Top Artists – Van Morrison

Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

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  • This original WB Green Label pressing is chock full of that vintage Tubey Magic we prize so highly here at Better Records, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • “Wild Night” and the title track sound wonderfully rich and full-bodied, with the warmth and naturalness that distinguishes a merely good sounding LP from a truly Super Hot Stamper
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic and featuring some of Stephen Barncard‘s best engineering – this is Analog Sound at its best
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “Tupelo Honey is in one sense but another example of the artist making increased use of the album as the unit of communication as opposed to merely the song or the cut. Everything on it is perfectly integrated.”

There are actually real dynamics on this recording, which really helps kick up the life force of the music. Just listen to the energetic build-up during “Wild Night” — that’s how it would happen in a live setting, and that’s the way we want to hear it at home as well.

If you’ve been stuck with the average copy of any of the classic albums Van put out in the ’70s you would have no way of knowing just how well-recorded some of them are.

Our favorite Morrison record for sound is still His Band And The Street Choir, but after finishing this shootout we now know that the best copies of Tupelo Honey are in that same league. The title track (just to take one example) can sound exceptionally sweet, delicate, and Tubey Magical. For that, you can thank Stephen Barncard. If you know his work, it’s easy to spot his sound.

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Moondance on Heavy Vinyl Is a Disgrace to Audiophiles and Record Lovers All Over the World

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Van Morrison

Reviews and Commentaries for Moondance

Sonic Grade: F

The original grade I gave out in 2015 when last I played this remastered version as part of a shootout was “D.” I explained at the time:

Just listen to how strange Van’s voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an “F,” but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let’s be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a “D.”

I just revisited the record in a current shootout, and after giving it some thought I have decided that the right grade is in fact “F.” It cannot be any other, for reasons I discuss below.

In 2014 I had written:

Where is the Tubey Magic of the originals? The sweetness? The richness? And why is there so little ambience or transparency? You just can’t “see” into the studio on this pressing the way you can on the good originals, but that’s fairly consistently been the knock on these remastered Heavy Vinyl records. We noted as much when we debunked Blue all the way back in early 2007, so no surprise there.

Having just played a marvelous shootout-winning early pressing, this time around I found the reproduction of Van’s voice on the reissue to be so leaned-out, artificial and unpleasant that I could hardly stand to listen to it.

We had reset the VTA correctly; the overall tonal balance of the recording from top to bottom was correct. It was only the voice that sounded so off. All the other shortcomings I had mentioned before were still true of course, but none of that mattered. The singer on this record just sounded awful.

As you know, we are constantly making improvements to our playback system. The real Moondance we had just played sounded better than ever. The fake Moondance, however, was sounding worse than ever. That’s what higher quality playback can do for you. It makes your good records sound better than they’ve ever sounded, and shows you just how bad your bad records really are.

Do I have a bad copy of the Heavy Vinyl pressing? Maybe, can’t say I don’t. If any of you out there in the real world have a copy of this pressing that you like, and would be willing to send it to me to hear for myself, I would be more than happy to give it a listen and report my findings on this blog.

Short of that I’m not sure what more I can do. I certainly do not feel the least bit inclined to waste a nickel of my hard earned money on another copy of this ridiculously badly mastered crap vinyl.

If you want to read about other records that have these same shortcomings, here are links to the ones we’ve auditioned and identified to date. Our advice would be to avoid them, and if you own some of these pressings, perhaps now is the time to give them another listen and see if you don’t hear the same faults we did.

And, of course, the Hot Stamper pressings we offer, when played side by side with any of these Heavy Vinyl remasters, can help you to see more clearly just where these new records are going wrong, or, in the case of Moondance, completely off the rails.

Here are more records that we found to have similar shortcomings. They are, to one degree or another,

Some Fun Quotes (bolding added)

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Van Morrison – His Band And Street Choir

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Morrison

  • With Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this is an outstanding Palm Tree pressing of Van’s shockingly underrated album from 1970 – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The band is swinging, the material top-notch – “Domino,” “Crazy Face,” “Blue Money” and other classics are right here
  • The Best Sounding Van Morrison Album, a classic of 1970 Tubey Magical analog, and his only title to make our Top 100
  • “As ‘Domino’ opens the album with a show of strength, ‘Street Choir’ closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van’s two or three finest songs.” – Rolling Stone
  • For Rock and Pop 1970 Might Just Be the Best Year of Them All

This is the album that came out between Moondance (in the same year in fact, 1970) and Tupelo Honey, but for some reason, it don’t get no respect. We think that’s insane — the material on this album is stellar and the sound on the best pressings is out of this world!

Here’s a copy that really makes our case for us. Both sides of this vintage Warner Bros. pressing sound AMAZING! We went through a massive stack of copies and let me tell you — most of them sure don’t sound like this! Take this one home for some of the best Van Morrison sound you will ever hear.

