Top Engineers – Bill Price

The Pretenders / Self-Titled – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More from The Pretenders

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Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brits are the only way to go. And this one is a great deal quieter than most. Most of the copies I bought from English record dealers were just BEAT. They kept telling me they played fine (on their Technics table I’m guessing), but I could not for the life of me replicate their experience for myself here in the states. 

This is one of the few that has survived the enthusiasms of the ’70s and can still be played on audiophile equipment in 2014. That makes it a very rare copy indeed. And it sounds terrific. Bill Price engineered and Chris Thomas produced. You may remember them from the Sex Pistols’ debut and The Clash’s London Calling, two amazingly well-recorded albums. Wish we could find them. (more…)

Elton John’s Too Low For Zero – The Last in a Great Run

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this early British import LP – quiet vinyl too
  • There’s some real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and plenty of rock and roll energy 
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues – the best song Elton’s done in the last 35 years – is killer here
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s best efforts behind the boards in the ’80s, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art as usual
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 Stars: “Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form.” 

Much of the production — the smooth, sweet harmony vocals, the rich, grungy guitars, the solid, warm piano — reminds me of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of the classics from back in the day when Gus Dudgeon was running the show.

Caribou (1974) and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) have a similarly glossy, perfectionist approach to production as well of course. It was 1975’s Rock of the Westies that went off in another direction. (more…)

Elton John – Too Low For Zero

More Elton John

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this early British import LP – exceptionally quiet viny too
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and plenty of rock and roll energy
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues – the best song Elton’s done in the last 35 years – is the a good reason to own the album
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s best efforts behind the boards in the ’80s, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art as usual
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form.”

Folks, this record is rarely found in audiophile playing condition, so rarely that this may be the only quiet one we’ve ever offered for sale. It will be a very long time – years I suspect – before another one this nice hits the site.

Much of the production – the smooth, sweet harmony vocals, the rich, grungy guitars, the solid, warm piano – reminds me of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of the classics from back in the day when Gus Dudgeon was running the show.

Caribou (1974) and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) have a similarly glossy, perfectionist approach to production as well. It was 1975’s Rock of the Westies that went off in another direction.

The next six albums, from Blue Moves to Jump Up, at least to these ears, don’t sound good enough or have the kind of consistent material that was the hallmark of the six albums recorded from 1970 to 1973. Four of those are in our Top 100 Rock and Pop album list, and all four are Must Owns in my book. Pop music just doesn’t get any better.

So if Too Low For Zero reminds us in any way of those albums, especially in the songwriting department now that Bernie Taupin has rejoined team Elton after a too-long hiatus, that is all to the good. (more…)

The Pretenders on Nautilus Half-Speed – Ouch!

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing reviewed and found wanting.

Completely lifeless. This pressing takes all the rock out of rock and roll.

A ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.  

The top quality audiophile sound of the best import pressings comes courtesy of these guys:

Top Producers – Chris Thomas

Top Engineers – Bill Price

Top Engineers – Steve Nye

If you want to know just how good the album can sound, we make it easy to find out. Just order one of our famous Hot Stamper pressings.

The Clash – Combat Rock

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both the two big jammers are on this killer side one: Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock the Casbah – you’ve never heard them sound like this!
  • Glyn Johns produced and mixed Combat Rock, so its sonic credentials are certainly in order
  • If you’re a fan of meaty bass, grungy guitars and punchy drums, this is the copy for you
  • …its finest moments — “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “Rock the Casbah,” “Straight to Hell” — illustrate why the Clash were able to reach a larger audience than ever before with the record.”

NOTE: There is a mark on track two that looks serious but in actuality can only be heard a few times very lightly during the second half of the track. For the most part it is completely obscured by the music.

If you can tolerate this one mark you are in for some amazing Clash 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.

Full and natural, energetic and high-res, no other copy came close. A stunning copy, absolutely as good as it gets for this punk classic.

Most of the other copies we played failed in one of two ways: if they weren’t too bright, they were dead as a doornail. But this copy knocked them all out with correct tonal balance and tons of energy. (more…)

Pretenders – Pretenders II

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for The Pretenders’ second album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • With loads of solid, punchy bass and the richest, smoothest vocal reproduction, this pressing simply could not be beat
  • This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

Mott The Hoople – Mott

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, this copy will blow the doors off anything you’ve played
  • Both of these sides are rich and musical, solid down low, with Tubey Magic for days – forget the dubby domestic pressings, this is the sound you want for Mott
  • Bill Price engineered in 1973 – he’s the man behind The Clash’s Best Sounding Album, London Calling
  • AMG raves “This sounds better, looser, than All the Young Dudes, as the band jives through “All the Way From Memphis” and “Honaloochie Boogie,” beats the living hell outta “Violence,” swaggers on “Whizz Kid,” and simply drives it home on “Drivin’ Sister.”

This CBS Orange Label early British LP has the big British Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Phenomenally rich and sweet, with meaty bass and a smooth top, it’s the kind of sound you find on the best Ken Scott recordings from the early ’70s.

Bill Price engineered this one as he did for many of Mott’s albums. His claim to fame in these parts is London Calling, but his credits run into the hundreds for classic rock records starting in the ’60s right through to the ’80s.

We were surprised (although we shouldn’t be by now) that so many copies were slightly thin and dry. The first track on side one, the big hit All the Way From Memphis, tends to have a problem in that area more than the tracks that follow. (more…)

The Clash – London Calling – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Absolutely stunning sound for all four sides, Triple Plus on one and two, very close on three and four. Huge and open, full and rich, present and energetic — absolutely as good as it gets. An album that almost never makes it on to the site with grades like this.

AUDIOPHILE SOUND FOR THIS PUNK ROCK CLASSIC?! You better believe it, baby! The sound here is absolutely superb for all four sides, earning at or near our top grade.

Dub Style!

What really sets this album apart sonically is The Clash’s use of reggae and dub influences. You can really hear it when you tune in to the bottom end; your average late ’70s punk record isn’t gonna have such rich and meaty bass, that’s for sure. Drop the needle on The Guns Of Brixton (last track on side two) to hear exactly what I’m talking about. On a Hot Stamper copy played at the correct levels (read: quite loud!) the effect is positively HYPNOTIC. (more…)

The Clash – London Calling

More The Clash

More London Calling

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  • Truly stunning sound, with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all four sides 
  • A shockingly well-recorded album that comes to life with the combo of a great copy and a hi-res, full-range system
  • Five stars in the AMG: “A stunning statement of purpose and one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded.”

AUDIOPHILE SOUND FOR THIS PUNK ROCK CLASSIC?! You better believe it, baby! The sound here is superb for all four sides.

Dub Style!

What really sets this album apart sonically is The Clash’s use of reggae and dub influences. You can really hear it when you tune in to the bottom end; your average late ’70s punk record won’t have this kind of rich and meaty bass, that’s for sure. Drop the needle on The Guns Of Brixton (last track on side two) to hear exactly what I’m talking about. On a Hot Stamper copy played at the correct levels (read: quite loud!) the effect is positively HYPNOTIC.

Bill Price engineered and as we like to day, he knocked this one out of the park. The best sounding record from 1979? I have the feeling it just might be.

Nobody would have accused The Clash of being an audiophile-friendly band, but a copy like this might make you think twice about that! We had a blast doing this shootout and we hope whoever takes this home has just as much fun with it. (more…)

The Debut of Pretenders II

Our White Hot Shootout Winner

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for The Pretenders’ second album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • With loads of solid, punchy bass and the richest, smoothest vocal reproduction, this pressing simply could not be beat
  • This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)