Top Engineers – Henry Lewy

Joni Mitchell – Wild Things Run Fast – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Joni Mitchell

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

One of our favorite Joni Mitchell albums. A Desert Island disc for me & one of the few good reasons to listen to new music in the ’80s. 

My personal Must Own Joni Mitchell list includes: The First Album (side one only), Blue, Court & Spark and Wild Things Run Fast.

WTRF is a TAS list Super Disc with many good qualities, but you’d never know it from the typical lean, bass-shy pressing. Since this record can be a little cold sounding — it’s a modern recording after all — filling it out and warming it up a little is just what the doctor ordered. Our Hot Stamper pressings are usually rich and full-bodied with lovely warmth and presence. (more…)

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill

More Sergio Mendes

More Bossa Nova

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Fool on the Hill you’ve heard
  • Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and title trackl
  • Top engineers for A&M, Henry Lewy and Larry Levine, capture the natural, breathy intimacy in the voices of these wonderful female leads – Lani Hall, Karen Philipp and Gracinha Leporace
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.”

NOTE: A light mark is audible for eight light ticks at the end of track three on side two.

Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.

Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.

This vintage A&M pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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Joni Mitchell – Ladies Of The Canyon

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Ladies of The Canyon is a very strong album for Joni, with some of her most well known, seemingly timeless songs: Morning Morgantown, For Free, Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock, The Circle Game and more
  • 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Yet another essential listen in Mitchell’s recorded canon.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. 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 cover for you.


*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 4 moderate pops and 1 loud pop at the end of Track 5, Woodstock.

The best pressings have revealed nuances to this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was one of the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged that allowed us to appreciate the sonic merits of LOTC and ignore its few shortcomings. Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music.

The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Ladies of the Canyon– better than you ever thought possible or your money back. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around

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  • An outstanding pressing of Look Around, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and the layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, as well as the piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself
  • “The Look of Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are the epitome of Bossa Nova Magic on this exceptional pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form.”

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the girls’ breathy multi-tracked vocals and the layers and layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the crucially important, always tasteful keyboards and arrangements of Sergio himself. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

We were fairly impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out on Heavy Vinyl in 2001.

Since then we have learned a thing or two. Their version is decent, not bad, but by no stretch of the imagination can it compete with any Hot Stamper pressing found on our site.

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and their layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the critically important piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Blue – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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ABSOLUTELY STUNNING TRIPLE PLUS SOUND ON SIDE TWO with a side one that’s nearly as wonderful! You’ve probably heard us say this before, but it is ridiculously tough to find great copies of Blue. It’s not just the toughest nut to crack in Joni’s catalog, it’s one of the most difficult albums in ALL OF POP MUSIC to get to sound right.

So when we find one like this, it’s a BIG DEAL. It’s got Off The Charts breathiness, delicacy, warmth and sweetness, and that’s just Joni’s voice. The sound of the ensemble throughout is amazingly natural, the recording so spacious.

Just check out the piano on The Last Time I Saw Richard: this is not the thin and hard-sounding instrument that accompanies Joni on every pressing you have ever had the misfortune to audition, hoping against hope that someday you would find that “elusive disc” with sound worthy of such extraordinary music. No, this piano has real weight; it has body; and it’s surrounded by real, three-dimensional studio space. No vinyl pressing we have ever played has managed to capture the sound of the piano on this record any better. Exactly no copies. (A few White Hot Stamper copies have done it as well, but none any better.) For those of you with a certain Heavy Vinyl pressing in your collection, we can only say: Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Both sides here are rich, full-bodied and warm with amazing immediacy. The sound is exceptionally DYNAMIC and the clarity and transparency are OFF THE SCALES. Joni’s vocals sound just right — so clear and natural, with lots of breath and texture. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Recent Songs

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides AND fairly quiet vinyl – the best copy to ever hit the site bar none
  • Unbeatable richness and freedom from artificiality in the midrange allowed this one to tower over the rest of the field
  • “… a return to Cohen’s acoustic folk music after the Phil Spector experimentation of Death of a Ladies’ Man, but now with many jazz and Oriental influences.”
  • 4 stars: “The first thing Leonard Cohen’s music fans noticed about his sixth new studio album, given the typically open-ended title Recent Songs, was that, musically, it marked a return to the gypsy folk sound of his early records…”

NOTE: A mark makes light ticks for 22 revolutions at the beginning of side two. The price of this copy has been reduced more than $200 from that of the last copy with similar grades.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Leonard Cohen music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.

This 1979 album marks Cohen’s return to the simple folk arrangements of his early albums. As you might expect, the key elements here are going to be the man’s vocals, the acoustic guitars and Cohen’s trademark female backup singers, Jennifer Warnes among them.

We love Cohen’s albums here at Better Records. No, they’re not audiophile spectaculars, but much like the best Dylan recordings, when they work the sound fits the music perfectly. The vocals are right up front and fairly dry, throwing the words and phrasing into high relief.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that richer, fuller, more solid, more Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate solid, palpable, real people (principally Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes in this case) performing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest – Our Shootout Winner in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame since 2008.

Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more. 

Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall behind on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliver any whomp for the rockers. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Finally, Hot Stampers are here for this notoriously difficult to reproduce recording. This side one was KILLER, earning a grade of A++ to A+++! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copy. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians with this one. Some of the tracks on this side one are DEMO DISC quality.  

Side One

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall so clear and open that you will have a hard time believing that it’s the same recording as whatever copies you may have heard in the past. It KILLED most of the copies we played against it.

It’s just much more FUN and LIVELY this way! (We had one copy that earned the full three pluses but the difference between them was minimal.) (more…)

Crazy Horse – Crazy Horse

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  • A MONSTER Shootout Winning early pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too  
  • Bruce Botnick engineered at Wally Heiders, with Henry Lewy in charge of the mix, so this album’s bona fides are hard to fault
  • Fans of Neil Young (and the album Zuma in particular) will find plenty to like here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Since Crazy Horse first came to public attention as the backing band for Neil Young it makes sense to expect that the band on its own would play something similar to the hard guitar rock and country-rock heard on those albums… But there is more going on than that. Also joining in are veteran arranger/producer Jack Nitzsche and guitarist Nils Lofgren, while Ry Cooder adds slide guitar to a number of tracks.”

Drop the needle on ‘Gone Dead Train’ and tell me it doesn’t remind you of ‘Waiting for the End of the World’ by Elvis Costello. (more…)