Top Engineers – Bruce Botnick

The Doors / Waiting For the Sun – This Gold Label Copy Is White Hot

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  • A KILLER pressing of Waiting For The Sun with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • The sound is present, lively and tonally correct, with Jim Morrison’s baritone reproduced with the weight, presence, space and depth all but missing from the reissues
  • It’s tough (not to mention expensive) to find these early Gold Label pressings with this kind of sound and reasonably quiet vinyl
  • “Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore were never more lucid… This was a band at its most dexterous, creative, and musically diverse …”

Here is THE BIG SOUND that makes Doors records such a thrill to play. Morrison’s vocals sound just right here — full-bodied, breathy and immediate. The transparency makes it possible to easily pick out Bruce Botnick’s double tracking of Morrison’s leads.

For a thrill just drop the needle on Not To Touch The Earth. Halfway through the song the members have sort of a duel — Robbie Krieger wailing on the guitar in one channel, Ray Manzarek pounding on the keyboards in the other, and John Densmore responding with drum fills behind them. On the average copy, the parts get congested and lose their power, but when you can easily pick out each musician, their part will raise the hair on your arms. It’s absolutely chilling, and it will no doubt remind you why you fell in love with The Doors in the first place. Who else can do this kind of voodoo the way that they do?

Check out the piano on Yes The River Knows on side two (such an underrated song!) or the big snare thwacks on Five To One to hear that Hot Stamper magic. The overall sound is airy, open, and spacious — you can really hear INTO the soundfield on a track like Yes The River Knows. The opaque quality that so many pressings of this album suffer from is nowhere to be found here. Not only that, but you will not believe how hard these sides rock. (more…)

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

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Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

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  • This insanely good pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to them on both sides
  • 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 way to go
  • The Beach Boys revolutionized the popular music of the day with their genius for harmony, and a killer copy like this has their voices sounding the way they should
  • 5 stars: “The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound.”

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Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Big Speaker Whomp Factor

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66’s Debut

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Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics + energy = whomp) at the listening position.

There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was more than thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

The Doors – Self-Titled

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – we guarantee you’ve never experienced The Doors like this!
  • The sound is incredibly big, rich and spacious, with a rock solid bottom end and energy that puts the lie to the modern veiled, lifeless reissue
  • Only the right Gold Label originals can win a shootout, and few of them are not going to have condition issues, but the two here are fairly minor all things considered
  • A must-own album “whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equaled by the group again, let alone bettered.”
  • 5 stars: “A tremendous debut album, and indeed one of the best first-time outings in rock history, introducing the band’s fusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz and poetry with a knockout punch.”

Superb sound on this copy of the Doors self-titled classic! You won’t believe how good the sound is here — big and rich with plenty of bottom end and an energy level that’s really something to hear! Thanks, Bruce Botnick, you da man!

Honestly, we must return or reject 80% of the copies that come through the door, which should go a long way towards explaining why they hit the site with such irregularity. We know what the best stampers are and have for quite a while. What we have a devil of a time doing is finding anyone selling the album who knows how to grade it properly, especially when it comes to the kind of groove damage that’s common to records played on turntables that lack anti-skate. (more…)

Dave Mason / Alone Together – Bad Vinyl and Murky Sound

Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound.

This is one of them.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now [circa 2012] managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

You want to keep what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Rock while avoiding the pitfalls so common to them: poor resolution, heavy compression, thickness, opacity, blubber, compromised frequency extremes, lack of space and lack of presence.

How’s that for a laundry list of all the problems we hear on old rock records, and classical records and jazz records; all records really.

What record doesn’t have at least some of these faults? Not many in our experience. A copy with few or none of these problems would have White Hot Stamper sound indeed.

This Copy Rocks

Punchy and surprisingly DEEP bass is one of the first things you will notice when playing one of these Hot Stamper copies. Huge amounts of ambience fill out the space the extends from wall to wall (and all the way to the back of the studio), leaving plenty of room around each of the players. (more…)

Bud Shank And the Sax Section – An Undiscovered Gem

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Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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  • This stellar copy of Bud Shank’s 1966 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – open, lively and dynamic throughout
  • Full, rich, and spacious with tons of Tubey Magic and, better yet, never dry, hard or transistory — true DEMO DISC QUALITY sound 
  • An absolutely amazing recording engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick – the sound of multiple saxes playing these lively arrangements is music to our ears
  • “… the album works, largely because of Bob Florence’s arrangements and the shrewd doubling of the baritone and bass sax parts, which give the charts heft at the bottom… The overall sound remains wonderfully reedy and flighty.”

