Top Engineers – Donn Landee

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…)

Van Halen – Van Halen

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Van Halen – Van Halen

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s debut album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are smooth, rich and Tubey Magical, with soaring guitars and huge choruses that really get loud 
  • One of the most powerful rock recordings of its day (if you get one that sounds like this)
  • 5 stars: “They sound vital, surprising, and ultimately fun — and really revolutionary, because no other band rocked like this before Van Halen, and it’s still a giddy thrill to hear them discover a new way to rock on this stellar, seminal debut.”

Turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS. (more…)

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

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

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is.”)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (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…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. 

There’s one quality in particular that added immensely to our enjoyment of the music — gobs and gobs of Tubey Magic. The copies that were opaque, dry, flat and “modern” sounding — which pretty much describes practically every Heavy Vinyl record we’ve played in the last five years — bored us to tears, not surprisingly in the very same way that most Heavy Vinyl does.

This is 1976, they were still making good records then. You would hardly know it by playing the average pressing of the album, but when you hear one like this, there is no mistaking the richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality.

These are qualities for which good tube equipment is rightly revered. (We no longer use tube equipment ourselves, preferring to be guided by the approach of reproducing the Tubey Magic of the records we play, assuming there is some, unadorned.)

Most pressings get Carly’s voice all wrong — gritty, edgy, hard and strained, but not this one. Carly’s singing on this copy is smoother, sweeter, more immediate and clearly more emotionally compelling than we heard on any other copies in our shootout. We call this Master Tape Sound; you hear it on those rare pressings so far beyond the norm that the music seems to come to life right in front of you, right there in your very own listening room. (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot

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  • This outstanding pressing of Clear Spot boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the better copies of Clear Spot to hit the site in recent years – no question about it, this is his Masterpiece!
  • Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is one of Beefheart’s most accessible albums and, IMHO, his best
  • 4 stars: “The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.”

Two outstanding sides for this masterpiece of bent rock. It’s not easy to find great sound for this album — that’s why you so seldom see it up on our site. There are a whole lot of problematic pressings out there, but when you find one that really gets it right the sound is nothing short of SUPERB. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this 1976 release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing songs and vocals, this is the kind of Doobies album we can get behind 
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best pressings such as this one 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have 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 is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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  • Excellent sound throughout with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++)
  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound great – smooth, rich and full of energy   
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambience. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

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Minute By Minute

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  • Incredible sound on both sides and the first “Triple Triple” (A+++) copy to hit the site in years!
  • Open Your Eyes, What A Fool Believes and the title track all sound wonderful here
  • The sound is dramatically bigger, richer, livelier and smoother than every other copy we played it against   
  • An Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production as close to perfect as one can ask for, thanks to Ted Templeman and Donn Landee  

This is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. We can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a wonderful sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with big bass and vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This is undoubtedly the band’s MASTERPIECE, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. With this Super Hot Stamper side two we can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a WONDERFUL sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect.   (more…)