Top Engineers – Donn Landee

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

More of The Doobie Brothers

More Recordings Engineered by Donn Landee

  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing a batch of great songs, not to mention some Blue Eyed Soul-ful vocals, this has long been a favorite Doobies album here at Better Records
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of Hot Stamper pressings such as this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

More of The Doobie Brothers

More Michael McDonald

  • An outstanding original Warner Bros. pressing of the band’s Masterpiece, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound
  • An Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production as close to perfect as one could possibly wish for, thanks to Ted Templeman and Donn Landee
  • 4 stars: “…this is where the ‘new’ Doobie Brothers really make their debut, with a richly soulful sound throughout and emphasis on horns and Michael McDonald’s piano… It’s still all pretty compelling even if its appeal couldn’t be more different from the group’s earlier work. The public loved it, buying something like three million copies, and the recording establishment gave Minute by Minute four Grammy Awards, propelling the group to its biggest success ever.”

This is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. We can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a wonderful sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with big bass and vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect. (more…)

Best Practices

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

More of the Music of The Doobie Brothers

Recently we did one of our regular shootouts for Takin’ It To The Streets, using pressings we know from experience to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them as carefully as we always do. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. The first step is to go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

The Rich, Smooth Sound of Seventies Analog

Credit Donn Landee (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.

Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.


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The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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Reviews and Commentaries for The Doobie Brothers

  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound excellent – smooth, rich and full of energy
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1973 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambiance. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

More Randy Newman

More Singer Songwriter Albums

  • A superb original pressing of Good Old Boys, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, 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
  • 5 Stars: “Good Old Boys is one of Newman’s finest albums; it’s also one of his most provocative and infuriating, and that’s probably just the way he wanted it.”

With Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman producing, and Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee engineering, this album has the exceptionally smooth, rich, analog sound you would expect to find on a production guided by these men. It also happens to be a sound we love here at Better Records.

It’s the sound of vintage Reprise from 1974. (more…)

Carly Simon / Another Passenger – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the Music of Carly Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

This is my personal favorite of all of Carly’s albums. It’s her most consistent work in terms of singing and songwriting. Nothing too heavy, just well crafted and enjoyable Singer Songwriter pop. If you like the kind of albums Paul Simon used to make before Graceland, or middle period James Taylor, you should like this.

Some of her albums can be badly overproduced, with big echoey drum thwacks; thankfully this is not one of them, so it wears well. I can personally attest to that fact because I have a tape of this album in my car and I’ll bet you I’ve heard it at least two hundred times.

Two Superb Sides

It’s one of the most transparent copies we’ve ever heard. You can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that would never be possible with an average pressing. Even though we had played more than a half-dozen copies before dropping the needle on this one, this pressing showed us details that had previously escaped us. The presence on this copy is jarring — Carly’s voice JUMPS out of the speakers and fills the room. The bass here is PERFECTION — deep, tight, and note-like. The vocals sound amazing with lots of breath and texture. The overall sound is big and bold, smooth and sweet, and above all, musical. It’s airy, open, spacious and dynamic.

An All-Star Cast

Ultimately an album succeeds or fails on the strength of its songwriting, and here Another Passenger soars with consistently insightful material, as well as wonderful production. Ted Templeman was a hot producer in the 70’s, churning out very well recorded albums for The Doobies, Little Feat, James Taylor, even my favorite Captain Beefheart album, Clear Spot. He did a top-notch job on this one, too.

This underrated release from 1976 was a change of pace for Carly, and maybe that’s why I like it so much. There is no other Carly Simon album quite like it. She’s got some help here from a wonderful backing crew including members of the Doobies and Little Feat, plus Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Dr. John, and of course good ‘ol JT.

(more…)

Van Halen – 1984

More Van Halen

More Rock Classics

  • 1984 finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • These sides have the kind of BIG, full-bodied sound that lets this rockin’ band come to life exactly the way you want them to
  • Nothing phony here – the sound is natural and balanced, with meaty guitars and big punchy drums
  • Plenty of hits: “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Jump,” and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”
  • If you’re a fan of Van Halen when Diamond Dave was still the front man, a killer copy of their album from 1984 belongs in your collection

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”– sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that far too many copies were unimpressive. Most just do not have the weight on the bottom end that this music needs to work.

Turn your nose up if you like, but this music is Classic Rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but the band on this album definitely knows how to rock. The All Music Guide gives this one 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that plenty of audiophiles feel just as strongly about it. (more…)

Best Practices

How to Find Your Own Hot Stamper

Recently we did one of our regular shootouts for Takin’ It To The Streets, using pressings we know from experience to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them as carefully as we always do. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. The first step is to go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

The Rich, Smooth Sound of Seventies Analog

Credit Donn Landee (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.

Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

(more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street

More of The Doobie Brothers

More Tououse Street

 

  • Two of our favorite engineers – Stephen Barncard & Donn Landee – worked their magic here, and they really knocked it out of the park
  • Back in the ’70s I had no idea that any pressing could be this punchy in the bass, this dynamic in the choruses, yet still have smooth, sweet vocals (partly because I heard it on crap equipment at Pacific Stereo)
  • 4 stars: “…it all still sounds astonishingly bracing 30 years later; it’s still a keeper, and one of the most inviting and alluring albums of its era.”
  • If you’re a Doobies fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

To be clear, as a budding audiophile back in the day, I had no idea that any pressing could be this good sounding because I had only ever heard the album on the crap equipment at Pacific Stereo. They used the album as a demo disc in their High End room, but their High End room wasn’t very high end, just high end for Pacific Stereo in the early ’70s. Anybody remember Quadraflex speakers?

(more…)

Van Halen – Women And Children First

More Van Halen

Reviews and Commentaries for Van Halen

  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it 
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”

(more…)