Top Engineers – Donn Landee

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

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  • An outstanding original Warner Bros. pressing of the band’s Masterpiece, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • 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…)

The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

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  • A superb pressing with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Forget the cardboardy reissues and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl pressing they’re making now – if you want to hear all the Tubey Magic and energy of these recordings, you need a vintage Hot Stamper pressing like this one
  • Black Water was the big hit on their breakthrough fourth album, and it sounds wonderful here – Eyes of Silver and Another Park, Another Sunday are killer too
  • “The Doobies team up with the Memphis Horns for an even more Southern-flavored album than usual…”

These songs sound every bit as good now as they did thirty-plus years ago when they came out. Better, because we can clean these old records and play them so much better than we could back then. I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day I was a bit of a snob when it came to bands like this. Too mainstream. Too radio-friendly.

Now I realize that the best of this kind of pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is good music that belongs in your collection. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy has a lot going for it – exceptionally quiet vinyl for the most part too
  • These sides are rich and full, with punchy bass and plenty of rockin’-down-the-highway Doobies energy – thanks Donn Landee, you da man
  • Contains contributions from such guest musicians as Maria Muldaur, Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “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…”

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 one to show you just how good the Master Tape must be.

And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have found this one. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

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  • 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…)

The Doobie Brothers / The Captain and Me – Nautilus Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked and another We Was Wrong listing to boot.

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free.

The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no excuse now is it?


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem

How to Make All Your Records Sound Like Mobile Fidelity Pressings – For Free! (more…)

Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this original Green Label pressing is one of the BEST we have ever heard
  • 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, an equally good recording)
  • One of the better sounding Van Morrison albums, thanks to the superb engineering skills of Donn Landee at Wally Heider’s and elsewhere
  • 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.”

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 piano has real weight, the bottom end is solid, and the brass sounds lively and rich, never squawky. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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  • A stunning copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout — the best to hit the site in a long time!
  • 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.”

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…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • 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 – Livin’ On The Fault Line

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  • An excellent copy that earned Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides – it’s big, rich and solid
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl too – we can’t find them any quieter
  • The best songs here can hold their own with anything from Minute by Minute and Takin’ It to the Streets
  • A sophisticated, soulful pop album from the Michael McDonald era with far too many great songs to list
  • 4 stars: “Some of the most challenging and well-developed music of the band’s career.”

If you’re a fan of this brand of sophisticated, soulful pop music, this is as good an album as any from the Michael McDonald era. We think the best songs here can hold their own with anything from Minute by Minute and Takin’ It to the Streets. And with Hot Stamper sound, now you can actually enjoy the album as an audiophile quality recording. (more…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger

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  • 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…)