Top Producers – Ted Templeman

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

OH BABY! This is the HOTTEST copy of The Captain And Me to ever hit the site, bar none. The sound is nothing short of PHENOMENAL from the first cut to the last. Side two earned our top A+++ grade while side one clocked in just half a plus behind. You can’t even begin to imagine what we’ve gone through trying to find Hot Stampers for this album. Here’s the copy that proves it was all worth it. 

We had TWICE tried to shootout this album and gave up both times with little to show for it. The one great sounding, reasonably quiet copy we found had a nasty edge warp that obliterated the first track on both sides. So we knew that great copies of this album must be out there, but where? We had OVER THIRTY COPIES of this record on our shelves and none of them were worth listing. The warped copy sounded so much better than any of the rest, and we felt it was wrong to call even the best of the rest a Hot Stamper. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street – Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

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Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us.

After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this.

The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

The huge bass on the better copies of this album has to be the handiwork of STEPHEN BARNCARD (American Beauty, Tarkio), although DONN LANDEE (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Back in the day I had no idea this record could sound so punchy in the bass, be this dynamic, yet still have smooth, silky, oh-so-analog vocals.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman produced rock record should be. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices… – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This quiet Palm Tree Label pressing is one of the best sounding copies of this album we’ve ever played! We had a massive shootout for this fun album recently and this was the big winner, earning an A+++ grade for the first side and a strong A++ for the second. Drop the needle anywhere on side one; you won’t believe how open, clear and dynamic the sound is. It’s also big, present and spacious with unusually high resolution. No other side one we played came close. Black Water sounds KILLER here! 

We sure don’t find too many copies like this that sound correct from start to finish and play quietly, but this one sure knocked us out. The sound is strong down low with the kind of three-dimensional imaging that bring the music of the Doobs to life in your listening room!

These songs sound every bit as good now as they did thirty plus years ago when they came out. Better, because we can clean their records and play them so much better than we could back then. I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day I was a bit of a snob when it came to bands like this. Too mainstream. Too radio-friendly. Now I realize that the best of this kind of pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is good music that belongs in your collection. (more…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – What to Listen For

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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 the album. 

There’s one quality in particular that added immensely to our enjoyment of the music — gobs and gobs of Tubey Magic. The copies that were opaque, dry, flat and “modern” sounding — which pretty much describes practically every Heavy Vinyl record we’ve played in the last five years — bored us to tears, not surprisingly in the very same way that most Heavy Vinyl does.

This is 1976, they were still making good records then. You would hardly know it by playing the average pressing of the album, but when you hear one like this, there is no mistaking the richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality.

These are qualities for which good tube equipment is rightly revered. (We no longer use tube equipment ourselves, preferring to be guided by the approach of reproducing the Tubey Magic of the records we play, assuming there is some, unadorned.)

Most pressings get Carly’s voice all wrong — gritty, edgy, hard and strained, but not this one. Carly’s singing on this copy is smoother, sweeter, more immediate and clearly more emotionally compelling than we heard on any other copies in our shootout. We call this Master Tape Sound; you hear it on those rare pressings so far beyond the norm that the music seems to come to life right in front of you, right there in your very own listening room. (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot

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  • This outstanding pressing of Clear Spot boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the better copies of Clear Spot to hit the site in recent years – no question about it, this is his Masterpiece!
  • Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is one of Beefheart’s most accessible albums and, IMHO, his best
  • 4 stars: “The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.”

Two outstanding sides for this masterpiece of bent rock. It’s not easy to find great sound for this album — that’s why you so seldom see it up on our site. There are a whole lot of problematic pressings out there, but when you find one that really gets it right the sound is nothing short of SUPERB. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this 1976 release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing songs and vocals, this is the kind of Doobies album we can get behind 
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best pressings such as this one 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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  • Excellent sound throughout with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++)
  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound great – smooth, rich and full of energy   
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambience. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

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Minute By Minute

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  • Incredible sound on both sides and the first “Triple Triple” (A+++) copy to hit the site in years!
  • Open Your Eyes, What A Fool Believes and the title track all sound wonderful here
  • The sound is dramatically bigger, richer, livelier and smoother than every other copy we played it against   
  • An Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production as close to perfect as one can ask for, thanks to Ted Templeman and Donn Landee  

This is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. We can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a wonderful sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with big bass and vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect. (more…)

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes – Another MoFi Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s even fatter, muddier and more compressed than the standard domestic copy, as improbable as that may seem. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts in the history of their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Gerry Rafferty (058) and Blondie (050) you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.  

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This is undoubtedly the band’s MASTERPIECE, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. With this Super Hot Stamper side two we can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a WONDERFUL sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect.   (more…)