Top Producers

Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser

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  • This early 360 Stereo Columbia pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear just how good Monk’s big, rich piano sounds, this copy can show you like nothing by Monk you’ve heard
  • Four Stars in Allmusic, with Teo Macero producing and top Columbia engineering to ensure audiophile standard sonics
  • “Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records…” — TheAudioBeat.com

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The Doors – Listening in Depth to The Soft Parade

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Our shootout from a while back (4/2014) included a minty Gold Label pressing, which did reasonably well, but not great, on side one. Side two however was OFF THE CHARTS and won the shootout on that side handily. The fact that side one wasn’t a knockout is yet more evidence that individual pressings with the same label — even the “right” label — vary dramatically in sound.

The sound of most pressings of The Soft Parade is just plain horrible. The brass that opens side one is so pinched, compressed, grainy and aggressive it will practically make your hair stand on end. Almost all the reissue LPs sound like they are made from sub-generation EQ’d compressed tape copies, what are commonly called cutting masters. So many reissues have such a similar character that it’s hard to imagine they’re not all sourced from the same bad “master.”
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Miles Davis – Sorcerer

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  • An outstanding pressing of Sorcerer, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”

We played a bunch of these recently and this was one of the better copies we heard! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than many copies we heard. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep! Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.

And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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The Trick with Katy Lied Is…

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

katy lied

The Trick with Katy Lied Is to find the right balance between richness, sweetness and clarity.

Take three or four Katy Lied pressings, clean them up and play just one or two of the tracks we discuss below. You won’t find any two copies that get those tracks to sound the same. We do our shootouts with up to a dozen copies at a time and no two sound the same to us.

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This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working at its best to even begin to get this complex music to sound the way it should. But if you’ve done your homework and your system is really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Black Friday

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The Doors – Morrison Hotel

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  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”

Too many pressings aren’t rich and full-bodied enough to reproduce Jim Morrison’s rich baritone. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point? Not to worry. On these two sides, he sounds AMAZING. Just listen to him screaming his head off on Roadhouse Blues and projecting the power of his rich baritone on Blue Sunday. Nobody did it any better. By the way, the sound of the organ on that track is crazy good. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Live and Learn

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When we said this album was not the sonic equal of Teaser and the Firecat or Tea for the Tillerman, boy, We Was Wrong and then some. Read all about it in this White Hot Stamper copy review below.

It’s been about a year since we last found Hot Stampers of this album, and having made a number of improvements to the stereo over that time, I’m here to report that this album got a WHOLE LOT BETTER, better than I ever imagined it could get. Mona Bone Jakon now ranks as a DEMO DISC of the highest order, every bit the equal of Teaser and Tea.

To think that all three of these records came out in one fifteen month period is astonishing. The only other artists to have produced music of this calibre in so short a time would have to be The Beatles, and it took four of them to do it.

Which is not what we used to think, as evidenced by this paragraph from a previous Hot Stamper listing.

This album is one of Cat’s top four titles both musically and sonically. Tea and Teaser are obviously in a league of their own, but this album and Catch Bull At Four are close behind. The music is WONDERFUL — the best tracks (including I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light) rank right up there with anything from his catalog. Sonically it’s not an epic recording on the scale of Tea or Teaser, but with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm, you can be sure it’s an excellent sounding album — on the right pressing.

That last line is dead wrong. It IS an epic recording on the scale of Tea and Teaser. This copy proves it! Now that we know just how good this record can sound, I hope you will allow me to borrow some commentary from another classic Cat Stevens album listing, to wit:

Right off the bat I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folk-pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on a Hot Stamper copy you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

The Rapture of the Purely Musical Experience

The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, compromised in every imaginable way, are sonically and musically head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them. The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. Playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in their performance. Whatever the limitations of the medium they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the pure musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.

We live for records like these. It’s the reason we all get up in the morning and come to work, to find and play good records. It’s what this site is all about — offering the audiophile music lover recordings that provide real musical satisfaction. It’s hard work — so hard nobody else seems to want to do it — but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. To us anyway. Hope you feel the same.

 

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This work is difficult to find with anything but harsh sound. Such powerful and exciting orchestration must surely be problematic to capture on tape.

But Mercury managed to do it, a feat few others labels can claim.

This side one is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY, thanks to its superb low-distortion mastering. It’s yet another exciting Mercury recording. The quiet passages have unusually sweet sound.

This kind of sound is not easy to cut. This copy gets rid of the cutter head distortion and coloration and allows you to hear what the Mercury engineers accomplished.

Side One

The balanced tonality is key, especially when you have such lively brass and strings. The top is correct, even sweet, and you can’t say that about very many Mercs. Exceptionally tight bass too.

I don’t know of a better performance or a better recording of the work.

Side Two

Dorati breathes fire into the famous Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet on side 2. Unfortunately, the sound is never as good in our experience as it is on side one.

Clear horns, a big hall — if it were a bit less bright it would probably have earned another plus.

Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin’

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this copy handily won our shootout
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth and smoothness that we make listening to records so involving
  • Some pop tunes, some Ellington and more, all of which has a real funky feel to it, with Jimmy really getting into it and grunting along with the music
  • “This 1965 Verve release finds the B-3 innovator mixing it up with organ and guitar combo swingers and big band charts compliments of arranger Oliver Nelson.”

This copy was just plain bigger and richer and tubier, as well as more dynamic than the others we played! (more…)

Wes Montgomery – A Day In The Life

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  • You’ll find KILLER sound on both sides of this jazz favorite — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder and his unerring skill at getting all the musical elements to work together
  • The first album Creed Taylor produced for A&M was A Day in the Life with Wes Montgomery, just days after the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper (and which Wes never heard before recording this album!)
  • “There is a notable quality that each Wes recording seems to retain – they just seem to be getting better as the years go by.” – Pat Metheny

This superb album includes Montgomery’s great cover of A Day In The Life on side one and killer tracks like Eleanor Rigby, Willow Weep for Me, Windy and The Joker on side two!

It’s damn near impossible to find decent sounding early pressings, but the sound here is very good. There are plenty of dull, lifeless, overly compressed copies out there. That sound becomes especially offensive when the strings come in, most notably in the climactic middle section of “A Day In The Life.”

Fortunately for everyone who loves this kind of guitar-led jazz, our Hot Stampers have the warm, rich sound that let you enjoy this wonderful music without causing your ears to bleed. (more…)