Top Producers – Brian Eno

U2 / The Joshua Tree – Their Best Sound and Music

More of the Music of U2

Hot Stamper Pressings of 5 Star Albums Available Now

Based on the U2 albums we have played, we must consider this the band’s Magnum Opus, their single greatest achievement on record. We don’t know of any U2 album with better music or better sound.

Better music, absolutely. Better sound? That requires a more nuanced answer.

We grade albums on a curve, so the most we can say for this album is that the best pressings strike us as being the truest to what we imagine were the intentions of the artists and engineers.

Not Demo Discs by any means, but records that sound right for who made them and when they were made.

This is also the last U2 album we have found with much in the way of audiophile quality sound, since the dreadful Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop were the next three to be released, and we have never cared for any of them.

The Eighties

The recordings of the Eighties are often tricky when it comes to sound, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including this title, War and October, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we have at least found pressings that do a much better job communicating the music than others.

Bottom line? While this may not be a record that’s going to blow anyone’s mind, it does do a very good job of bringing this music to life in a way that most copies, the CD, and of course any Heavy Vinyl pressing cannot begin to.

If you’re a fan of U2, we guarantee you simply cannot find a better sounding copy than this (unless you trade up to one of our even hotter stampers).

By the way, the British copies we played were awful. Perhaps there are good ones out there but we sure didn’t hear any.

One More Thing

If you have the time and like the album I recommend you watch the DVD on the making of The Joshua Tree. It’s not only entertaining but, if you’re like me, you’ll come away with a whole new appreciation for the effort that went into the recording of it. There is a lot going on in these mixes and it would have to be a very special stereo indeed that could manage to bring even half of what’s on the tape out into the open where it could actually be heard and appreciated.

A Must Own Modern Rock Record

We consider this album U2’s Masterpiece. It’s a recording that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.

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Talking Heads’ Masterpiece – More Songs About Buildings and Food

More of the Music of Talking Heads

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of More Songs.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

I don’t think these guys (and gal) ever put together a better group of songs. The ultimate pressings of Little Creatures go a step further sonically, but the best copies of this one can sound incredible, if not quite Demo Disc worthy.

We’re huge fans of late ’70s / early ’80s Art Rock and New Wave music, and these guys are obviously some of the best in the biz. I’d be hard pressed to name another act from the era who put out so many good records.

Along with this album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear Of Music, and Little Creatures are all works of genius. ’77 is full of good ideas, but it doesn’t sound like a fully realized work of art the way the next four albums did.

Key Test Tracks

With Our Love turned out to be one of the better tests for side one. The picking of the rhythmic guitar in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know about smear, veiling and resolution. On most copies the instrument is simply blurry, the notes mashed together. When you get a copy with its transients intact, resolving properly and clearly right there in front of you, you have the makings of a Hot Stamper side one.

My other test track for side one was Warning Signs. This is a great track for evaluating transparency and bass. On the average copy you’d never know how much ambience exists around the drums. Hint: it’s a lot.

Our favorite copies have a fair amount of WHOMP down low, giving the bass guitar that rich, beefy sound that we’re simply crazy for here at Better Records. Once you’ve heard a copy with well-defined, note-like bass, nothing less will do.

Artists Only

A great test track for side two is Artists Only. The guitars in the intro section are almost unbearable to listen to on most copies. I recognize that I am somewhat sensitive to harsh high frequencies, but I’m literally in pain when I listen to an overly compressed, overly midrangy copy. There’s got to be a better way!

Wait, there is. Find a copy that actually has a sweet top end. It makes all the difference.

Take Me to the River

One of the best sounding tracks on the album is the awesome cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River. Most copies are very skimpy with the amount of bottom end information you get.

Pay attention to the opening before the keys start. The best pressings give you texture on the bass that you won’t find on most. When everything’s working right you’ll also hear ambience around the organ that’s nowhere to be found on the average pressing.

The bass should be tight, punchy, and fairly deep. We wouldn’t mind if some of the tracks were mixed with a bit more punch to the bottom end, but far be it from us to tell Brian Eno and Rhett Davies how to do their jobs. At least on some copies the bass has the kind of power that brings a song like Take Me To the River to heights you probably never imagined it could go.

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Talking Heads – Fear of Music

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More Brian Eno

  • This outstanding Talking Heads LP boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’d be hard-pressed to name another group from the era who put out more groundbreaking yet accessible records than the Talking Heads
  • Producer Brian Eno wasn’t shy about adding multiple layers of effects and processing; the texture of Eno’s synthesizers gives the music depth and character
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the music is becoming denser and more driving… with lyrics that match the music’s power… its better songs are as good as any Talking Heads ever did”
  • If you’re as big a Talking Heads fan as we are, this is a classic from 1979 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As huge fans of this band, it was a major thrill for us to complete a shootout for this album recently. We found that the best copies had wonderful transparency, meaty bass, Art Rockin’ energy and a refreshing overall freedom from distortion.

