Top Engineers – Lee Herschberg

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes – Another MoFi Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s even fatter, muddier and more compressed than the standard domestic copy, as improbable as that may seem. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts in the history of their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Gerry Rafferty (058) and Blondie (050) you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.  

Ry Cooder – Paradise and Lunch

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

This copy does almost everything you could ask for from this music — good energy, tons of richness and clarity and lots of texture to all of the instruments. You’ll feel like you are right in the studio with Ry and his top-notch crew as they kick out these fun, eccentric jams. LEE HERSCHBERG engineered this one as well as a great many others for Ry Cooder.

I can’t think of another Ry Cooder album with such consistently good material. And since Ry and his pals have such interesting and unusual ideas, there’s a lot here for audiophiles to appreciate.

Take for example the version of Burt Bacharach’s song Mexican Divorce. You’ve got timbales in the left channel, a conga in the right channel, a marimba somewhere in the background, and for good measure, a wonderful sounding mandolin takes center stage! (more…)

Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album.

Side One

Very rich and natural with a strong bottom end and real texture up top. The top end is nice and open, with good separation between parts. So good!

Side Two

Easily the best side two we heard in our shootout! You get a bigger soundstage, more energy, a strong bottom end, and right on the money tonality for the brass and guitars. (more…)

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

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  • This superb 2-pack boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout for Arlo Guthrie’s classic debut – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These stereo pressings on the early Two Tone label are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but here they are
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

The Vices of Production

doobiebrosvices

The best of this kind of mainstream radio-friendly pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is fun music that belongs in your collection.

IF…

IF you get hold of a good pressing, and in our experience this mass-produced stuff leaves a lot to be desired most of the time.

Actually that’s not really fair; the specialty audiophile limited edition pressings of most records are even worse sounding, so the production numbers really don’t have much to do with the final product, now do they?
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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…)

The L.A. Four Going Home – Review

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

This East Wind Japanese Direct-to-Disc LP has AMAZING SOUND. The boys do a fantastic version of Greensleeves here, flawlessing switching idioms from swing to bossa nova to bop. 

AMG Biography

Altoist/flutist Bud Shank and Brazilian acoustic guitarist Laurindo Almeida first teamed up in the 1950s to create music that predated but strongly hinted at bossa nova. In 1974, they reunited to form the L.A. Four with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Chuck Flores. With Shelly Manne and later Jeff Hamilton replacing Flores on drums, the L.A. Four recorded eight albums for Concord through 1982, breaking up shortly afterward. Their mixture of cool-toned bop, Brazilian-oriented music, and ballads was quite attractive.

Ry Cooder Plays Jazz (of a Sort)

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See all of our Ry Cooder albums in stock

 

We’re big fans of Ry here at Better Records, and it’s always a lot of fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you get a great sounding pressing like this one!

Far Beyond Your Average Rock or Jazz Record

The instrumentation here goes far beyond your average rock or jazz record. Rounding up a panoply of relatively exotic instruments for an album doesn’t make it especially noteworthy. Thankfully Cooder’s up to more than that. Using an ensemble of seriously talented musicians, as well as studio engineers who really understand how to capture these instruments, with Jazz Cooder succeeds in giving the audiophile public a full course spread of new and unusual sounds, all the while staying true to these popular songs from days long gone. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla

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  • Two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, with excellent sound for one of James Taylor’s best softer rock albums
  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by our man and one that belongs in your collection
  • Mexico, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and I Was A Fool To Care are standouts – there are no weak tracks here
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a good sounding record, not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two. (more…)