Top Engineers – Lee Herschberg

James Taylor / In The Pocket – A Personal Favorite

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

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Side Two

The best we heard and SUPERB in all respects. It’s got Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album. It’s fairly rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. White Hot all the way.

Side One

Big and clear with lots of studio space and reverb. A bit shifted up tonally but very good this way.

We’re No Snobs

The critics have never had much love for In The Pocket, but I’ve always felt just the opposite — it’s one of my favorites of the JT canon, an absolute joy from first track to last. As a James Taylor fan I bought a copy as soon as it came out and proceeded to play it practically to death. At the time Rolling Stone magazine gave it a scathingly negative review, accusing Taylor of selling out for making a carefully-produced, sophisticated Soulful Pop Album. Plenty have derisively labeled it “slick”, but to my ear the material is very strong, with all the heart of his earlier albums. Glossy production values and a cast of the L.A. assembled multitudes is hardly cause to dismiss the emotional power of these songs. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

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  • With two insanely good sides, each earning Shotoout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, this copy KILLED all of the competition
  • Dramatically fuller and smoother than the average pressing
  • 5 Stars: “Good Old Boys is one of Newman’s finest albums; it’s also one of his most provocative and infuriating, and that’s probably just the way he wanted it.”

With Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman producing, and Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee engineering, this album has the smooth, rich, analog sound you would expect, and it just happens to be a sound we love here at Better Records. It’s vintage 1974 Reprise. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper copy has TWO AMAZING sides back to back, with a side two that is so off the charts we seriously considered giving it Four Pluses. The Four Plus copies have to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” The Triple Plus side here is doing what it should — it’s correct from top to bottom, full of energy, transparent, and musical. It’s exactly what you want it to sound like in every possible way.

Side two does all that and more. It’s BIGGER, richer and more clear than it has any right to be. We’ve played thirty or forty of these over the past ten years, and this one just takes the sound of the recording to another level we had no idea was even possible.

To be honest, the recording itself cannot begin to compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. This can be a good sounding record, not a great one, in league with those.

But the average copy is so flat, lifeless and hard sounding that you might just wonder if there isn’t something wrong with your stereo when the needle hits the Gorilla groove. Most copies are awful, and the same goes for the albums that came before it and after it, Walking Man and In the Pocket, respectively. (more…)

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for Michael McDonald’s Masterpiece and on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • Both of these sides are incredibly clean, clear, spacious and dynamic with excellent clarity, tons of energy and a big punchy bottom end
  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic – more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

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Classic Tracks: “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)”

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Mixonline Classic Tracks

BY ROBYN FLANS

How sweet it is! The James Taylor track of that name with Carly Simon vocals and a David Sanborn sax solo went to Number 5 on the Billboard 100 in 1975, dominating radio and adding a sweet voice to the din of the turbulent mid-1970s.

The Russ Titelman/Lenny Waronker production of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” became the most successful version of the Holland-Dozier composition, originally recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964. (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones

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  • A superb pressing, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, right up there with the best we heard in our shootout all day
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • The superbly talented musicians and engineers deserve much of the credit for making this album a Grammy Winning Must Own Audiophile Favorite
  • 4 stars: “One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song.”

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Ry Cooder – Jazz – Transparency Is Key

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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 Jazz. 

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds. (more…)

James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Now with Aphex Aural Excitement!

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  • JT’s superb Greatest Hits collection finally returns to the site with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides  
  • Outstanding size and weight with rich, clear sound and good space up top, thanks to Lee Herschberg’s engineering skills
  • Three tracks are unique to this pressing and make it a Must Own for JT fans
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… examples of Taylor’s undeniable warmth and facility for folk/country-tinged pop… a good sampler of Taylor’s more popular early work.”

From the opening acoustic guitar notes, you can tell this Hot Stamper pressing is a lovely sounding record. Believe me, it took us a long time to find a pressing this good – most copies of this record sound like CARDBOARD. (more…)

The Everly Brothers – The Hit Sound Of The Everly Brothers

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  • You’ll find outstanding sound on this WB Gold Label Stereo original with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • The engineering team of Eddie Brackett and Lee Herschberg provide the exceptional recording fidelity – they would go on to win the Best Engineering Grammy for Strangers in the Night the same year
  • “Snow’s I’m Movin’ On rocks, and Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly clearly provided the blueprint for CCR’s cover several years later. While they may not make you forget the Animal’s version of the House of the Rising Sun, they do a fine version themselves. They were still struggling to find where they belonged on this LP, but they take us on enough highs through the trip to make it a worthwhile 37 minutes.

For those who may not know the man’s work, Eddie Brackett is the engineer behind the best sounding Dean Martin record ever made, Dream With Dean. His credits run for days.

This Gold Label Stereo original pressing (skip the mono by the way) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Eric Clapton – Behind The Sun

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  • Clapton’s 1985 release returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “The level of musicianship is impressive. Additional percussion by Phil Collins and Ray Cooper help to make this one of Clapton’s most rhythmically adventurous projects to date… I recommend it to both casual and serious fans. You cannot go wrong with an album featuring such strong tracks as “She’s Waiting, “See What Love Can Do”, “Same Old Blues”, “Forever Man”, and “Just Like A Prisoner”.”

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