Top Engineers – Shelly Yakus

Crack The Sky – These Big, Lively Choruses Are a Thrill

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

Records with Huge Choruses that Are Good for Testing

The best vintage rock recordings usually have something going for them that few recordings made after the ’70s do: their choruses get big and loud, yet stay smooth, natural and uncongested. 

We’ve mentioned it in countless listings. So many records have — to one degree or another — harsh, hard, gritty, shrill, congested choruses. When the choruses get loud they become unpleasant, and here at Better Records you lose a lot of points when that happens.

This recording, more specifically this pressing of this recording, has exceptionally big, smooth and natural choruses for many of the songs. Rangers at Midnight comes to mind immediately. Credit our man Shelly Yakus below for really getting the choruses right on this album.

Fun tip: Listen for the Elton John-like piano chords on the first track. Can you name that song? (Hint: it’s on Tumbleweed Connection.)

Choruses Are Key

Watch out for too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression or distortion, there will be too many upper midrange elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space, resulting in congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens. Consequently, the upper midrange “space” does not get overwhelmed with musical information.

Also watch for edge on the vocals, which is of course related to the issues above. Most copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the band wants to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels.

(more…)

Booker T & The M.G.’s – Melting Pot

More Booker T & The M.G.’s

  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout- exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Both sides here are super rich and Tubey Magical with a huge bottom end and tons of energy  
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Melting Pot could be the most well-realized of all the albums by Booker T. & the M.G.’s, a smooth and soulful, yet expansive 35 minutes of all originals…” – All Music

(more…)

Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band – Like A Rock

More Bob Seger

xxxxx

  • 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
  • Features an A-list of rock and rollers, including Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Pete Carr, just to name a few
  • Per Seger, Like A Rock “expresses my feeling that the best years of your life are in your late teens when you have no special commitments and no career. It’s your last blast of fun before heading into the cruel world.”
  • If you’re a Bob Seger fan, this title from 1986 is probably the last in a long run of albums you might want to play

(more…)

John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

More John Lennon

More of The Beatles

  • A KILLER copy of Rock ‘N’ Roll boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • And if you think the best sounding pressings are imports, you’ve got another thing coming – they’re made from dubs, and they have the dubby sound to prove it
  • These sides are doing almost everything right – rich, full-bodied, present and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • Lennon’s voice sounds JUST RIGHT with lots of texture and startling immediacy – you’re going to have a hard time finding better sounding versions of these songs anywhere else
  • “Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try… Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that.” – All Music, 4 Stars
  • If you’re a John Lennon fan, this title from 1975 is surely a Must Own.

(more…)

Dire Straits / Making Movies – Forget the Dubby Domestic Pressings

More Dire Straits

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Mark Knopfler’s leads really soar
  • Romeo and Juliet comes to life the way you want it to here, and the song Solid Rock lives up to its title
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Making Movies is helped by a new wave-tinged pop production, which actually helps Knopfler’s jazzy inclinations take hold … ranks among the band’s finest work.”

The music really comes together, especially if you’ve been playing a sub-generation domestic pressing, which is the only kind Warners made as far as we know. (The first album is the same way of course.) Here you will find richer mids, sweeter highs, more energy and some real punch down low. (more…)

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

  • This STUNNING pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are punchy, big and clear, with plenty of hard rockin’ energy – exactly what you would expect from the team of Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting ‘After the Glitter Fades.’ Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later.

(more…)

Back in 2014 This Was the Best Sounding Tom Petty Record We’d Ever Played

More of the Music of Tom Petty

Damn the Torpedoes is the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played.

Credit must go to SHELLY YAKUS, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, has never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing this beyond-White Hot Stamper side two and a killer copy of Animal Notes we realize that we have seriously underestimated the man, and for that we deeply apologize.

If your Damn the Torpedoes doesn’t sound good (and it probably doesn’t), you sure can’t blame him — the master tape is mind-boggling in its size, weight, power and rock n’ roll energy.

Our 2014 better than White Hot Stamper copy had the kind of sound we never expected to hear on Damn The Torpedoes, an album that’s typically bright, thin, pinched and transistory — radio friendly but not especially audiophile friendly.

Well folks, all that’s changed, and by “all” I don’t necessarily mean all to include the records themselves. This may very well be a record that sounded gritty and pinched before it was cleaned. And our stereo has come a long way in the last five or ten years, as I hope yours has too.

One sign that you’re making progress in this hobby is that at least some of the records you’ve played recently, records that had never sounded especially good before, are now sounding very good indeed. In our case Damn the Torpedoes is one of those records. It’s the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played.

Mindblowing On Both Sides

Side two is OFF THE CHARTS! It’s big and rich with excellent presence and tons of energy. I could go on and on here but all you have to know is that it is BY FAR the best sounding side two we have ever heard.

Side one is almost as good, with lots of space around all of the instruments, tons of energy and less congestion than the average copy. The sound is positively jumpin’ out of the speakers.

Note that we no longer give out the A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper grade for the kinds of pressings that blew our minds, with sound so far superior to any copy we had ever heard that they actually broke our grading scale.

Tom Petty – Hard Promises

More Tom Petty

More of Our Favorite Titles from 1981

  • An impressive copy of this 1981 release, with KILLER nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Recorded at Sound City, home to some of the greatest analog sound ever recorded
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The Waiting became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting A Woman in Love, Nightwatchman, Kings Road, and The Criminal Kind, album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.”

This one is a huge step up from most of what we played. The album tends to be bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, and this one is killer. (more…)

Shelly Yakus Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

More Recordings Engineered by Shelly Yakus

Reviews of Albums Engineered by Shelly Yakus

SHELLY YAKUS is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers.

Check out the Shelly Yakus engineered or produced albums we have in stock, along with plenty of commentaries about the sound of the records he’s engineered, from Moondance (his first official lead engineering gig) to Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and more.

One or two can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music, limited to titles that we can actually find enough copies of in order to carry out our patent pending (not really) Hot Stamper shootouts.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More of Our Favorite Engineers

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

More Alice Cooper

xxxxx

  • 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…)