Top Artists – Willie Nelson

What Willie and Nat Can Teach Us about Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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

Hello team,

I’ve been a little distracted here, I got married over the weekend! So, haven’t done as much listening over the past couple of weeks. However, I did have a chance to listen to Stardust and Love Is The Thing. They were both different than their Classic Records and Analogue Productions counterparts. Willie sounded a little smoother, more organic, and more integrated.

The strings on Love Is The Thing were very different, more pronounced and emotional, but Nat’s voice, and the sound overall, sounded a little strident, maybe “too” hot.

I’d like to send them both back to you, and if you have a chance to send back the discs I sent to you I’d very much appreciate it. All told, the two big sets of Better Records are really incredible, and only serve to make my want list grow. Here’s to you and the next set!

Doug,

We now have the update for those two titles.

I, along with the two other guys in our listening panels, sat down to play the Heavy Vinyl you sent us, and the long and short of it is that we were astonished that records that sound as bad as those two actually were approved for release.

Nat is wrong six ways from Sunday, and Willie is not so much wrong as just not very good.

Nat: “F”, one of the worst heavy vinyl disasters of all time, and Willie: “D” sound, more like a bad CD than a record. There are many pressings of this album that are not good, but this version is probably worse than most of them, hence the D grade.

The old Classic pressing is probably better, and it would earn about a C grade. {I honestly do not remember exactly what pressing Douglas sent us. All I remember is that it was on Heavy Vinyl.]

I suspect the CDs of both these pressings are much better sounding than this vinyl. The DCC gold is definitely better by a long shot, and the plain old Willie CD is probably a step up as well. 

A FURTHER UPDATE

The DCC Nat King Cole CDs which I recommended earlier now drive me up a wall. Can’t stand the Hoffman remix. Sorry for the error!

I will be writing a review with more depth down the road, taken from my notes. How these records can be enjoyed by anyone is beyond me. Some of the worst sound I have ever heard, and I have heard plenty! (You can find more than 250 reviews for bad audiophile records here. These are records that no audiophile in his right mind should even consider buying.)

Take any or all of the above for what it’s worth.

Best, TP

Whoa!

I am surprised! Very different take from what I’m hearing at home – would it be okay for me to take another week or two to do some more A/B listening of Stardust and Love Is The Thing on my system?

I’d like to reread “what to listen for” and really do a deep comparison of a couple tracks on each.

* Really * appreciate your time and feedback!

Douglas

A few weeks went by and we asked Douglas how his shootout went. He replied:

Howdy Tom,

Life has been a little crazy but my buddy Miguel Nelson (who turned me on to Better Records) came up and we listened to Willie and Nat, and our experience lined up pretty well with yours. The new pressings offered clarity, separation, and a quiet background, at the expense of the warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range and impact, which the Better Records copies offered in spades!

Douglas

Douglas,

That’s what we heard. Glad you heard it too.

Clarity, separation and a quiet background are what people like about the sound of CDs.

Warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range, impact and a whole lot more are what people like about Analog.

The vintage pressings we offer have the more of all of these analog qualities than other pressings. That’s what makes them Hot Stampers.

They are right in a way that the typical Half-Speed Mastered or Heavy Vinyl pressing rarely is.

The more critically one listens, the more obvious the differences become.

The real thing just can’t be beat, and you can be pretty sure that the real thing is an old record.

Here are some letters from customers who took another listen to the records we’d sent them and belatedly recognized the superior sound of our Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.


FURTHER READING

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Willie Nelson & Family – Honeysuckle Rose

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More Country and Country Rock

  • This surprisingly well recorded live album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to achieve by 1980, but here it is!
  • 4 stars: “The soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose is… a collection of songs by Willie Nelson and his Family band as well as a host of friends… Nelson’s readings of his own tunes like “On the Road Again,” and others are solid, inspired, and rollicking. His versions of tunes written by Kris Kristofferson (“Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”), Rodney Crowell (“Angel Eyes”), and Lee Clayton (“If You Could Touch Her at All”) blow away the studio versions.”

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Willie Nelson – Without A Song

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout 
  • As he did so brilliantly on Stardust, here Willie brings his inimitable singing style to classics of love and loss taken from The Great American Songbook
  • Top quality arrangements – drop the needle on Autumn Leaves or A Dreamer’s Holiday to hear Booker T and his bandmates at their best
  • Top tracks include Autumn Leaves, As Time Goes By, Harbor Lights and of course, Without a Song
  • The critics may not have been impressed, but music lovers sure were – Amazon buyers award the album more than 4 1/2 stars

Once again Willie is backed by a top-notch backing band fronted by the one and only Booker T. Jones. Drop the needle on “Once In A While” and dig the uncanny presence of the vocal and astonishing clarity of the ensemble.

