Top Artists – Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson – The Troublemaker

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  • 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… “

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…)

Willie Nelson and Ray Price – San Antonio Rose

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  • San Antonio Rose finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you don’t know Ray Price — and not many of you do I bet — this album will serve as an excellent introduction to one of the All Time greats of country music
  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than most other copies we played
  • 4 stars: “Comparing the vocalists as they trade verses is one of the best aspects of this Nelson duet series and, in this case, the styles of the singers are perfectly matched.”

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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  • You’ll find superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this exceptionally well-recorded album – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • 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…”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

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 – Sings Kristofferson

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  • A stunning copy of Willie Nelson’s wonderful 1979 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one on this original Columbia pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is yet another amazing recording of one of the most recognizable and enjoyable voices in the history of popular song
  • A superb collection of Kris Kristofferson favorites, including Me and Bobby McGee and For The Good Times
  • 4 stars: “A return to country-rock after the smash success of Stardust the year before, this is one of Willie Nelson’s best albums. . . As he demonstrated from the beginning, Nelson had one of the best interpretive gifts of any singer, and this album only strengthened that reputation.”

We’ve heard great copies of this one in the past, but after throwing one on just for fun last year and hearing pretty mediocre sound, we decided that we’d collect a bunch of them to find out just how good the best pressings could sound — and how mind-numbingly average the typical copy can be. It’s not easy to find a copy that gets EVERYTHING right, but this one does it all.

This is one of the better Willie Nelson records, not quite in the same league as Stardust (musically or sonically, I’m afraid), but certainly one of his strongest efforts from the period. Some songs are recorded better than others (when ain’t that the case?) but just about everything sounds great and the best stuff is out of this world.

What do the best pressings give you on a record like this? More space around all the instruments, more strength to the bottom end, wonderful immediacy and breath to the vocals (though at times Willie’s vocals are a bit low in the mix — an odd choice), weight to the piano, superb clarity, and lovely analog warmth. (more…)

Willie Nelson / Pretty Paper – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

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Imagine the sound of a Hot Stamper Stardust, but instead of Pop Standards you hear Willie, his voice still in its prime, singing Christmas songs, backed by similarly tasteful and understated arrangements. That’s what you get on this copy of Pretty Paper in a nutshell.

Released just a year after Stardust in 1979, many of the same musicians are featured, as well as the same producer, the amazing Booker T.. And the most shocking thing of all is just how good the sound is.

Next to Stardust I’d have to say this is the best sound Willie has ever had. It’s so rich, smooth and natural — in other words, analog sounding — that it puts to shame what has come to be expected from pop recordings over the course of the last thirty years.

Yes, records used to actually sound like this, as hard as that may be to believe after playing so many dismal sounding modern recordings, modern reissues and audiophile “product”. A good pressing of this album is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a high quality turntable these days. I find it hard to imagine that the CD would sound remotely as good.

Note that this record sounds even better when played loud, the result no doubt of having no trace of phony top end boost and very little processing throughout, unlike — you guessed it — much of the vinyl product being produced today.

And of course all digital releases, which should go without saying to anyone reading this commentary. Many if not most pressings of the legendary Stardust album have some phony top added to the sound.

The good ones — meaning the Hot Stamper copies — are the ones that sound more like this: natural up top and and throughout the midrange.

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Againbook

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to give them a second go around. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

Willie Nelson – The Sound In Your Mind

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  • The Sound In Your Mind finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • 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.”

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – Resolution and Warmth Are Key to the Best Pressings

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978

Warmth and Resolution

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience. 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.

Awareness

Many copies of this album suffer from an phony hi-fi-ish quality (which is probably the reason why Stardust made the TAS List in the first place). You’ve got to play a big stack of copies to come up with a pressing that offers this kind of relaxed, natural sound. That’s our job here at Better Records — playing bad records so you don’t have to. (more…)

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 us 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. (more…)

Willie Nelson / To Lefty From Willie

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  • 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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Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson…. – Wanted! The Outlaws

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  • An outstanding pressing of this superb compilation album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • When we first dropped the needle on a random copy of the album we were SHOCKED at how good it sounded – this recording is a real sleeper
  • The talents of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser come together under a unifying theme that “gave the album a cohesion and freshness it might have otherwise lacked”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… [the album] marked the industry’s recognition of the changing times, and as the center point of a campaign to publicize Nashville’s new ‘progressive’ breed, it worked like a charm. It quickly became the first country album to sell more than a million copies, and it boosted the careers of all involved.”

Our first Waylon Jennings album! Most of his albums from the ’60s are hard and honky in the extreme, but this one from the ’70s is a whole nother animal. It’s rich, with exceptionally natural reproduction of these varied artists’ voices. As we noted above, we were very, very impressed.

It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)