Top Engineers – Andy Johns

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?

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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…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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…)

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…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

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  • A stunning copy that is absolutely guaranteed to rock your world like no other – QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) on side one and Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side two 
  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • So many immortal rockers on one album: Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway, When the Levee Breaks, and more, sounding better than you’ve ever heard them
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”

*Stairway to Heaven has the usual ticky intro.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Side one shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear it you will know why we gave it that fourth plus!

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard.

You better be ready to rock because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud volumes, but practically any copy will punish you harshly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels. I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel seriously disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels audiophiles seem to prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where is the fidelity? (more…)

Andy Johns Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

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ANDY JOHNS is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the link 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).

Andy Johns Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Andy Johns Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Partial Discography

Stand Up – Jethro Tull (1969)

Town and Country -Humble Pie (1969)

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

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin II

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  • A stunning copy that is absolutely guaranteed to rock your world like no other – QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) on side two and nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one
  • With Mint Minus Minus grades or BETTER on both sides, the surfaces are exceptional for this title, but there are some marks that play, carefully noted in the body of the listing below
  • The sound is freakishly good – we created a Top Ten list just to put this album at the top of it
  • We long ago gave up on anything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else comes close
  • With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3k+, we’re having to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it’s this one

CONDITION ISSUES:

  • On side one, there’s a mark on the first track that makes about ten light to medium pops. At the beginning of the third track there are five to seven light ticks. There are some intermittent ticks on Thank You, the last track on this side and the hardest one to find playing quietly.No inner groove damage, which is rare in and of itself.
  • On side two, there’s a mark at the end of track five that makes six light ticks. Note that the basic playing condition of this side is as quiet as any copy we have ever listed and quieter than 95% of those that actually did make it to the site.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the surfaces on this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time. When you hear this copy you will know why we gave side two that fourth plus!

Quick Notes for Side One

Meaty bass and guitars. Big energy. Just not as spacious and resolving as the best. 2.5+

Quick Notes for Side Two

So much bass! The most yet and it’s huge! Big size and space, really gets huge and jumps out. I love it! Awesome. 4+ (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 withAndy 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 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…)