Bruce Botnick sure knew what he was doing on this session. He succeeded brilliantly in capturing the unique sound of each of the saxes. The album is really more of a West Coast pop jazz record than it is a “real” jazz record. The arrangements are very tight, the songs are quite short — none exceed three and a half minutes — so there is not a lot of classic jazz saxophone improvisational blowing going on.

Spacious and transparent with plenty of analog Tubey Magic to go around, this is a really wonderful way to hear the music. The sax sound is excellent — rich and full, with none of the hard, edgy quality we heard on the less than stellar pressings. For richness and Tubey Magic — with no sacrifice in clarity or dynamics — these sides just could not be beat. (more…)

The Doors / The Soft Parade – A Tough Title to Find with Top Sound

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is going to be very hard to beat, and plays about as quietly as any early pressing can
  • The sound is incredibly powerful from start to finish – big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively – thanks Bruce Botnick, where would The Doors be without you?
  • Full of great songs: Touch Me, Runnin’ Blue, Wild Child, Wishful Sinful and the amazingly trippy Soft Parade extended suite (with Triple Plus sound no less)
  • “Much like a true “parade” of an English fugue, the song morphs from Morrison’s a capella sermon-like intro to a Baroque ballad to a show tune-like section to the long rock outro, the music masterfully following the flowing, stream of consciousness lyric.” Hell yeah!

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. Some will have cut corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice enough cover for you.

This Doors pressing (either on the Elektra Gold or Big Red E Label, nothing else would qualify as a Hot Stamper) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, rich JIM MORRISON singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Equinox

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  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one, this original A&M pressing had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Equinox, Sergio’s follow-up to his massively successful debut
  • The breathy intimacy of the two wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen – were brilliantly captured by the engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine at A and M
  • Watch What Happens, Night and Day, Wave – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, and only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of Watch What Happens, Night and Day, or Jobim’s Wave to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For audiophiles it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox and the first album are right up there with it.) (more…)

Eddie Money / Self-Titled – A Personal Favorite from 1977

A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Eddie Money’s Debut Available Now

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  • Two incredible sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it; the first copy to hit the site in many years!
  • Bruce Botnick‘s engineering ensures the sound is big and lively – this early pressing is full-bodied, with wonderfully present vocals, and plenty of punchy bottom end
  • 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 way to go
  • “With much of the same urgency Money stands as perhaps a lighter but still gutsy-voiced Bruce Springsteen. His performance exudes a certain authenticity of main line rock without seeming derivative or repetitious.” – Billboard 

The average copy is way too compressed, which kills the top end (by making the cymbals aggressive) and the vocals too midrangy. When you’ve got a copy of Eddie Money’s debut album that’s doing what it’s supposed to do, you know pretty quickly. The highs are sweet and extended, the vocals are present, but without any spit or strain, and there is solid bass and low end propelling everything else forward.

Eddie Money has only made one good record in our opinion — this one. Fortunately, it’s a GREAT one and we don’t have to play any of his others! This guy had so much promise, based solely on his debut here. He lost his brilliant guitarist and arranger, Jimmy Lyon, soon after this first album was made, and that may account for his slide into mediocrity. But this record is outstanding from first note to last. If at the end of the second track — a cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me — you are not rockin’ out, then Eddie Money is just not for you. I love this album and I have played it countless times. (more…)

The Doors / Waiting For The Sun – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Waiting For The Sun. Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns. 

My favorite of the first three Doors album, this one is imbued with more mystery and lyricism than previous efforts. The album shows them maturing as a band, having smoked large amounts of pot and preparing themselves for the wild ride of their next opus, the ambitious Soft Parade. Actually, as I listen to this album it reminds me more and more of that one. Now that it sounds as good as The Soft Parade, I find I’ve gained a new respect for Waiting for the Sun.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Hello, I Love You
Love Street
Not To Touch The Earth

Listen to the hard rockin’ duel between the keyboards (left channel) and the guitar (right channel) in the middle of the song. Morrison is screaming is head off and Densmore is really slamming on the drums. There’s a HUGE amount of information in the grooves there, and only the best copies will be open and spacious enough to not get a bit congested.

Summer’s Almost Gone

On a Hot Stamper copy, this song is tubey magical analog at its best — warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied.

Wintertime Love
The Unknown Soldier (more…)