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Brian Eno – Another Green World

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More Art Rock Records

  • An outstanding Polydor UK import pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from many other copies we played
  • 5 stars: “A universally acknowledged masterpiece, Another Green World represents a departure from song structure and toward a more ethereal, minimalistic approach to sound… Eno’s gift for melodicism and tight focus here keep the entirety of the album in the forefront of the listener’s consciousness, making it the perfect introduction to his achievements even for those who find ambient music difficult to enjoy”
  • Note that the reviewers are mistaken. Eno’s One True Masterpiece is Taking Tiger Mountain
  • If you’re an Eno fan, or perhaps a fan of mid-’70s Art Rock, this title, a personal favorite of mine from 1975, is surely a Must Own.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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David Bowie – Low

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

  • This British pressing (not original by the way – this one is better!) plays about as quietly as any we can find, which makes it a very special pressing indeed
  • Huge amounts of studio space can be heard on this copy, along with the Tubey Magical richness only the best UK copies offer
  • 5 stars: “Though a handful of the vocal pieces on Low are accessible — “Sound and Vision” has a shimmering guitar hook, and “Be My Wife” subverts soul structure in a surprisingly catchy fashion — the record is defiantly experimental and dense with detail, providing a new direction for the avant-garde in rock & roll.”
  • If you’re a fan of the man, this is a Top Title from 1977 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

I’ve mentioned it on the site numerous times: I spent a good portion of the ’70s playing Art Rock records like Taking Tiger Mountain, Siren, Crime Of The Century, Deceptive Bends and scores of others. I remember being blown away when Low came out, and with this shootout we had a blast hearing just how good a killer Hot Stamper UK pressing can sound on the much more highly-evolved stereo system (equipment, room, set-up, tweaks, electricity, etc.) we have today.

It’s difficult to find a pressing that gets both sides of this album right, perhaps in part because the two sides are so different. Side one of this album features the more traditional (not really the right word, but it will have to do) Bowie rockers like Sound and Vision and Be My Wife, while side two sounds more like the instrumental synth music of Kraftwerk and Eno.

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Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo

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  • Devo’s superb debut finally returns to the site after more than a year, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Tons of great songs on here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave… had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave’s most influential bands.”

Let the Devolution begin! 

While Devo’s music may never sound as rich, warm, and tubey as the typical classic rock album, that certainly doesn’t mean we need to accept completely anemic, sterile sound for this album. It took a big stack of copies, but here’s one that made us sit up straight, pay attention and enjoy!

Tons of great songs here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction. (more…)

Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food

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More Brian Eno

  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With Eno producing and Rhett Davies engineering, every track is (psycho) killer – truly this is a Must Own from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Brian Eno brought a musical unity that tied the album together, especially in terms of the rhythm section, the sequencing, the pacing, and the mixing.”

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Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

More Brian Eno

More Talking Heads

  • An outstanding pressing of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end and driving rhythmic energy
  • Rick Wright of Pink Floyd noted that the album “knocked me sideways when I first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes. The way the sounds were mixed in was so fresh, it was amazing.”
  • 5 Stars: “… a whirlwind 45 minutes of worldbeat/funk-rock … it’s a tremendously prescient record for the future development of music during the 1980s and ’90s.”

If you like Remain in Light as much as we do here at Better Records, you will surely have a blast with this record. I’ve been a big fan of the album since the day it came out. As an added bonus, it’s a much better recording than Remain in Light — sweet and spacious, not hard and brittle the way that can album can be, especially on the first track. (more…)

U2 – The Joshua Tree

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More 5 Star Albums

  • An outstanding pressing with excellent sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, strong bass and plenty of space – this copy sounded just right to us
  • Stunning sound for the album’s biggest hits, including With Or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Where the Streets Have No Name
  • 5 stars: “With the uniformly excellent songs… the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2’s big messages sounded so direct and personal”
  • Based on the U2 albums we have played, we must consider this the band’s Magnum Opus, their single greatest achievement. We don’t know of any U2 album with better music or better sound.
  • Better music, absolutely. Better sound? We grade albums on a curve, so the most we can say for this album is that the best pressings strike us as being the truest to the intentions of the artists and engineers. Not Demo Discs by any means, but records that sound right for who made them and when they were made.
  • This is also the last U2 album we have found with much in the way of audiophile quality sound, since the dreadful Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop were the next three to be released, and we have never cared for any of them.

The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and aggressive — like most U2 albums — or thick and veiled. This one is smooth and natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass. (more…)

Talking Heads / Remain In Light – A Tough Title to Play

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be.

It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

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