Top Engineers – Andy Johns

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

  • Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That’s the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
  • “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

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  • A KILLER early pressing of this Rolling Stones classic of Stripped Down Rock and Roll, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • What earned this pressing Top Grades was its extraordinarily textured, practically grain- and grit-free midrange – the bad copies tend to be smeary and gritty in the midrange (where the music is) and that’s just not our sound
  • The superbly talented Andy Johns engineered, so you can be sure that this is the sound the Stones were aiming for
  • “Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation… all the more enjoyable.”

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is a consistently good, straight-ahead, no-frills rock album from the Stones with Mick Taylor still in the band. It was the last of its kind for a while; their next release was the reggae-influenced Black and Blue. The sound can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that that’s precisely the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter.

The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.

This album may have some of the best The Rolling Stones music, but those looking for top quality sonics for the Stones should head in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, or Let It Bleed. They’re simply more audiophile-friendly recordings. (more…)

Andy Johns Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

Andy Johns Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Andy Johns Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

More of Our Favorite Engineers

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ANDY JOHNS is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the links above to find our in-stock Andy Johns engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).

Partial Discography

Stand Up – Jethro Tull (1969)

Town and Country -Humble Pie (1969)

Living in the Past – Jethro Tull (1972) (more…)

Blind Faith – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blind Faith

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  • It’s been years, but Blind Faith has finally returned with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this UK Polydor pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • From the moment we dropped the needle and heard all that fluffy, correct-sounding tape hiss, we knew we were in for a treat – the sound on both sides is punchy, open, spacious, big, bold, and ALIVE!
  • If you doubt this record can sound as good as you remember from back in the day, assuming you are an old goat like me, this pressing will be a revelation
  • 4 stars: “Blind Faith’s first and last album, more than 30 years old and counting [we are up to 52 now], remains one of the jewels of the Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker catalogs. . . it merges the soulful blues of the former with the heavy riffing and outsized song lengths of the latter for a very compelling sound unique to this band.”

Here is the Blind Faith you’ve been waiting for: Tubey Magical, Transparent, full of Life and Energy — dear friends, it’s all here. And the vinyl is some of the quietest we’ve ever heard for this album.

Sick of buying one harsh, thin, distorted, veiled, closed-in, smeary LP after another in a vain attempt to find a copy that reminds you of why you LOVED this record so much when it came out back in 1969?

(Assuming you’re as old as I am; we had the 8 track tape that could play in the car and the house — music was so convenient back then. Of course I had the domestic original vinyl – I was 15 years old, I had never seen an import record in my life.)

This is no audiophile made-from-the-master-tape snake oil. This is the real thing. This copy is guaranteed to blow the bad memories of all those other versions you’ve owned in the past right out of your memory banks. A short list: the MoFi LP and Gold CD, Simply Vinyl LP, the new Heavy Vinyl version if there is one, and anything else that comes out from here until the end of time.

Face it: It’s all JUNK compared to a record like this.

Why mince words? We’ve played all those records (except for the bad ones that have yet to be pressed of course). (more…)

Advances in Playback Technology Are More Than Blind Faith

More Than Blind Faith

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In a 2007 commentary for the Hot Stamper pressing of Blind Faith we noted that:

When it finally all comes together for such a famously compromised recording, it’s nothing less than a THRILL. More than anything else, the sound is RIGHT. Like Layla or Surrealistic Pillow, this is no demo disc by any stretch of the imagination, but that should hardly keep us from enjoying the music. And now we have the record that lets us do it.

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The Playback Technology Umbrella

Why did it take so long? Why does it sound good now, after decades of problems? For the same reason that so many great records are only now revealing their true potential: advances in playback technology.

