Top Artists – Van Morrison

Moondance on Heavy Vinyl Is a Disgrace to Audiophiles and Records Lovers Around the World

 More Van Morrison

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Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Debunked – Again

Sonic Grade: F

The original grade I gave out in 2014 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: (more…)

Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

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  • Two super sides, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER – both are chock full of Vintage Vinyl Tubey Magic
  • 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
  • “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. (more…)

Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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TWO AMAZING A+++ SIDES ON QUIET VINYL — this will likely be the best sounding Van Morrison you hear in your entire life! We’ve played a ton of these over the years and it’s not all that often that we hear a copy that so capably presents the music. Both sides are very rich and super full-bodied with exceptional clarity and mindblowing YOU ARE THERE immediacy. We almost never find copies of Moondance or Astral Weeks that sound anything like this, and when we do they go for much more money.

We’ve been huge fans of this album for ages and don’t understand why it doesn’t get more respect. This is the album that comes right after Tupelo Honey and His Band And The Street Choir, so that should tell you something.

The typical copy of this record has a major HONK problem, much the way Moondance does. If you play a few copies, you’ll notice the pinched quality to the vocals and the hardness and edge in the midrange. The Hot Stamper copies were mastered without that annoying sound, and that’s part of what makes them so darn good. (more…)

Van Morrison – Wavelength

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  • A superb copy of Wavelength with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Richer, warmer and bigger than practically all of the other copies we played, here is the kind of analog smoothness that’s essential to the sound of Morrison’s music
  • His biggest selling album to date? Seems hard to believe but that’s what is says on Wikipedia – it went gold in 3 months
  • Time magazine raved: “Morrison has made two, maybe three albums that rank high among the finest of all rock ‘n’ roll. Wavelength is good enough to stand close by Morrison’s best work, a record of sinuous, sensuous magic. The man just can’t be beat.”

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Van Morrison – His Band And Street Choir

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) copy of this great sounding Van Morrison album, a favorite of ours here at Better Records
  • The sound is full-bodied, clear, and brimming with the soulful energy of this great artist
  • The best sounding Van Morrison album, a Top 100 title, with classic 1970 Analog sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “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

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 original 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. (more…)

Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

YIKES! It’s the new ALL-TIME CHAMPION for Tupelo Honey, with MASTER TAPE SOUND and pretty darn quiet vinyl on BOTH SIDES! I’ll bet just about anything that you’ve never heard Van Morrison sound as good as he does here in your entire life. We played a massive stack of copies this week and felt incredibly lucky to find one that sounded like this. I just don’t think you could make this music sound any better no matter what you did.  

We play dozens of copies of this great album every few months, but I don’t recall ever hearing another one that sounded this good on both sides. Everything you’d want from this music is here on this copy in correct proportion. The top end is airy, open and silky, while down low, there’s lots of punch and energy. The midrange is full of that old analog magic, and the vocals are Right On The Money. There’s real dynamics on this copy, which really helps kick up the life force of the music. Just listen to the energy 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. There’s TONS of tubey magic throughout, and the vocals are PERFECTION. (more…)

Van Morrison – Moondance

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Musically, the record Moondance most reminds me of is After The Gold Rush. Neil Young set out to make a commercial album that had nothing but strong songs built around catchy melodies, with the highest quality production values. What better describes Moondance? Every song is good, you can sing practically every one of them from memory, and in fact you’ll probably feel like singing along with every one of them as they are playing. And the whole album is produced with some of the best sound that was available at the time. (Shelly Yakus engineered, his first time behind the board on a major project if Wikipedia is to be believed.)

Van Morrison never made another album as good as this one, and After the Gold Rush is still Neil’s masterpiece (along with Zuma of course). If there are two records on the planet that belong in everybody’s collection, it’s these two. Finding good sounding LPs of both of them is a tricky proposition — unless of course you are a customer of Better Records, where superb sounding pressings of Classic Rock Albums can be found any day of the week.

It takes us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout going, a fact that anyone who has ever searched for a copy of Moondance will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t in the bins the way they used to be, and when you do find one it usually will cost you a pretty penny. A hundred bucks and up seems to be the going rate. (more…)

Van Morrison – Into The Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Two incredible sounding sides for this great Van Morrison album, one that Allmusic calls one of his best records! Not a lot of casual Van Mo 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.

Side one is richer and fuller than most copies with much better bass. You get excellent presence and energy that are missing from the typical copy and the overall sound is clean, clear and natural. We gave it an A++ grade.

Side two is even better — A+++ all the way. It’s unusually dynamic with real immediacy, lots of texture to the instruments and amazing separation letting you hear every last detail. Most copies weren’t nearly this rich and practically none of them were this solid down low.

If you need a new Van Morrison album in your life and you want to have one with excellent sound, give this White Hot copy of Into The Music 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 Shootout Winner from 2009

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

For the first time ever… a WHITE HOT STAMPER pressing of Moondance on QUIET VINYL! This Warner Bros. Green Label copy has a side two that just can not be beat — A+++ all the way.

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 – Wavelength

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

Richer, warmer and bigger than most of the other copies we played, with the kind of smoothness that’s essential to the album’s enjoyment. His biggest selling album to date? Seems hard to believe but that’s what is says on Wikipedia – it went gold in 3 months. 

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up. (more…)