Top Artists – Paul Simon (with or without) Garfunkel

Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • This outstanding early Columbia pressing boasts top quality sound from start to finish
  • An extremely tough album to find with the kind of big, spacious, Tubey Magical sound this pressing offers
  • Clean, clear and open are nice qualities to have, but the richer, smoother, less gritty, more natural sounding copies are the ones that win shootouts
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…he was never more in tune with his audience: Still Crazy topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance.”
  • If you’re a Paul Simon fan, this has to be considered a Must Own Title of his from 1975.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The overall sound here is big and rich. You get texture to the instruments (check the strings in the title track) but a smooth quality to the vocals instead of the grit and strain you hear on most copies. There’s good extension up top and weight down low. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Bookends

More of the Music of Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bookends

Musically side two is one of the strongest in the entire Simon and Garfunkel oeuvre (if you’ll pardon my French). Each of the five songs could hold its own as a potential hit on the radio, and there is no filler to be found anywhere. How many albums from 1968 can make that claim?

The estimable Roy Halee handled the engineering duties. Not the most ‘natural” sounding record he ever made, but that’s clearly not what he or the duo were going for. The three of them would obviously take their sound much farther in that direction with the Grammy winning Bridge Over Troubled Water from 1970.

The bigger production songs on this album have a tendency to get congested on even the best pressings, which is not uncommon for four track recordings from the ’60s. Those of you with properly set up high-dollar front ends should have less of a problem than some. $3000 cartridges can usually deal with this kind of complex information better than $300 ones.

But not always. Expensive does not always mean better, since painstaking and exacting setup is so essential to proper playback.

The Wrecking Crew provided top quality backup, with Hal Blaine on drums and percussion, Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on piano and keyboards.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Bookends Theme
Save the Life of My Child

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Letter of the Week – “I have 4 other copies and this beats them all.”

More of the Music of Paul Simon

More Letters from Customers Who Did Their Own Shootouts

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

   Hey Tom,   

Indeed this album sounds amazing! I have 4 other copies and this beats them all. The closest is a German pressing I have but still yours sounds better. Thank you. I never thought I would spend $200 for a record but I do hear the difference.

Cheers,
Ryan

Ryan,

So glad to hear it!

If that’s a favorite record of yours, you can now enjoy it for the rest of your life knowing you have a killer copy in your collection to play whenever you damn well please (assuming the kids and the wife are out of the house).

Based on what I am reading, the pressing we sent you is so good it’s practically priceless. But somebody had to put a price on it, and the price we landed on was two hundred bucks.

This is an outrageous amount of money for one record to some people. But not to someone who loves the album and will play it for the rest of his life. Once a month for 40 years comes to $4 a spin. To quote Pete Townshend, I call that a bargain.

Can you afford to replace every record in your collection with a $200 Hot Stamper pressing? Of course not. Almost nobody can. But that’s not really what’s at the heart of our service.

We are offering exceptional copies of your favorite albums. (And of course some records that are soon to be your favorite albums.)

These are records that are guaranteed to be better than any other pressing you can find at any price.

Here’s an important benefit that often goes unmentioned. We eliminate the need to keep chasing after more and more copies.

If the album is remastered on Heavy Vinyl every two or three years by whatever company hasn’t licensed it yet, who cares? There is not a shred of evidence to back up the contention that any of these labels will ever be able to produce a record that sounds better than the pressing you already have.

How to Buy Hot Stampers

When it comes to Hot Stampers, buy as few or as many as you like. Pay only for records you think are reasonably priced based on how important the music is to you.

Whatever you pay for our record, know that its resale value is essentially nil. Nothing is special about the records we offer other than their superior fidelity.

When you receive a record from us, we ask only that you play it and, in this case, find two hundred dollars worth of sound and music or send it back. You have plenty of time to do that, 30 days.

If lots of customers returned our records, our business would struggle to survive. But we’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

Do My Customers Like Me?

You may have seen me say in a video (linked below) something to the effect that “my customers like me.”

That’s not technically true, they may or they may not. We know some customers that do (see above) and we read on forums that some customers do not.

They sure like our Hot Stamper pressings though, and that’s what our service is all about: better records and happier customers.

