Top Engineers – Bones Howe

Ornette Coleman – The Art of the Improvisers

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Engineered by the team of Tom Dowd (whose work you surely know well) and Phil Iehle – the pair recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic: Giant Steps (1960) and Coltrane Jazz (also in 1961)
  • 5 stars in Downbeat – Allmusic notes: “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.”

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Tom Waits – Small Change

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

This is a wonderful album, considered by many to be Waits’s masterpiece. He’s backed with a real jazz combo here, including Lew Tabackin on sax and the great Shelley Manne on drums. Bones Howe does a great job gettin the kind of beatnik-jazz sound out of these songs that they need. On a copy like this, the presence and clarity are absolutely stunning!

According to Wikipedia, when asked in interview by Mojo magazine in 1999 if he shared many fans’ view that Small Change was the crowning moment of his “beatnik-glory-meets-Hollywood-noir period” (i.e. from 1973 to 1980), Waits replied:

Well, gee. I’d say there’s probably more songs off that record that I continued to play on the road, and that endured. Some songs you may write and record but you never sing them again. Others you sing em every night and try and figure out what they mean. “Tom Traubert’s Blues” was certainly one of those songs I continued to sing, and in fact, close my show with. (more…)

Tom Waits – Nighthawks At The Diner

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

A stunning Top Copy of this Tom Waits classic! A superb recording, with much credit due to Waits’ constant collaborator Bones Howe who produced and engineered. It’s a live-in-the-studio romp through Los Angeles with Waits playing the role of tour guide, and the results are wonderful.

At its best, this album has the immediacy and energy of a real live performance, but the typical copy just doesn’t bring it to life. This one is a big step up on all four sides, with the kind of life and clarity we just don’t hear often enough! Side two in particular has the kind of superb clarity and three-dimensional soundstage that puts you right there in the studio.

This album was recorded live at The Record Plant back in 1975, and, while I can’t be certain, it sure seems there are no overdubs or post-performance additions. There’s a touch of hardness to the vocals at times, but it was on every copy we played and it’s obviously on the tape. It’s the kind of sound we hear on Johnny Cash records and it just seems like a by-product of the microphones these guys used. It doesn’t seem to far a reach to imagine that an iconoclast like Waits might prefer an old-timey microphone sound that doesn’t soften or smooth his vocal style. (For those in search of buttery vocals, there’s usually an Al Stewart record or two on the site. This ain’t the one for you.) (more…)

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

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

Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides! This music ain’t for everyone, but when you find good sounding Tom Waits pressings like this one the sonics can be out of this world. It’s tough to find clean copies of this stuff these days and even tougher to find ones that really deliver the way this one does. Bones Howe sure knew how to record this kind of music, and a copy like this will really let you appreciate his work.  (more…)

Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

One of the better copies of Heartattack and Vine we’ve ever heard! We enjoy listening to the music of Tom Waits here because the music and sound can be excellent. His albums are certainly a nice change of pace from the stuff that’s usually on our table. We had quite a few copies of this one and none of the other ones were in a league with this bad boy. The sound is very rich and full with incredible immediacy to the vocals. You just couldn’t get the vocals to sound any better than they do on this copy. (more…)

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO GREAT SIDES on this wonderful album — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! Both sides have a wonderful bottom end — check out all the WEIGHT to that rich, meaty bass. Many copies we played had a tendency to sound somewhat dull, but this one has all the extension up top you need. The overall sound is rich, full, sweet and warm. The strings have texture, the voice has lots of breath, and I just don’t think you could find a better sounding copy.

Drop the needle on Romeo Is Bleeding for some of the best music on here. When you’ve got the kind of bass definition that this copy offers, the sound for that song can be killer, as it is here. (more…)

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This minty avant-garde jazz record has AMAZING SOUND! The recording is by the famous engineer Bones Howe, the man behind some of the greatest pop and jazz recordings of all time. He gets some of that Rudy Van Gelder bite that we love, but with less distortion and more dynamic contrasts. Whether you’ll like the music or not is another question — this is free form jazz; not everybody’s into it, that’s for sure.

Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven’t come to grips with. The record shattered traditional concepts of harmony in jazz, getting rid of not only the piano player but the whole idea of concretely outlined chord changes.” — AMG

Marty Paich Big Band – What’s New

More Marty Paich

What’s New

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

Albert Marx was the producer of the original sessions back in 1957. Fast forward to the ’80s and Marx is now the owner of his very own jazz label, Discovery Records. Who would know the sound of the original tapes better than he? Working with Dave Ellsworth at KM, Marx has here produced one of the better jazz reissues we’ve heard in years.

As we never tire of saying, Old and New can sometimes work extremely well together. What’s New is another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering on the more modern cutting equipment of the early ’80s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today. (more…)

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

More Tom Waits

More Swordfishtrombones

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  • Insanely good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish; we rarely have these on the site!
  • Both sides here are incredible — big, rich, full-bodied and super spacious with tons of energy and presence
  • “…the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements…”
  • Allmusic 5 stars: “Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable”

This is yet another wonderful sounding Tom Waits recording, though it’s very different from the earlier titles from his catalog that have been featured on our site before. While we’re huge fans of the sound Waits and engineer Bones Howe put together on albums like Small Change and Heartattack and Vine, this album marked a turning point for Waits and the sound of his albums. (more…)

The Association – Goodbye, Columbus

More by  The Association

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

This green label original pressing TROUNCED our other copies. Recorded by Bones Howe, the midrange is pure tubey magic! If you have the kind of system that brings out that quality in a recording, you will get a lot out of this one. It’s so good, it made me appreciate some of the instrumentals on the album which I had previously dismissed as filler. When you hear them sound this good, you can actually enjoy them!

You get rich, sweet, open, textured, natural, tonally correct sound here on side, A++ all the way! Side two is almost as good at A+, with some smear causing us to drop the grade.

Bones Howe produced and engineered the show here; Bones is a man who knew his way around a studio as well as practically anybody in the ’60s. He’s the one responsible for all the tubey magic of this recording and so many others from the era, including the Association’s masterpiece, Insight Out. That’s his sound. Those of you who appreciate that sound will find much to like here. If, on the other hand, you prefer the sound of a band like, oh, Dire Straits, a group with a dry, processed, transistory approach to recording, the sound of this LP is unlikely to move you as much as it moved us here at Better Records. (more…)