Top Engineers – Donn Landee

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…)

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 Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the kinds of prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

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…)

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…)

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

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.”

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Van Halen – What to Listen For

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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…)