For years I thought that Moondance was the best sounding album in the Van Morrison catalog. His Band And Street Choir is even better. One reason for that would have to be that Robert Ludwig mastered it, and he can usually be counted on to do an excellent job.

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The Band – The Last Waltz

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  • A vintage Palm Tree pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all SIX sides
  • Sides two through six are rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
  • Features an A-list of brilliant artists, including Van Morrison, Ringo Star, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “It’s the Band’s ‘special guests’ who really make this set stand out — Muddy Waters’ ferocious version of ‘Mannish Boy’ would have been a wonder from a man half his age, Van Morrison sounds positively joyous on ‘Caravan,’ Neil Young and Joni Mitchell do well for their Canadian brethren, and Bob Dylan’s closing set finds him in admirably loose and rollicking form.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this triple album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • If you are more interested in the live album The Band recorded in 1972, we may have one in stock

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Van Morrison – Beautiful Vision

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  • An original WB pressing with outstanding grades on both sides
  • This copy was clearly fuller, livelier and more present than most of the others we played, with lovely Tubey Magic and good extension on both ends
  • “[It’s] a stronger articulation of what Morrison was attempting to do on Common One — much like how Wavelength got A Period of Transition right … [T]he record reveals such charming moments as ‘She Gives Me Religion,’ ‘Beautiful Vision,’ and Cleaning Windows,’ a skipping light R&B tune that became one of his latter-day standards.”

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Van Morrison – Moondance

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Reviews and Commentaries for Moondance

  • An early Green Label pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Drop the needle anywhere on the album for a taste of early-’70s Tubey Magical analog sound, not to mention the kind of blue-eyed soul that will remind some of you just how good music on vinyl used to be
  • A tough title to find in clean condition these days – most are covered in repeating marks – but not this one!
  • “An album worthy of an Irish R&B singer who wrote a teen hit called ‘Mystic Eyes’ (not to mention a Brill Building smash called ‘Brown Eyed Girl’), adding punchy brass (including pennywhistles and foghorn) and a solid backbeat (including congas) to his folk-jazz swing, and a pop-wise formal control to his Gaelic poetry.” Christgau – A+ (a grade he does not give out often)

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Van Morrison – A Sense Of Wonder

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Morrison

  • This is probably the last domestically pressed record he made that still has the kind of sound we look for in a Hot Stamper
  • “Over the years, Morrison has gathered around him a band that plays, like the best jazz ensembles, with effortless empathy. The group follows him through all his moods and meanderings, from the lilting cadences of “Tore Down à la Rimbaud” and “Ancient of Days” to the stately auguring of “Let the Slave” and the airy, triumphal shimmer of “A New Kind of Man.” A Sense of Wonder is serenely uplifting. With astonishing commitment and profound belief, Van Morrison continues to push forward into the mystic.”

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Van Morrison – Into The Music

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One of Our Favorite Titles from 1979

  • Wonderfully spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – a noticeable step up over many of the other copies we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In a sense, this is the definitive post-classic-era Morrison, since it summarizes all of his attributes while showcasing each at a peak. Musically, this is a little harder and rootsier than its two predecessors, but only a little; this is still remarkably relaxed music, where the charm is in its ease of delivery and compositions.”

Not a lot of casual Van fans are familiar with this album, but after a big shootout we were left very impressed with the sound of the best pressings and the quality of the music throughout. Morrison’s catalog after the early ’70s leaves plenty to be desired, but this one is a real return to form.

If you need a new Van Morrison album in your life and you want it with excellent Hot Stamper sound, give this one a spin — we think you’ll be as impressed as we were. In fact, we guarantee it… or your money back. (more…)

Van Morrison / Moondance – Our Half-Speed Shootout Winner from Way Way Back

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Reviews and Commentaries for Moondance

[This review was written more than ten years ago, so take it for what it is worth and with more than a grain of salt.]

We’ve combined our two best half-speed mastered Super Disk pressings to give you Super Hot sound for both sides. Of all the half-speed versions we had here, two of them each had one amazing side. 

“But Tom,” you might say, “I thought you hated audiophile versions of rock records!” Well, we sure don’t hate ’em when they sound like this! The best Green Label copies are going to be a step up in class, but you’re going to have a hard time finding sound this good for Moondance no matter what kind of pressings you’re playing.

It took us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout rockin’, a fact that anyone who has ever sought out a copy of this album will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t hanging around in the bins, and when you do find one it usually costs a pretty penny. Add on the fact that most copies just don’t sound all that hot and you can forgive us for thinking that we might never list a Hot Stamper copy again. (more…)

Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece

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  • An amazing sounding copy of this 1974 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Most copies weren’t nearly this rich, warm and sweet.
  • This inspired collection reflects Morrison’s Irish roots, with Celtic, acoustic influences, and the same introspective quality found on Astral Weeks
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Veedon Fleece is every bit the creative equal of its more famous predecessors… If any album reflects a real period of transition for an artist, it’s this one. It’s brilliant.”

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