Top Engineers – Lee Herschberg

James Taylor / Gorilla – A Soft Rock Favorite from 1975

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This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

If you are not a fan of the mellow James Taylor this is not the album for you. I just happen to be such a fan.

Taylor’s sixth album contains consistently engaging, well-produced, well-written, memorable, singable (or hummable) songs that hold up to this day. (more…)

Gordon Lightfoot – Summertime Dream

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Summertime Dream you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed – this is what vintage analog is all about, that smooth sound that never calls attention to itself and just lets the music flow
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Summertime Dream, Gordon Lightfoot produced one of his finest albums, and wrapped up a six-year period of popularity… Lightfoot and his band deliver a tasty smorgasbord of intelligent, grown-up music. As for ‘Edmund Fitzgerald,’ its continued popularity more than 20 years after its release attests to the power of a well-told tale and a tasty guitar lick.”
  • If you’re a fan of Gordon Lightfoot, his 1976 release is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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L.A. 4 – Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte (33 RPM)

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  • An East Wind 33 RPM Japanese import pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • One of the better sounding versions with all 7 tracks we’ve played, particularly on the first side
  • Lee Herschberg recorded these sessions direct to disc – he’s the guy behind the most amazing piano trio recording I have ever heard, a little album called The Three
  • This side one gives you the richness, clarity, presence and resolution few copies can touch, and side two is not far behind in all those areas
  • This 33 RPM version features all seven of the original tracks – “C’est What” and “Corcovado” were omitted from the shorter 45 RPM pressing
  • And it was a solid step up sonically from a lot of the Direct to Disc pressings we had on hand, which is exactly what happened when they mastered The Three at 45 RPM from the backup tapes – pretty wild, don’t you think?

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James Taylor – Gorilla

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More Personal Favorites

  • Two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides for one of James Taylor’s best softer rock albums
  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by our man and one that belongs in your collection
  • Mexico, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and I Was A Fool To Care are standouts – there are no weak tracks here
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a very good sounding record, but not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two. (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates

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  • STUNNING sound on both sides of this original Warner Bros. white label pressing of Jones’ sophomore release with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Lee Herschberg recorded Rickie’s debut as well as this follow-up, and both can sound shockingly good
  • 4 stars: “The musical and lyrical variety on the album is best represented in the album’s centerpiece, ‘Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue),’ where she moves through mood and tempo changes with ease. Although the songs may not immediately grab the listener, the lyrical and musical complexities ultimately make this album more rewarding with every listen.”

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Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

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  • A superb original Reprise pressing with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • The highs are extended and silky sweet, the bass is tight and punchy – this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you. (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – MoFi Reviewed, Positively

More of the Music of Rickie Lee Jones

Reviews and Commentaries for Rickie Lee Jones’ First Album

Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed, and this one’s pretty good for a change

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album can actually be pretty decent.

If you get a good one, that is. Records are records and limited editions have dramatic pressing variations just like all the other records out there in Record Land.

Audio perfection it ain’t, but all in all it’s a very enjoyable record. Its strengths are many and its faults are few. Let’s give credit where credit is due; the MoFi is dynamic, transparent, sweet, and open, and you won’t hear us saying that about very many MOFI pressings.

It belongs in their Top Ten (a list we have yet to make, for some reason we never find the time!), toward the bottom I would guess, due to its own sloppy bottom, but that’s half-speed mastering for you. Like most new audio technologies it was a giant step in the wrong direction.

We suppose you could live with the blubbery MoFi bass found on their remastered LP — most audiophiles seem more than happy to, right? — but instead, we’re happy to report that it will no longer be necessary. All our Hot Stamper copies are guaranteed to trounce it.

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James Taylor – In The Pocket

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More Blue Eyed Soul

  • Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects; there’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album
  • Rich, sweet, and lively — Woman’s Gotta Have It sounds fantastic here
  • An underappreciated album that we’re big fans of here at Better Records!

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Both of these sides are rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. (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 Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM)

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  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), our 33 RPM pressings are your best bet.

If you want absolutely amazing, mind-blowing, you-are-there sound, a Hot Stamper 45 is the only way to go.

The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)