Top Artists – The Doobie Brothers

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for Michael McDonald’s Masterpiece and on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • Both of these sides are incredibly clean, clear, spacious and dynamic with excellent clarity, tons of energy and a big punchy bottom end
  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic – more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

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The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

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  • With two seriously good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this was far better than every other copy we played it against
  • Both of these sides are incredibly rich and full-bodied, with lots of deep punchy bass and excellent separation – thanks Donn Landee
  • Contains contributions from such guest musicians as Maria Muldaur, Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “The Doobie Brothers’ rootsiest album to date, Stampede was virtuoso soulful countrified rock of a gritty nature, crossing over into blues as well as reaching back to a raw, traditional rock & roll sound that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place 20 years earlier.”

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this to show you just how good the Master Tape must really be. And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have found this one! (more…)

Compromised Versus Purist Recordings – If It’s About the Music, the Choice Is Clear

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[This commentary is from circa 2010]

A while back one of our good customers wrote to tell us how much he liked his Century Direct to Disc recording of the Glenn Miller big band, one of the few really amazing sounding direct discs that contains music actually worth listening to. Which brought me to the subject of Hot Stampers. 

Hot Stamper pressings are almost always going to be studio multi-track recordings, not live Direct to Discs. They will invariably suffer many compromises compared to the purist approach of an audiophile label trying to eliminate sources of distortion in the pursuit of the highest fidelity.

But when they do that, they almost always FAIL. How many Direct Discs sound like that Glenn Miller? A dozen at most. The vast majority are just plain AWFUL. I know, I’ve played practically every one ever made. For more than a decade that was my job.

Thankfully that is no longer the case, although we do have a handful of direct discs that we still shootout, such as The Three, Glenn Miller, Straight from the Heart and the odd Sheffield. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Nautilus Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked and another We Was Wrong listing to boot.   

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free. The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no excuse now is it?

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

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

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this to show you just how good the Master Tape must really be. Most copies don’t even hint at the sound you will hear on this record. And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have known, now would we?  (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets – MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

This is an IMMACULATE Mobile Fidelity LP with EXCELLENT SOUND. I’m surprised how good this copy is. The mids and highs are close to Right On The Money (ROTM). The bass is not as deep and well defined as it should be, but that’s the fault of Half-Speed mastering, not MOFI. One of their best titles. And quite rare to boot.

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

OH BABY! This is the HOTTEST copy of The Captain And Me to ever hit the site, bar none. The sound is nothing short of PHENOMENAL from the first cut to the last. Side two earned our top A+++ grade while side one clocked in just half a plus behind. You can’t even begin to imagine what we’ve gone through trying to find Hot Stampers for this album. Here’s the copy that proves it was all worth it. 

We had TWICE tried to shootout this album and gave up both times with little to show for it. The one great sounding, reasonably quiet copy we found had a nasty edge warp that obliterated the first track on both sides. So we knew that great copies of this album must be out there, but where? We had OVER THIRTY COPIES of this record on our shelves and none of them were worth listing. The warped copy sounded so much better than any of the rest, and we felt it was wrong to call even the best of the rest a Hot Stamper. (more…)

The Doobie Bros. – Takin’ It To The Streets – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

SUPERB SOUND on this A++ / A+++ White Hot Stamper — who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying pressings for years with virtually nothing to show for it; that’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site since 2007. The typical copy of this album has no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums (to this day I still haven’t found a good Minute by Minute!) is the rule, and this pressing the exception.  

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album featuring Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul, and that is the Doobie Brothers sound we love here at Better Records.

But the average copy of this record is such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine many audiophiles taking it seriously over the years. They should; the band cooks on practically every track, and the songwriting is some of their best, with top tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’.

What do the Hot Stampers give you? The Big Sound for starters — wall to wall, lots of depth, all that sort of thing. Next: transparency — you hear into the soundfield, with space and air around all the instruments. Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them. Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — a White Hot Stamper.

Side one earned an A++ and side two received top A+++ honors. Both sides are lively, rich, full-bodied, natural, and transparent. Side two has a wonderful three-dimesional quality and some of the tightest, punchiest bass we’ve ever heard on this album, hence the extra plus. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street – Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

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Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us.

After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this.

The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

The huge bass on the better copies of this album has to be the handiwork of STEPHEN BARNCARD (American Beauty, Tarkio), although DONN LANDEE (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Back in the day I had no idea this record could sound so punchy in the bass, be this dynamic, yet still have smooth, silky, oh-so-analog vocals.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman produced rock record should be. (more…)