Top Engineers – Bill Szymczyk

Eagles / Hotel California – Rockin’ Out to Victim of Love

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Reviews and Commentaries for Hotel California

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This commentary was written at least ten years ago.

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.

In fact 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…)

The Eagles / The Long Run – Five Killer Songs Is Nothing to Sneeze at

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  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is full, rich and vibrant with impressive punch down low and nice extension up top
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers
  • 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 a 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 – The Typical Domestic Pressing of On The Border Sucks, and Here’s Why

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity on some songs.

The domestic copies of On The Border have many tracks in reversed absolute phase, including and especially Midnight Flyer, a lifelong favorite of mine. The front and center banjo will positively tear your head off; it’s bright, sour, shrill, aggressive and full of distortion. Don’t look at me — that’s what reverse polarity sounds like!

I’ve known for some time that domestic pressings of On The Border have their phase reversed — just hadn’t gotten around to discussing the issue because I wasn’t ready to list the record and describe the phenomenon.

A while back [January 2005, time flies] I happened to play a copy of One Of These Nights and was appalled by the dismal quality of the sound. Last night I put two and two together. I pulled out both Eagles records and listened to them with the phase reversed. Voila! (On The Border is a favorite record of mine, dismissed by everyone else, but loved by yours truly.)

[I don’t think One of These Nights has its polarity reversed anymore, although some copies may.]

I’m of the opinion that a very small percentage of records have their absolute phase reversed. Once you’ve learned to recognize the kind of distortion reversed polarity causes, you will hear recordings that may make you suspicious, and the only way to know for sure is to switch the positive and negative, wherever you choose to do so. 

With the help of our EAR 324 Phono Stage the phase is reversible with the mere touch of a button, a wonderful convenience that we have grown to love, along with the amazingly transparent sound of course. (Hard to imagine living without either at this point.) (more…)

Eagles – Hotel California

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Ca you’ve heard
  • 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 practically unheard of
  • 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 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 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 Nearly White Hot Stamper 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…)

J. Geils Band – Bloodshot

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  • A stunning pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last – this copy was rockin’ like no other
  • Credit Bill Szymczyk for the punchy, huge and energetic sound he produced and engineered
  • 4 stars: “The band sounds tighter, meaner, and funkier than on their first two releases… the first Geils album to stake a claim on the major leagues of rock & roll.”

While red vinyl pressings, like this one, sounded great, they are never quiet.

Big bass and lots of energy are essential to this music. In the loudest vocal parts almost all copies — when playing at the good loud levels we prefer — can get a bit harsh. It’s clearly not a problem that Szymczyk is too worried about. One of These Nights and practically any Joe Walsh album have some of it, and of course the badly mastered and badly pressed copies tend to have much too much. (more…)

James Gang – Thirds

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  • An incredible copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
  • A copy sure to make you a fan of Joe Walsh’s grungy guitar artistry – turn up Walk Away on this Shootout Winning side one and it will blow your mind
  • 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.  (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Endless Boogie

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  • This original ABC pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES! 
  • These sides are out of this world — rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a big punchy bottom end and lots of energy
  • “… the timeliness of Endless Boogie is an unmitigated plus, and producers Bill Szymczyk and Ed Michel get a relaxed groove out of a cast of supporting musicians who can boogie Canned Heat right out of the studio.” – Robert Christgau

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The James Gang – Rides Again

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  • James Gang’s sophomore release finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • Full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is the sound we love at Better Records
  • The group’s highest rated record and, as they say on the cover, this album is “Made Loud To Be Played Loud,” especially on a pressing this good
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With their second album Rides Again, the James Gang came into their own. Under the direction of guitarist Joe Walsh, the group — now featuring bassist Dale Peters — began incorporating keyboards into their hard rock, which helped open up their musical horizons.”

This shootout produced little in the way of audiophile quality pressings. Most of what we played was just too noisy to sell. We had a devil of a time finding copies that played as quiet as the grades you see here.

It will be the best sound you have ever heard for the band’s second album, we guarantee it.

The powerfully energetic chorus on Funk #49, the first track on the album and longtime Classic Rock Radio staple, really gets big and loud on this copy. You can be sure that it doesn’t sound that way unless you have one of these very special pressings, the kind with real richness and weight to the sound (depending on the grades of course; not every copy we sell does everything we want it to).

By the way, if you hear some Poco influence pop up of the album, note that Rusty Young guests on Pedal Steel. (more…)

Eagles – One Of These Nights

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  • This outstanding pressing of the Eagles’ first Number One Album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • 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.”

This is one of the toughest Eagles albums to find with good sound, which is why only a small handful has ever made it to the site. 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 begin 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…)

Eagles – On The Border

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  • 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

NOTE: *On side one, a mark makes 2 moderately loud pops followed by 1 loud pop and 2 moderatly light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, You Never Cry Like a Lover.

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. (more…)