Thanks for your letter,

Best, TP

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Simon & Garfunkel / Bookends

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bookends

  • Our hottest copies have lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices as well as plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones
  • An album that has become much tougher to come by, especially copies that play as well as this one does
  • Top 100, 5 stars – side two alone has four all time classics: Fakin’ It, Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter and At the Zoo
  • If you’re a fan of this phenomenal folk duo, this early domestic pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best copies of Bookends and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme are a sonic step up in class from anything else these two guys ever released. If you’re looking for the Ultimate Audiophile Simon & Garfunkel record, you just can’t do better than a killer Hot Stamper pressing of either title.

This album has exceptional bass as well as lovely midrange magic on the guitars and voices. There’s plenty of studio ambience on most tracks, especially the simpler, more folky ones.

Do you know how hard it is to find a clean copy of this record? I’ll bet we look at 50 every year and probably buy no more than a few, which, after cleaning and going into a shootout may or may not sound good or have audiophile quality surfaces. (more…)

Simon and Garfunkel / Bridge Over Troubled Water – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the Music of Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

Sonic Grade: C

What do the best Hot Stamper copies give you?

They’re the ones with textured strings in the orchestral arrangements.

The string tone on the average copy is hard and steely.

The Classic 200 gram pressing suffers from a case of somewhat steely strings. When the strings are blasting away at the end of the title song, you want to be able to hear the texture without the strings sounding shrill and edgy.

This is no mean feat, for the record or the stereo.

Here are some of the other records we’ve discovered are good for testing string tone and texture.

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Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

  • Especially smooth, present, breathy vocals – this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • Having played them by the hundreds, we’ve found that midrange presence and resolution are precisely what go missing on The Modern Heavy Vinyl Reissue
  • A longtime Better Records Top 100 album and a Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles’ Revolver or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests.”

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Listening in Depth to Still Crazy After All These Years

More of the Music of Paul Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Paul Simon (and Art Garfunkel)

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Still Crazy. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

As exceptionally well-produced, well-engineered Pop Albums from the ’70s, the very best copies can proudly hold their heads high. Wait a minute. Our last commentary noted what a mess most of the pressings of this album sound like, with so much spit and grain. Have we changed our minds? Well, yes and no, and as usual we make no excuses for having changed our minds. We call it progress.

Yes, most copies are still a mess, but No, some copies now sound far better than we ever thought possible.

As we noted in our previous commentary for the Hot Stamper Still Crazy (back in 2005!), when we first dropped the needle on side one of another copy of this record, we were shocked to hear how spitty, grainy and transistory sounding the album was. We could hardly believe that a mainstream pop album by Paul Simon could sound this bad. It was pure spitty DISTORTION with ZERO midrange magic. A CD would sound better. Even Graceland, a famously compressed, phony, digital sounding album wouldn’t sound this bad!

A bad copy you say? Maybe they don’t all sound bad on side one, but there sure are a lot of them that do. Two tracks in particular — in fact, the two biggest tracks on side one — have fairly bad sound on almost any copy you play: Still Crazy and 50 Ways…

The True Tests for Side One

What separates the mediocre-to-bad-sounding average copy from a Hot Stamper is how well mastered those two songs are. In other words, if you get those two tracks right — breathy vocals, sounding smooth and sweet, with the sibilance under control, supported by good solid bass — the whole side is going to be good, maybe even as good as it gets.

We noted previously that:

“… side two on every copy is better sounding than side one. Why this is I have no idea. It’s not as though they recorded all of side one’s tracks together and they didn’t come out as well. That’s not the way it’s done. The order of the tracks is determined long after they are recorded and mixed. But the songs on side two are consistently more open and sweeter, with silkier, more delicate background vocals and a more natural timbre to Paul’s voice. He sounds less like a transistor radio and more like a person.”

That turned out to still be generally true, but there were some exceptional sounding sides twos in this batch, so we can’t say that side two is always worse, just most of the time.

There is no substitute for having multiple clean copies and shooting them out. Every copy I played was original — no Nice Price junk, no bad imports, no throwaways. Good copies are the rare exception on this album — sad, but true. If you have an LP of this one, see how much Still Crazy spits. I’ll bet it spits like crazy; most of them do.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Still Crazy After All These Years

The toughest test of them all. If this song sounds good, you are 90% of the way there.

My Little Town

This track was supposed to be a hit single and has the radio mix to prove it, and it WAS a hit, but it’s not exactly as pleasing to the audiophile ear as the other songs on the side.

I Do It for Your Love
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

This track often has some midrange hardness and more of a dry, transistory quality than others on side one, that is of course unless you happen to be playing an exceptionally good copy. The better copies also seem to have substantially more ambience. It’s really a quite well recorded song when good mastering lets you hear it right.

