Top Producers – Ted Templeman

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot – A Desert Island Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and the Captain’s MASTERPIECE of bent rock.

Side one earned an A++ grade for its powerful energy and exceptional fullness and richness. When we flipped this copy over we were surprised to find that it was even BETTER, with all of the above qualities and more: the punchiest, tightest, most note-like bass; more presence in the vocals and guitars; and the most clarity sacrificing the tubey magical richness the best copies have to offer. Folks, this is without a doubt the best copy we have ever put on the site.

This shootout had a troubled history — the domestic pressings we played were almost without exception defectively pressed, and I mean really defectively pressed, to the point where the vinyl roar was unbearable. How this happened is a complete mystery to us, but a word of advice: don’t buy any copy of this album that you can’t play in advance of purchase or easily return. Chances are good you will get one that is defective. We took a bath on most of the copies we owned; they looked fine and played like sh*t. And they weren’t cheap either. (more…)

Van Halen – Diver Down

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this copy of Van Halen’s fifth studio album 
  • Surprisingly big, lively, open, rich and present with real extension both up top and down low – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album put the band’s hard-rocking spin on a number of covers, including “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” “Dancing in the Street,” and Where Have All The Good Times Gone!”
  • “…this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut… it’s one of Van Halen’s best records, one that’s just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it’s a great showcase for all the group’s strengths…”

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Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero

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

On the better copies the title track has Demonstration Quality Sound – the soundstage is huge and the multi-tracked vocal parts are energetic, clear and free from congestion and distortion. If your copy doesn’t blow your mind on this song, try one of ours.

The next track, Rocket in My Pocket, kicks off with a big, fat drum sound that’s present and punchy on the better copies. The album finishes with the controversial jazz-rock fusion of Day at the Dog Races, a song the band used to open their live act with in order to get in the groove. If the band wants to stretch out a bit, we don’t have a problem with it.

On side two Old Folks’ Boogie rocks with the best of them; it’s a must for any Greatest Hits compilation. Red Streamliner has a strong Doobies vibe, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about that band. (We’re big fans.) (more…)

Van Halen – 1984

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  • A stunning copy of this hard rock classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are rockin’ like crazy – lots of energy, impressive size and big-time presence
  • Tons of hits: Panama, Hot For Teacher, Jump, and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher — sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that most copies were a JOKE. Most of them just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom end that this music needs to work. Put simply: if your Van Halen LP can’t rock, then what’s the point? (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

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

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this to show you just how good the Master Tape must really be. Most copies don’t even hint at the sound you will hear on this record. And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have known, now would we?  (more…)

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 Bros. – Takin’ It To The Streets – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

SUPERB SOUND on this A++ / A+++ White Hot Stamper — who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying pressings for years with virtually nothing to show for it; that’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site since 2007. The typical copy of this album has 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 (to this day I still haven’t found a good Minute by Minute!) is the rule, and this pressing the exception.  

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album featuring Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul, and that is the Doobie Brothers sound we love here at Better Records.

But the average copy of this record is such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine many audiophiles taking it seriously over the years. They should; the band cooks on practically every track, and the songwriting is some of their best, with top tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’.

What do the Hot Stampers give you? The Big Sound for starters — wall to wall, lots of depth, all that sort of thing. Next: transparency — you hear into the soundfield, with space and air around all the instruments. Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them. Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — a White Hot Stamper.

Side one earned an A++ and side two received top A+++ honors. Both sides are lively, rich, full-bodied, natural, and transparent. Side two has a wonderful three-dimesional quality and some of the tightest, punchiest bass we’ve ever heard on this album, hence the extra plus. (more…)

Van Halen – Van Halen

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Van Halen – Van Halen

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s debut album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are smooth, rich and Tubey Magical, with soaring guitars and huge choruses that really get loud 
  • One of the most powerful rock recordings of its day (if you get one that sounds like this)
  • 5 stars: “They sound vital, surprising, and ultimately fun — and really revolutionary, because no other band rocked like this before Van Halen, and it’s still a giddy thrill to hear them discover a new way to rock on this stellar, seminal debut.”

Turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS. (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…)