Audio has finally reached the point where the magic in Blind Faith’s grooves is ready to be set free. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Stand Up

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  • An outstanding UK import LP with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a True Tull Classic – my favorite by the band – and a VERY tough record to come by with this kind of sound and surfaces this quiet, as quiet as any copy we have ever played
  • Both of these sides give you richness, Tubey Magic, clarity and resolution few copies can touch – these are the Hot Stampers, folks
  • “Stand Up! has great textural interest, due, in part, to a more sophisticated recording technique, in part to the organ, mandolin, balalaika, etc., which Anderson plays to enrich each song. The band is able to work with different musical styles, but without a trace of the facile, glib manipulation which strains for attention.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Island pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. We must give thanks to the brilliant engineer Andy Johns. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup

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  • This superb copy of Goats Head Soup has stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • Who knew the record could sound this good? Certainly not us – we had no luck with this album for years
  • “This may not be as downright funky, freaky, and fantastic as Exile, yet the extra layer of gloss brings out the enunciated lyrics, added strings, wah-wah guitars, explicit sex, and violence, making it all seem trippily decadent…”

The best pressings give you exactly what you want from this brand of straight-ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals, solid, note-like bass, big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound we love here at Better Records. With big speakers and the power to drive them, at loud levels YOU ARE THERE.

And why not? The engineer is Andy Johns, Glyn’s very talented younger brother (sadly, now deceased). They worked together on the Stones’ previous album, Exile on Main St.

Andy engineered the Zep albums from II through Physical Graffiti, and those are amazingly well-recorded albums in anybody’s book when you have pressings that allow you to hear them right.

And you can add to that group Tull’s Stand Up (69), Traffic’s John Barleycorn (70) and the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request (67), Sticky Fingers (71) and It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (74). Even two tracks from Stephen Stills’ first album (71). (more…)

Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl – Seriously, What Could Be Sadder?

ledzeII classic

An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, in short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a “reference.” After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many — if not most — audiophiles as superior to other pressings. What could be sadder?

In fact. you will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts.

Since then we’ve made it a point to create debunking commentaries for some of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is still by far the best of the bunch.

Free – Tons Of Sobs

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  • Crazy good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close it from start to finish, this was clearly the best copy from our shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This early UK Island pressing gave us exactly what we were looking for from these British Blues Rockers – it’s smooth, weighty, and overflowing Tubey Magical richness
  • It’s tough to find these imports in audiophile condition, which is why they only hit the site at most every two years or so
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…a blistering combination of youth, ambition, and experience that, across the course of their debut album, did indeed lay the groundwork for all that Zeppelin would embrace. …Tons of Sobs has a density that makes Zeppelin and the rest of the era’s rocky contemporaries sound like flyweights by comparison.”

Here is just the kind of sound you want on an album like this — Big and Bold!

If you’ve got the full range dynamic speakers to play Tons of Sobs good and loud, you will discover, as we have, what a powerful British Blues Rock album this is. No hits, just heavy electric blues played with feeling, only a year before Zeppelin came along and took it to a whole new level.

Years ago — in 2011 to be exact — we said the following in a listing for a very good sounding domestic pressing:

Solid bass, present vocals, plenty of energy — the only thing missing here is the Tubey Magical richness and sweetness that only the British originals (in our experience) have, and in spades by the way. But try to find one! Over the last two or three years I think we’ve managed to get hold of exactly one clean copy.

Fast forward almost eight years and we’ve only had a couple more! I personally have seen the original British pressing of this album sell on the web for more than 1000 dollars, which explains why we rarely have them. (more…)

Jethro Tull / Stand Up – Listening Track by Track

More on Stand Up

Hot Stamper Jethro Tull Albums Available Now

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Side One

A New Day Yesterday

This is one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs of all time. (This and To Cry You a Song from Benefit are pretty darn hard to beat.) Clive Bunker’s drumming is incredibly energetic; it drives the song to levels few bands could ever hope to reach. It reminds me of the kind of all-out ASSAULT on the skins you hear in the work of Dave Grohl and John Bonham. Bunker is a highly underrated player; his bandmates Barre and Cornick don’t get the respect they deserve either, for reasons that I’ll never understand. They’re about as good as it gets in my book. (more…)