Top Engineers – Donn Landee

Carly Simon – Another Passenger

xxxxx

  • A wonderful copy of Carly’s 1976 release, a personal favorite of mine, and this pressing rated Double Plus (A++) grades throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • There’s gobs and gobs of 1976 Tubey Magical Richness courtesy of engineer Donn Landee and producer Ted Templeman
  • Our pick for the best – and best sounding – Carly Simon album, a Must Own which Rolling Stone called “Carly Simon’s best record.”
  • She’s got help from a wonderful backing crew including the Doobies and Little Feat, plus Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Dr. John, and of course good ‘ol JT

There’s one quality in particular that added immensely to our enjoyment of the music — gobs and gobs of Tubey Magic. The copies that were opaque, dry, flat and “modern” sounding — which pretty much describes practically every Heavy Vinyl record we’ve played in the last five years — bored us to tears, not surprisingly in the very same way that most Heavy Vinyl does.

Most copies of the album get Carly’s voice all wrong — gritty, edgy, hard and strained, but not this one. Carly’s singing on this copy is smoother, sweeter, more immediate and clearly more emotionally compelling than we heard on most of the other copies in our shootout. The music seems to come to life right in front of you, right there in your very own listening room.

This is 1976, they were still making good records then. You would hardly know it by playing the average pressing of the album, but when you hear one like this, there is no mistaking the richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality that must be on the tape, qualities for which good tube equipment is rightly revered. (We no longer use tube equipment ourselves, preferring to be guided by the approach of reproducing the Tubey Magic of the records we play unadorned.) (more…)

Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

xxxxx

TWO AMAZING A+++ SIDES ON QUIET VINYL — this will likely be the best sounding Van Morrison you hear in your entire life! We’ve played a ton of these over the years and it’s not all that often that we hear a copy that so capably presents the music. Both sides are very rich and super full-bodied with exceptional clarity and mindblowing YOU ARE THERE immediacy. We almost never find copies of Moondance or Astral Weeks that sound anything like this, and when we do they go for much more money.

We’ve been huge fans of this album for ages and don’t understand why it doesn’t get more respect. This is the album that comes right after Tupelo Honey and His Band And The Street Choir, so that should tell you something.

The typical copy of this record has a major HONK problem, much the way Moondance does. If you play a few copies, you’ll notice the pinched quality to the vocals and the hardness and edge in the midrange. The Hot Stamper copies were mastered without that annoying sound, and that’s part of what makes them so darn good. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

xxxxx

  • With two insanely good sides, each earning Shotoout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, this copy KILLED all of the competition
  • Dramatically fuller and smoother than the average pressing
  • 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 smooth, rich, analog sound you would expect, and it just happens to be a sound we love here at Better Records. It’s vintage 1974 Reprise. (more…)

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

xxxxx

  • An amazing sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years; Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • We’re huge fans of this album and a copy like this lets the natural quality of the recording shine through
  • “Lowell’s style is so distinctive and his performances so soulful, it’s hard not to like this record if you’ve ever had a fondness for Little Feat.” — All Music, 4 1/2 stars

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is”.)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

xxxxx

  • With two seriously good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this was far better than every other copy we played it against
  • Both of these sides are incredibly rich and full-bodied, with lots of deep punchy bass and excellent separation – thanks Donn Landee
  • Contains contributions from such guest musicians as Maria Muldaur, Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “The Doobie Brothers’ rootsiest album to date, Stampede was virtuoso soulful countrified rock of a gritty nature, crossing over into blues as well as reaching back to a raw, traditional rock & roll sound that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place 20 years earlier.”

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this to show you just how good the Master Tape must really be. And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have found this one! (more…)

Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview

xxxxx

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • It’s unusual (to say the least) to find copies of Moondance or Astral Weeks that sound anything like the better copies of Saint Dominic’s Preview (or His Band and Street Choir for that matter)
  • One of the best sounding Van Morrison recordings thanks to the superb engineering skills of Donn Landee at Wally Heider’s
  • 5 Stars in Rolling Stone: “The coexistence of two styles on the same record turns out to be very refreshing; they complement each other by underscoring the remarkable versatility of Van’s musical imagination… the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released.”

(more…)

Van Halen – What to Listen For

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Van Halen’s debut album.

Most copies just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom and lower mids that this music needs to work. Put simply, if your Van Halen LP doesn’t rock, then what exactly is the point of playing it?

The other qualities to look for on the best pressings are, firstly, space — the best pressings are huge and three-dimensional, with large, lively, exceptionally dynamic choruses.

The copies with the most resolving power are easy to spot — they display plenty of lovely analog reverb trailing the guitars and vocals. (more…)

Van Halen – Van Halen – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

We recently took the time to shoot out a bunch of original pressings of Van Halen’s debut. I’m sure it won’t come as much of a surprise to most of you that the average copy is, well, quite average sounding. Not bad, just mediocre. Not rockin’ all that hard and not all that much fun. You know the kind of record I’m talkin’ about.

Sounds great on the radio, but the record you just picked up at your local Flip Side doesn’t seem to be doing much for you. The problem you find yourself with is the same problem most people have, but they don’t know they have it, because they don’t understand how dramatic the variations in pressings can be.

The problem is simply a mediocre pressing. The world is full of them. We know them well; they’re the kind we wade through in order to get to the good ones. (more…)

Van Halen First Album on DCC – Not My Idea of Good Sound

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

As I recall it isn’t very good — thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring — but I played it quite a while ago. If your copy sounds better, more power to you, but I bet it doesn’t. Any copy we sell is guaranteed to blow the doors off of it — as well as any other pressing you own — or your money back.

Go ahead and turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS.

Donn Landee

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. (more…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

xxxxx

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

A TOP PRESSING of what we consider to be the best — and best-sounding — Carly Simon album! I’ve been telling people for years how amazing this album can sound, but we almost never hear it sound quite like this! Side one rates A++, side two rates A+++ and both sides play quietly. Most copies are gritty and edgy, but this one is smoother, sweeter and much more musical.  (more…)