Much like Stardust, a Hot Stamper pressing of this record is a real treat for we audiophiles. This is some amazingly soulful music with midrange magic to spare.

There’s lots of air up top, giving the instruments plenty of room to breathe. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied; if Willie’s voice doesn’t sound a bit gravelly, you’re probably playing an overly smooth or lo-rez copy, and we take away a lot of points for both.

This copy gives you everything you could ask for from this music — tight bass, clearly audible guitar transients, generous amounts of warmth and sweetness, vocal immediacy and studio ambience like no other.

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Willie Nelson – Somewhere Over The Rainbow

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More Pop and Jazz Vocals

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this original Columbia pressing
  • These sides are relatively rich, full-bodied and warm, yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • The Red-Headed Stranger arranges and sings a selection of ’40s pop standards as only he can
  • “While it isn’t quite a continuation of what he did on Stardust and Always On My Mind, the record is a safe resting spot and something all… can enjoy.”

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Willie Nelson – Yesterday’s Wine

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More Country and Country Rock

  • This is a surprisingly well recorded album, and this pressing is rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, just the way we like ’em
  • “Yesterday’s Wine should also take its rightful place among his best-loved works… “Family Bible,” “Me and Paul,” and the title track are all particularly fine examples of Nelson’s songcraft. As a whole, Yesterday’s Wine provides further insight into the development of his art during this prolific period.”
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Letter of the Week – “Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it.”

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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

Hey Tom, 

My July 4 weekend was great. I had lots of company this weekend for three days straight. I slayed a bunch of them with my new collection of Hot Stamper LPs from Better Records.

Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it suddenly.

I played Harry Belafonte (Carnegie Hall Live Concert) and Willie Nelson (Stardust) for some guests that grew up in another part of the world who had never ever even heard of these people. They had no clue about what they were going to hear.

I watched them and they were mesmerized – leaning forward in their seats practically holding their breath – holding themselves still like a deer caught in the headlights. Not a sound spoken – even the females!

The sense of being live was so palpable that most were simply speechless. Confusion was rampant since all that sound was coming from OLD BLACK VINYL.

My smile was a mile wide. Thanks for that satisfying experience.

John R.

John,

Thanks for spreading the word and sharing the experience of hearing this wonderful music sound so good!

TP


Willie Nelson / Stardust – A Copy This Good Deserves to Be on the TAS List

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”
  • If you’re a fan of The Great American Songbook, this is a killer recording from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience on this copy. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate.

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection. (more…)

Willie Nelson – The Sound In Your Mind

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More Country and Country Rock

  • This Columbia Lone Star pressing is full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments and vocals, and few of the problems that plagued many pressings we played
  • “. . . an underrated gem! Great songs…his voice is in top form.”
  • If you’re a fan of Willie’s, a killer copy of his album from 1976 belongs in your collection

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Willie Nelson / To Lefty From Willie

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More Country and Country Rock

  • Willie’s superb 1977 tribute album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl they’re making – the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this very special vintage pressing simply cannot be beat
  • 4 1/2 stars: “To Lefty From Willie is an affectionate and thoroughly enjoyable salute to Lefty Frizzell, featuring stellar versions of a number of Lefty’s best-known songs. . . Nelson is respectful without being overly reverential, giving his own spin to each song without abandoning their honky tonk roots.”

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Willie Nelson – The Troublemaker

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More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding copy of The Troublemaker with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • It’s richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Willie’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Troublemaker is Willie Nelson’s first all-gospel album, but country gospel in his hands doesn’t sound like traditional country gospel — it’s a Willie album, through and through… Consequently, it’s every bit as wonderfully idiosyncratic as any of his other mid-’70s work and, in some ways, even more so, because inspirational songs and religious material are usually not given arrangements as imaginative and free-spirited as this… “
  • If you’re a fan of Willie’s, a killer copy of his album from 1976 belongs in your collection

When this record was made the tapes were fresh. Now they’re 40+ years old. On audiophile equipment you will have no trouble appreciating the difference. Unless I miss my guess the difference in sound should be night and day.

It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble!

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Willie is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. One of our very favorite male vocalists, this copy will show you why — both the sound and the music are superb in all respects.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there give you the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing. (more…)