Top Engineers – Lee Herschberg

Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones

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  • A superb pressing, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, right up there with the best we heard in our shootout all day
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • The superbly talented musicians and engineers deserve much of the credit for making this album a Grammy Winning Must Own Audiophile Favorite
  • 4 stars: “One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song.”

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Ry Cooder – Jazz – Transparency Is Key

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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 Jazz. 

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds. (more…)

James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Now with Aphex Aural Excitement!

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  • JT’s superb Greatest Hits collection finally returns to the site with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides  
  • Outstanding size and weight with rich, clear sound and good space up top, thanks to Lee Herschberg’s engineering skills
  • Three tracks are unique to this pressing and make it a Must Own for JT fans
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… examples of Taylor’s undeniable warmth and facility for folk/country-tinged pop… a good sampler of Taylor’s more popular early work.”

From the opening acoustic guitar notes, you can tell this Hot Stamper pressing is a lovely sounding record. Believe me, it took us a long time to find a pressing this good – most copies of this record sound like CARDBOARD. (more…)

The Everly Brothers – The Hit Sound Of The Everly Brothers

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  • You’ll find outstanding sound on this WB Gold Label Stereo original with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • The engineering team of Eddie Brackett and Lee Herschberg provide the exceptional recording fidelity – they would go on to win the Best Engineering Grammy for Strangers in the Night the same year
  • “Snow’s I’m Movin’ On rocks, and Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly clearly provided the blueprint for CCR’s cover several years later. While they may not make you forget the Animal’s version of the House of the Rising Sun, they do a fine version themselves. They were still struggling to find where they belonged on this LP, but they take us on enough highs through the trip to make it a worthwhile 37 minutes.

For those who may not know the man’s work, Eddie Brackett is the engineer behind the best sounding Dean Martin record ever made, Dream With Dean. His credits run for days.

This Gold Label Stereo original pressing (skip the mono by the way) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Eric Clapton – Behind The Sun

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  • Clapton’s 1985 release returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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
  • “The level of musicianship is impressive. Additional percussion by Phil Collins and Ray Cooper help to make this one of Clapton’s most rhythmically adventurous projects to date… I recommend it to both casual and serious fans. You cannot go wrong with an album featuring such strong tracks as “She’s Waiting, “See What Love Can Do”, “Same Old Blues”, “Forever Man”, and “Just Like A Prisoner”.”

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Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Folks, for The Best Sound on a Frank Sinatra record it simply does not get any better than Strangers In The Night. It’s a real treat to be in the presence of the Chairman Of The Board, in his prime, working his magic — but only an exceptional copy like this one has the power to put him right in the room with you.

1966 was a very good year indeed for Frank Sinatra — he recorded Live at the Sands with Count Basie that year as well. (more…)

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Reprise original tri-color label stereo LP has EXCELLENT SOUND on both sides. This, in my opinion, is the best sounding Sinatra record on Reprise. It’s so rich, sweet, and tubey magical you would think it was prime Capitol period Sinatra but it’s not — it just sounds that way. 

The sound is amazingly rich, warm, and sweet — that’s old tube mastering for you. Of course, that also means that it’s a bit smeary and the bass is pretty tubby. Still, what you’re involved with a record like this for is Sinatra’s voice and Jobim’s guitar and both sound WONDERFUL. Side one is a bit more open and transparent than side two, so it earned an extra half-plus.

If you like romantic music, you will be hard pressed to find a better album than this one. The song Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars perfectly encapsulates the mood of this album. My favorite track here is Dindi. Sinatra is the king of lost loves, and the song Dindi offers him another opportunity for regret. Nobody does it better than Frank. It’s a cliche to say he wears his heart on his sleeve, but the man made a career out of it. If the cliche fits…

The Rhino 180 gram LP mastered by Kevin Gray is a passable, but this is the real thing. There is a richness, a sweetness and a naturalness here that you virtually never find on modern remasterings.

Frank Sinatra / Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

An amazing pressing of a superb recording, this White Hot Stamper really gets this music right!

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. (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates

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

The typical copy of this album has a number of problems: midrange honk; hardness to the vocals; lack of presence; congestion; insufficient energy; blunted transients; grainy highs and so on. The Warner Bros. team of this era (Herscberg, Titleman, Waronker, etc.) brought us some wonderful recordings, but you’d never know it from listening to the typical ’80s WB Tan Label LP, which tend to be pretty poor. Of course, search hard enough and you can find a copy that delivers some of the magic of the master tape, and that’s exactly what we have here. (more…)

Randy Newman – 12 Songs

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It’s taken a long time, but we’ve finally found a 12 Songs that truly knocked us out. Randy Newman fans are going to flip out over this one.

You get a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout. The heavy, “swampy” vibe of the music comes through well without the sound getting too murky or muddy.

This is a tough album to come by in clean condition, so I wouldn’t expect us to find another copy this amazing any time soon. Don’t miss this chance to hear just how wonderful this album can sound.

Problems to Watch For

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension, the kind that is only found on the best copies. 

Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception. (more…)