” “Mrs. Vandebilt,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” – so many great songs
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…sophisticated, nuanced arrangements and irrepressibly catchy melodic hooks… McCartney’s infallible instinct for popcraft overflows on this excellent release.”

This is a TOUGH album to find with great sound and quiet vinyl but when you come across an excellent copy like this, the record is a MONSTER. The track list includes some of the best McCartney songs of the seventies: the title song, “Jet,” “Bluebird,” “Mrs. Vandebilt,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” (my personal favorite on the album) — there’s really not a dog in the bunch. This is clearly the last consistently good studio album the man recorded.

So many copies we play are either murky or a bit edgy, and it takes a very special copy to strike the ideal tonal balance that will allow all the songs to sound their best.

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Paul McCartney and Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound

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  • An outstanding pressing of Wings’ follow-up to Venus and Mars, with excellent sound on both sides
  • This copy has a “cinematic” quality – it’s just plain bigger, with more depth to the soundfield, and more energy than we remember from the last time we did the shootout
  • The big hits, “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs,” as well as minor gems such as “Beware My Love,” are outstanding here, with good body and a smoother, more natural, but still extended top end
  • The right stampers are key on this title, and these are definitely the right stampers
  • “A full-band effort, where everybody gets a chance to sing, and even contribute a song.”

The better copies such as this one had the qualities that really make the songs come to life and give you a taste of the old McCartney magic. (more…)

Paul McCartney / McCartney – Listening in Depth

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room.

The album sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Lovely Linda 
That Would Be Something 
Valentine Day 
Every Night 
Hot as Sun/Glasses 
Junk 
Man We Was Lonely

Side Two

Oo You

The distorted guitar in a huge and reverberant room that leads off this side is one of my favorite “sounds” on any McCartney album. The bigger, richer and grungier it sounds the better.

Momma Miss America
Teddy Boy

This is a very tough track to get right. There is processing on Paul’s voice that some copies make a mess of, adding a kind of unpleasant resonance, which of course the better copies do not.

It’s a fairly simple arrangement: acoustic guitar, bass, voice and Linda’s backing vocals. When all of these things are in balance, the sound will be lovely. Paul’s voice, because of the processing I mentioned, doesn’t sound as natural as it does on other tracks, but it shouldn’t be irritating or disagreeable.

Singalong Junk
Maybe I’m Amazed

Another exceptionally hard track to get right. On a top copy the guitar solo will JUMP right out of your speakers. It should have the energy of LIVE MUSIC

Kreen-Akrore

The Word Is Out

We have been touting McCartney’s first solo album for more than a decade. Ever read a word about it in an audiophile context elsewhere?

Of course you haven’t. The audiophile world doesn’t know and doesn’t care about great albums like this one, but we at Better Records LIVE for albums with sound and music of this caliber. It’s a permanent resident of our Top 100 List for a reason: no other solo album by a Beatle can touch it.

As for surface issues, we wish we could find them quiet, but that is simply not an option, especially considering how dynamic the recording is. We’ve used every trick in the book to try to get copies of this album to play Mint Minus, but it’s not usually in the cards. Maybe I’m Amazed, in particular, seems to be noisy on nine copies out of every ten. If you’re looking for a copy without any surface noise, you’re probably better off tracking down the DCC Gold CD, which is actually quite good.

But no CD is ever going to sound like our record, not now, not ever. This is where I simply can’t understand how the typical audiophile can make the tradeoff for flat, average sound with quiet vinyl — the sound of these Heavy Vinyl reissues that have sprouted up all over the place, each one worse than the last — and the wonderful, but slightly noisy, sound to be found on the best originals.

Of course the obvious answer is that it is simply too much work to find enough original copies to clean and play in order to come across that needle in a haystack: the Hot Stamper pressing.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005

Although for years shunned and treated as the devil’s plastic, for ostensibly shattering The Beatles’ dream, Paul McCartney’s first solo album is never less than charming. While Lennon and Harrison were busy making their point and Ringo was busy recording pub singalongs, McCartney released this naive template for his solo career: some blinding songs; some stoned noodles; and some frankly embarrassing tosh.

Recorded during the end of 1969 at home in London’s St. John’s Wood, McCartney feels wistfully undercooked — a deliberate reaction to the smooth veneers of The Beatles’ swansong, Abbey Road. After all the recent tension of working with the group in the studio, here McCartney worked alone, overdubbing on his Studer four-track recorder with a lone microphone.

The album is full of the touches that both enthrall and infuriate about McCartney. His two Beatles leftovers display these extremes perfectly: whereas “Junk” is wistful, poetic, and vivid, “Teddy Boy” is painfully silly. However, the whole album rests in the shadow of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which arrives late and effortlessly demonstrates just how much an architect of the Abbey Road sound he was. A mature adult love ballad, it is possibly his finest song ever.

Released in April 1970, the album received sniffy reactions from the media, but quickly topped the American charts and reached the runner-up position in the UK. With its symbolic cover and snapshots of his new family, McCartney was not so much a willful post-Fab nose-thumbing as a manifesto of his intent and a catalog for his new life.

Daryl Easlea

Circus, 7/70

McCartney is better than the Beatles’ newest, Let It Be, better than the Beatles together. Which is, after all these years both a sad and an instructive thing to observe. Paul plays all the instruments — drums, bass, lead, rhythm, piano — and has in effect become the Beatles in himself, incorporating everything, including possibly the personalities of the other three. His sound is the Beatles still, and that is poignant, because the rest of them are not there, and maybe never will be.

Paul’s exhibiting some of the most together sounds any of the Beatles have ever put together. He is still innocent, charming, touching, lyrical, sympathetic, wistful, sad, longing, elfish, and poignant, But he is no longer a Beatle, just a damn fine musician and writer. His drum solo on “Hot As Sun,” accompanied by heavy breathing, is work for him, an effort but which in the end comes very naturally. Very heavy head record, too. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is incontestably the love ballad of all time.

Jonathan Eisen

Paul McCartney – Unplugged

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  • A true Demo Disc and superb sounding import pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
  • You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange
  • 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” sound fresh.”

Superb sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “…you guys DID IT AGAIN – simply superlative sound quality.”

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

Hey Tom, 

Got my “Red Rose Speedway” today. OMG. OK, this was the FIRST album I EVER bought – new from the store, as a 12-year old kid just beginning to buy his own records with his own money. I haven’t heard this in 30 plus years. SUCH GREAT SOUND!!! The first is a series of fantastic songs, from start to finish, and you guys DID IT AGAIN – simply superlative sound quality.

You have NO idea how much joy you’re giving me!!!!

Steve M.

Steve,

Glad to hear it. Joy is the name of the game!

TP