On most copies, in the louder parts of the chorus there is also something that sounds like compressor or limiter distortion on the voices. Turns out it’s actually a mastering or pressing issue; on the best copies the loudest vocal parts sound just fine.

How about that awesome Steve Gadd drum part? What pop song relies more on its beat than this one? It’s practically worth the price of the album to hear those drums sound so good.

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Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

  • It took us years, but we found a few outstanding Columbia 360 label pressings of Bridge Over Troubled Water in audiophile playing condition, and here is an awfully good one
  • This pressing of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic boasts Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • There’s a reason it’s been quite a few years since you’ve seen this title on our site – we have a devil of a time finding lightly-played 360s without marks or significant surface noise, especially for the title track
  • The sound is big, lively, and clear, with the kind of Tubey Magical richness that only the best 360 pressings can offer
  • Surely this is BY FAR the toughest album of theirs to find with top quality sound and decent surfaces
  • This Magnum Opus ended the duo’s collaboration with a ginormous over the top production, which taxed the recording technology of the day and is sure to tax any system that attempts to reproduce it
  • 5 stars: “Perhaps the most delicately textured album to close out the 1960s from any major rock act… the songs matched the standard of craftsmanship that had been established on the duo’s two prior albums”

Hey Guys and Gals, What’s With the High Prices for Common Rock Records?

The reason we never have this record in stock is that our failure rate for the copies we buy is probably between 70 and 80%. Some of those records we pay a hundred bucks for these days, five times what they cost us five or ten years ago. And they are few and far between.

The sound of these sides is a step up from almost everything else we played. The strings on the title track actually have some texture, and “Cecilia” comes to life in a way we guarantee you have never heard before. There’s also much less of the spit and grit that you find on many copies. (Less, but not none, that would be impossible, it’s on the tape.)

The sound is much more musical than you would expect if you own a reissue on the red label or an audiophile pressing of any kind. All our copies are on the 360 label, and none of them are on Heavy Vinyl or Half-Speed Mastered. If it’s not a 360, it’s not a Hot Stamper in our book.

If you own any modern Heavy Vinyl pressing, from the Classic Records version through whatever they are peddling now, you are in for a mind-blowing experience with this Hot Stamper pressing.

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Simon & Garfunkel / Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme – Stick to the 360s for the Best Sound

More of the Music of Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice

More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York!

Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and you’ll have one of the best — if not THE best — folk duos of All Time performing right there in your listening room for you. The sound is open, spacious, and transparent with breathy vocals and unusually low levels of spit. The strings are more dynamic than we’re used to hearing and the bottom end has a really nice weight to it.

These old Simon & Garfunkel records weren’t often owned by audiophiles who kept their records in pristine condition. (Most audiophiles in those days did not listen to pop music at all. Audiophiles were primarily classical guys, and some played jazz and vocalists, but practically nobody put a lot of time and money into their stereo so they could hear pop songs reproduced in higher fidelity. This was my experience when I first got into audio in the early ’70s. It was taken for granted that good equipment existed to play orchestral music and not much else.) 

Back to S&G.

No, these were the pop records of their day, and they were played and played hard, typically on cheap equipment. There are many quiet passages on this album that are going to reveal whatever surface issues might exist, so a copy that plays even close to Mint Minus is about as good as you can hope for.

Since only the right vintage 360 pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed at seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)


The Legendary CBS Studios

CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed “The Church”, was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1949 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.

It was considered by some in the music industry to be the best sounding room in its time and others consider it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. A large number of recordings were made there in all genres, including Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

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Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon

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More Singer Songwriter Albums

 

  • The sound is big, warm and full-bodied – it’s much more present and clear, and not nearly as harsh or gritty as far too many of the copies we played were
  • Great songs including “Kodachrome,” “Loves Me Like a Rock,” “Was a Sunny Day” (and you probably know most of the other 7)
  • 5 stars: “Retaining the buoyant musical feel of Paul Simon, but employing a more produced sound, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon found Paul Simon writing and performing with assurance and venturing into soulful and R&B-oriented music.”
  • If you’re a Paul Simon fan, this has to be considered a Must Own Title of his from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Most pressings don’t have anywhere near this kind of openness and transparency — and they don’t have this kind of richness or warmth either. It’s a real treat to hear these great songs finally get the sound they deserve.

On most pressings, Simon’s voice is a spitty, gritty mess — sure it’s present, but where is the sweetness and warmth? Well, as a copy like this proves, more of those qualities made it to the tape than you might think

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