Top Engineers – Bill Szymczyk

Eagles – Rockin’ Out to Victim of Love

More of the Music of The Eagles

Reviews and Commentaries for Hotel California

This commentary was written more than ten years ago. Wouldn’t change a thing though!

Victim of Love is a classic case of yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

It’s the sound of this five piece tearing it up LIVE IN THE STUDIO. It’s also the track where the DCC just falls apart for us. Where did the rock and roll energy go? The DCC makes it sound like the band just doesn’t care, which was certainly not our experience when were playing any of the killer Hot Stampers we came across. Just the reverse was true; we had them turned up full blast and they ROCKED.

One reason the Turn Up Your Volume Test is such a great test is that the louder the problem, the problem in this case being the kind of lifeless sound that Heavy Vinyl pressings often suffer from, the harder it is to ignore.

I might go so far as to say that Victim of Love is the best sounding track on the whole album. It’s punchy, real and MUSICAL in a way that nothing else on the album is, because it’s being played by a real band, live. The energy and coherency of the sound is like nothing else you will hear on Hotel California, and possibly on any other Eagles record. (more…)

James Gang – Thirds

More Joe Walsh

  • This excellent pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music and may just make you a fan of Joe Walsh’s grungy guitar artistry
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, smoothness, 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
  • 4 stars: “… Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer… Thirds quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold…”

The copies that did well in our shootout managed to keep the grit and grain in the sound under control without smothering the top end or smearing the upper midrange. Clear, breathy vocals that don’t strain when loud were tough to find, but some copies did a whole lot better than others, and those are typically the ones we preferred.

Plenty of tight bass and lively rock energy are every bit as important of course. Nobody wants a leaned-out or boring James Gang record.

Although this record will never be a demo disc, at the very least the best copies should make you a fan of Joe Walsh‘s grungy guitar work, and we think this copy should do just that.

(more…)

The Eagles – Hotel California

More Eagles

More Joe Walsh

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Cal you’ve heard
  • If you have any modern remastered pressing of the album, PLEASE order this one so you can hear what you have been missing all these years
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick – here’s a copy that’s transparent, and hi-rez, with all the energy and Tubey Magic that can only be found on these original pressings
  • 5 stars: “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band… The result was the Eagles’ biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.”

We are having a devil of a time finding this album in audiophile playing condition these days, which is why you practically never see them on the site anymore, and copies quieter than Mint Minus Minus are rare indeed

We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP.

From first note to last, this pressing has superb, mind-blowing, Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song “Hotel California.” It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

“Life In The Fast Lane” is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture, and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is “Try And Love Again.” On a superb copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level.

(more…)

Eagles / Hotel California – DCC Reviewed

More of the Music of The Eagles

Reviews and Commentaries for Hotel California

Sonic Grade: B+/B-

The DCC for this album is not a total disaster. In fact, the first side of the DCC is one of the better DCC sides we’ve played in recent memory. We dropped the needle on a few copies we had in the back (pressing variations exist for audiophile records too, don’t you know) and they averaged about a B+ for sound on side one. Side two was quite a bit too clean for our tastes — no real ambience or meaty texture to the guitars, about a B- for sound.

To flip something we say often: you can do worse, but you can do a LOT better.  

Differing Grading Scales

Note that the grading scale for Hot Stampers is slightly different than the grading scale we all grew up with in school.

The best Hot Stampers receive a grade of A Triple Plus.

This DCC record for side one is three steps down from that.

Three steps down from an A+ grade in school, the highest grade one could earn, would be a B+, hence the B+ grade you see above.

(more…)

The Long Run – Don’t Blame Bill Szymczyk If Your Copy Doesn’t Sound Good

More of the Music of The Eagles

More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy.

Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is more unpleasant to play.

The best copies are a whole different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. Can’t the guy record an album any better than this after being in the studio for all these years?

Yes he can. Don’t make the mistake of judging his work by the typical bad pressing of it, the kind that Elektra was churning out by the millions back in the day.

Believe me, the master tape must be AWESOME if the sound of some of the records we played is any indication (which of course it is).

(more…)

Joe Walsh – So What

More Joe Walsh

More of The Eagles

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic from Joe Walsh
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Includes a couple of classics, notably “Welcome to the Club” and a remake of “Turn to Stone”
  • You’ll hear most of the Eagles playing on this one, produced and engineered by the redoubtable Bill Szymczyk
  • “So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style.”

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard that at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make this shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. The best copies had real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, as you doubtless know.)

The best pressings have (relatively; this is still Joe Walsh album we’re talking about) rich, warm guitars and vocals, supported by tight, punchy bass. Most copies were far less energetic and dynamic than this one. Excellent transparency as well.

All in all, this is pretty much as good as it gets for Joe Walsh in 1974. The very next year he would become an Eagle and help those boys knock it out of the park with Hotel California, their indisputable Magnum Opus.

(more…)

The Eagles / The Long Run – The True Test for Side One

More of the Music of The Eagles

More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here’s an easy test. Timothy B Schmit’s vocal on I Can’t Tell You Why rarely sounds right.

Most of the time he’s muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he’s in has practically no ambience.

On the good copies, he’s not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he’s clear, focused, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

This is why you need a Hot Stamper. Most copies don’t let you FEEL the song.

And the rest of the band is cookin’ here as well. From the big, full-bodied bass to the fat, punchy snare, this side is doing practically everything we want it to.

(more…)

The Eagles – One Of These Nights

More Eagles

  • On an exceptionally good sounding copy such as this one, the soaring guitar solo of the title track really comes alive – assuming you have it turned up GOOD and LOUD
  • Lyin’ Eyes and Take It To The Limit sound the way they should – we guarantee you have never heard them sound remotely as good as they do here
  • 4 stars: “…a lyrical stance — knowing and disillusioned, but desperately hopeful — had evolved, and the musical arrangements were tighter and more purposeful. The result was the Eagles’ best-realized and most popular album so far.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

What to listen for you ask? Dynamic, soaring guitar solos! On the best copies the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some songs, which, as everyone who’s ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music.

This is one of the toughest Eagles albums to find with good sound. This album may never sound quite as good as Hotel California or the self-titled debut, but there are some wonderful songs here and a Hot Stamper like this brings them to life in a way most pressings cannot hope to do.

The best copies are richer and sweeter. When you turn them up, they really come to life. When you play the better sides at Rock Music Volumes they really ROCK. When a copy is cut really clean, as the best ones are, the louder you play them the better they sound. They’re tonally correct at loud levels and a bit dull at what we would call “audiophile” levels. That’s the way it should be. (more…)

The Eagles / The Long Run

More Eagles

More Joe Walsh

  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers, at least some of the time…
  • The first two songs on both sides are practically as good as it gets for mainstream rock from this era
  • They’re playlist staples of Classic Rock stations from coast to coast to this day
  • “The Long Run is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood’s nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy first detailed by Warren Zevon on his haunting Asylum debut (Warren Zevon, 1976) and the equally powerful Excitable Boy.” — Rolling Stone

The last song on side two, “The Sad Cafe,” is also standout. Others, as they used to say in school, ‘need improvement.’

But five Killer Eagles songs is nothing to sneeze at. This is an album that belongs in your collection, even if you choose to only listen to the best material on it.

(more…)

The Eagles / On The Border – A Must Own Country Rock Classic

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades
  • This killer album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)