Top Engineers – Robin Black

Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

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and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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  • A stunning Chrysalis British import double LP set with Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on sides one, two and four and a solid Double Plus (A++) side three
  • You’re gonna love the sound here – clean, clear and full-bodied with great bass and solid midrange presence and energy
  • These are incredibly tough to find with the right sound and surfaces – this is one of the best copies to hit the site in years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this collection is seminal and essential to any Tull collection, and the only compilation by the group that is a must-own disc.”

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Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

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  • A killer Shootout Winning copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a side one that’s right up there with it (A++ to A+++) 
  • Far more open, present and balanced than practically any other copy we played, with plenty of Rock and Roll power and energy
  • Relatively quiet, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – this is as quiet as they get, folks
  • 4 1/2 stars in Allmusic: “Song for song, Billion Dollar Babies is probably the original Alice Cooper group’s finest and strongest … It remains one of rock’s all-time, quintessential classics.”

Billion Dollar Babies can sound really big and powerful, but not many copies bring the sound to life the way this one does. For once you can hear a big room around the instruments; the bass is tight and well-defined, and there’s plenty of tubey richness.

This was also one of the copies that managed to get real three-dimensional space in the soundfield, bringing Alice up front, with the rest of the band arrayed behind him from wall to wall. (more…)

Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

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The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

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Pink Floyd – Meddle

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More Recordings by Robin Black

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • An outstanding British copy of this shockingly well recorded album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • These sides have presence, size and space we guarantee you have never heard on this album in all your born days
  • An audiophile Demonstration Quality Recording on a par with Dark Side of the Moon, which is really saying something!
  • A mark plays during the opening “pinging” on side two, but find me a good sounding copy with a quiet intro for side two and I will eat it
  • 4 1/2 stars:”Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era.”

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Jethro Tull / This Was – Years Ago We Badly Misjudged the Recording Quality of Tull’s Debut

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More British Blues Rock

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A classic case of Live and Learn

We listed a White Hot copy of This Was in 2008 on the Island Pink label, and noted at the time:

Be forewarned: this ain’t Stand Up or Aqualung. I don’t think you’ll be using any copy of This Was to demo your stereo, because the recording has its share of problems. That said, this record sounds wonderful from start to finish and will make any fan of this music a VERY happy person. We guarantee you’ve never heard this album sound better, or your money back.

Now we know a couple of things that we didn’t back in 2008.

1). This album is a lot better sounding than we gave it credit for years ago. It’s not perfect by any means but it is much better than the above comments might lead you to believe.

We chanced upon an exceptional sounding copy of the album a couple of years back, and that taught us something new about the record:

2). The Pink Label pressings are not the ideal way to go on this album.

Once we heard the exceptional copy alluded to above, we played it against our best Pink Label copies and it was simply no contest.

The Pink Label original British pressings can be good, but they will never win a shootout up against copies with these stampers (assuming you have more than one copy – any record can have the right stampers and the wrong sound, we hear it all the time).

Supertramp – Supertramp

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More Prog Rock

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  • Supertramp’s self-titled debut finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s even more Tubey Magical than an album like ’Crime Of The Century,’ which is more about slam and presence than a record like this, which has amazingly sweet, natural sounding acoustic guitars
  • Condition was the problem with these original British pressings – none of the best sounding copies did not have issues, hence the exceptionally low price for our Shootout Winner here
  • “Harmonious in themes but varied in tones, alternating short and lengthy pieces with a sophisticated sound and classy arrangement, it features all the distinctive elements of prog rock. And as with any prog album, it only makes full sense when listened to in its entirety.”

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Two of Robin Black’s Engineering Masterpieces

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Albums Engineered by Robin Black

Recordings with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Guitars

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Thick As A Brick is quite possibly the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever made. It’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and sweetness in the midrange; Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and flutes; in other words, the record has EVERYTHING that we go crazy for here at Better Records. I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that could ever do this recording justice. The Hot Stamper pressings have a kind of MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.

We play quite a few original British and domestic copies of this record when we do these shootouts and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good I can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me, anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings I had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes. But with the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUNDING. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was.

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Jethro Tull – This Was

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More British Blues Rock

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  • A KILLER copy of Tull’s debut with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • We’ve only had a handful of copies go up since 2013 – it’s tough to find these vintage UK pressings in clean condition with this kind of sound
  • Guaranteed to soundly trounce any Pink Label Island original you may have heard – these are the Hot Stampers and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
  • Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire.” Wikipedia

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Is The Pink Label The Hot Ticket for Jethro Tull’s Brilliant Stand Up Album?

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Hot Stamper Jethro Tull Albums Available Now

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Well, it certainly can be, but sometimes it isn’t, and failing to appreciate that possibility is a classic case of misunderstanding a crucially important fact or two about records. Audiophile analog devotees would do well to keep these facts in mind, especially considering the prices original British pressings are fetching these days.

Simply put: Since no two records sound alike, it follow that the right label doesn’t guarantee the right sound. A recent shootout illustrated both of these truths.

We had a number of Pink Island British pressings to play — if you hit enough record stores often enough, in this town anyway, even the rarest pressings are bound to show up in clean condition from time to time — along with Sunrays (aka Pink Rims), Brits, early Two Tone domestics and plain Brown Label Reprise reissues. All of them can sound good. (We do not waste time with German and Japanese pressings, or any of the later Chrysalis label LPs. Never heard an especially good one.)

What surprised the hell out of us was how bad one of the Pink Label sides sounded. It was shockingly thin and hard and practically unlistenable. Keep in mind that during our shootouts the listener has no idea which pressing is being played, so imagine hearing such poor reproduction on vinyl and then finding out that such bad sound was coming from a copy that should have been competitive with the best, on the legendary Pink Island label no less. (Of course the other Pinks were all over the map, their sides ranging from good to great.)

Hearing one sound this bad was completely unexpected, but hearing the unexpected is what we do for a living, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been. Having dubious looking reissues and the “wrong” pressings beat the originals and the so-called “right” pressings from the “right” countries is all in a day’s work here at Better Records. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick

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  • This superb copy of Thick As A Brick offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A Top 100 title and the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded – allow us to make the case
  • A stunning Demo Disc to Rule Them All — sure to be the best you’ve ever heard Tull sound if you have the system for it
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock – a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener.”

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