- This Joni Mitchell classic boasts STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
- The sound is incredibly rich, warm and Tubey Magical with huge amounts of space and breathy presence on her vocals
- Joni reworks all her material here, giving the songs new arrangements and making them fresh again – it’s got a cool Court and Spark vibe
- “It’s a strong album of her best songs performed mostly informally… Much of the material here is beautiful, replete with the patented Mitchell tension. And a word for engineer Henry Lewy—the sound is terrific, the best reproduced concert album I’ve heard.” Rolling Stone
The growl of the cello on Rainy Night House can clearly be heard behind Joni, with the wood of the instrument sounding real and correct. The kind of You Are There immediacy and transparency of the best copies has to be heard to be believed.
Listen to the piano Joni plays throughout the album: this is not the thin and hard-sounding instrument that accompanies her on practically every LP you have ever had the misfortune to audition, hoping against hope that someday you would find that “elusive disc” with sound worthy of such extraordinary music. No, this piano has real weight; it has body; and it’s surrounded by real, three-dimensional studio space. (more…)
- Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this copy has Joni rockin’ like you will not believe
- Her last great record – fortunately for us audiophiles it’s spacious, open and powerful with present vocals and solid bass
- Relatively quiet, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – they don’t come any quieter in our experience
- “On her first new studio album of original material in five years, Joni Mitchell achieved more of a balance between her pop abilities and her jazz aspirations, meanwhile rediscovering a more direct, emotional lyric approach. The result was her best album since the mid-’70s.”
One of our favorite Joni Mitchell albums and one of the few good reasons to listen to new music in the ’80s. (more…)
Sonic Grade: B
The DCC — Not Bad!
Steve’s version is very musical; it’s rich and natural sounding, which of course makes it very enjoyable. You can do a lot better but you sure can do a lot worse. Opaque, veiled, lifeless, dull sound is the norm for Court and Spark — most copies are dead as a doornail. If they’re not dead, they’re likely to be thin and gritty. The DCC is a big improvement over the average domestic pressing. (The original Brit imports are fairly competitive with the DCC; the later Brits with the K catalog numbers suck as a rule.)
The Nautilus Half-Speed is pretty but lifeless, like so many of their pressings. I would grade it about a C. Don’t waste your money. (more…)
- A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides!
- The sound is rich, warm and natural with wonderful transparency, ambience and loads of Tubey Magic
- One of our very favorite Joni albums here at Better Records, and probably her Best Sounding Album
- “[A] remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz … the music is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last.” – AMG 5 Stars
Stunning sound for this White Hot Stamper! Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the clarity, beauty and power that only the best Hot Stamper pressings can convey.
What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character, because the mastering is correct and the vinyl — against all odds — managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer.
Tubey Magic Is the Key to Court and Spark (more…)
- Stunning sound throughout for arguably Joni’s greatest album with both sides earning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
- Stunning immediacy and presence coupled with superb richness and warmth – this is the right sound for Blue
- A Better Records Top 100 title that belongs in any audiophile music collection worthy of the name
- 5 stars: “Sad, spare, and beautiful, Blue is the quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album. Forthright and poetic, Joni Mitchell’s songs are raw nerves, tales of love and loss (two words with relative meaning here) etched with stunning complexity…”
You’ve probably heard us say this before, but top quality copies of Blue are few and far between. It’s not just the toughest nut to crack in Joni’s catalog, it’s one of the most difficult albums in ALL OF POP MUSIC to get to sound right. (more…)
- Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill
- We rarely have had good copies on the site up in recent years – these are tough to come by in clean condition with this kind of sound
- 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.
Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.
Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.
What do the best Hot Stamper pressings give you? (more…)
Sonic Grade: C
We were fairly impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out on Heavy Vinyl years ago. Since then we have learned a lot. Their version is okay, not bad, but by no stretch of the imagination can it compete with any Hot Stamper pressing on our site.
Audiophile Sound to Die For
As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and their layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the critically important piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself. (more…)
Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall short on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliever any whomp for the rockers. Only a select group of copies could hold their own in all of the styles and engage us from start to finish; we’re pleased to present those exceptional pressings as the Hot Stamper copies of Harvest that so many of you have been begging for.
Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more.
In-Depth Track Commentary
Out on the Weekend
We love the sound of the drums on Neil Young records — think of the punchy kick drum on After The Gold Rush and the punchy thwack of the snare on Zuma. On the best copies, this song should have the kind of BIG, BOLD Neil Young drum sound we’ve fallen in love with. The pedal steel guitar sounds out of this world on our Hot Stampers. (more…)
There are loud vocal choruses on many tracks, and more often than not at their loudest they sound like they are either breaking up or threatening to do so. I always assumed it was compressor or board overload, which is easily heard on Down to You. On the best copies there is no breakup — the voices get loud and they sound clean throughout.
This assumes that your equipment is up to the job. The loudest choruses are a tough test for any system.
If you have one of our hottest Hot Stampers, try adjusting your setup – VTA, Tracking Weight, Azimuth, Anti-Skate (especially! Audiophiles often overlook this one, at their peril) — and note how cleanly the loudest passages play using various combinations of settings.
Keep a yellow pad handy and write everything down step by step as you make your changes, along with what differences you hear in the sound. You will learn more about sound from this exercise than you can from practically any other. Even shootouts won’t teach you what you can learn from variations in your table setup. And once you have your setup dialed in better, you will find that your shootouts go a lot smoother than used to. (more…)