Top Producers – Chris Thomas

The Pretenders on Nautilus Half-Speed – Ouch!

More from The Pretenders

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing reviewed and found wanting.

Completely lifeless. This pressing takes all the rock out of rock and roll.

A ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.  

The top quality audiophile sound of the best import pressings comes courtesy of these guys:

Top Producers – Chris Thomas

Top Engineers – Bill Price

Top Engineers – Steve Nye

If you want to know just how good the album can sound, we make it easy to find out. Just order one of our famous Hot Stamper pressings.

Pretenders – Pretenders II

xxx

  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for The Pretenders’ second album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • With loads of solid, punchy bass and the richest, smoothest vocal reproduction, this pressing simply could not be beat
  • This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren – The Atco Pressings Can Be Killer

xxxxx

  • You’ll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this early pressing of Roxy’s Art Rock classic from 1975
  • The sound here is incredibly rich and full-bodied with a ton of bottom end weight, much less grain, and much more Tubey Magic than every other copy we played it against
  • Some of Bryan Ferry’s strongest and most consistent songwriting – Love Is The Drug, End of the Line, Sentimental Fool and more
  • 5 stars: “Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrates on Bryan Ferry’s suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren.”

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it.

As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis. Even after more than thirty years the band’s music never seems to get old. That seems to be true of a lot of the records from the era that we offer on our site. Otherwise, how could we charge so much money for them?

Imports? Not So Fast

The British and German copies of Siren are clearly made from dubbed tapes and sound smeary, small and lifeless.

To be fair, Siren has never impressed us as an exceptionally good sounding recording. Like other middle period Roxy, records such as Country Life and Manifesto (the albums just before and after), it simply does not have Demo Disc analog sound the way For Your Pleasure, Stranded or the eponymous first album do (the latter two being the best sounding in their catalog).

One would be tempted to assume that the import pressings of Siren would be better sounding, the way the imports of the first four Roxy albums are clearly better sounding. There has never been a domestic Hot Stamper pressing of any of those titles and, since we never buy them or play them, there probably never will be.

But in the case of Siren it’s the imports that are made from dubs. It may be a British band, recorded in British studios with a British producer, but the British pressed LPs are clearly made from sub-generation tapes, whereas the domestic copies sound like they’re made from the real masters.

Go Figure. And another thing: when it comes to records, never assume.

The typical domestic pressing is flat, bass-shy and opaque, sounding more like compressed cardboard than analog vinyl. Unsurprisingly, the CD, whether imported or produced domestically, is clean and clear and tonally correct but lacks the warmth and richness of the better vinyl pressings. (more…)

Ridiculously Phony and Compressed Sound – The Beatles White Album on MoFi

beatlwhitemfslSonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.

The last time I played a copy of the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously phony and compressed it was. And to think I used to like their version when it came out back in the ’80s!

A good example: on Yer Blues, the MFSL pressing positively wreaks havoc with all the added bass and top end The Beatles put on this track. The MoFi version is already too bright, and has sloppy bass to start with, so the result on this track is way too much BAD bass and way too much BAD spitty 10k-boosted treble, unlike the good imports, which have way too much GOOD bass and treble.

Yer Blues ROCKS! Listen to the big jam at the end of the song, where John’s vocal mic is turned off but his performance is still caught by a room or overheard mic. They obviously did this on purpose, killing his vocal track so that the “leaked” vocal could be heard.

Those crazy Beatles! It’s more than just a cool “effect”. It actually seems to kick the energy and power of the song up a notch. It’s clearly an accident, but an accident that works. I rather doubt George Martin approved. That kind of “throw the rule book out” approach is what makes Beatles recordings so fascinating, and The White Album the most fascinating of them all.

The EQ for this song is also a good example of something The Beatles were experimenting with, as detailed in their recording sessions and interviews with the engineers. They were pushing the boundaries of normal EQ, of how much bass and treble a track could have. This track has seriously boosted bass, way too much, but somehow it works!
(more…)

Roxy Music – Stranded

xxx

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

Stranded is one of the higher quality recordings by the band, coming in second for sonics only to the first album, which is really saying something considering that the first album is a Top 100 title. The Tubey Magic on the early albums has to be heard to be believed.

In our experience the right British original Sunray Island pressing will always be the Ultimate Pressing. (There are some bad sounding Island LPs out there, so don’t assume the Sunray is the answer. It’s potentially the right answer. Without at least five copies in hand you won’t know whether the copy you like is a true Hot Stamper or a not-that-hot-Hot Stamper.)

The domestic, German, Japanese and Dutch pressings are not remotely competitive with the Brits on this album (which is not true for all of Roxy’s albums but true for this one, Siren being the clear exception to the rule).

Now for those of you who are not Roxy Music fans and don’t know this music, this album may take a bit of getting used to. We assure you it will be well worth your while. We think it’s brilliant!

The sound on some tracks is noticeably better than others. Amazona is a KNOCKOUT here. These British pressings give you the richest, fullest, biggest sound with the least amount of sibilance on the vocals, grain or grunge. It’s the rich, full-bodied ANALOG sound we adore here at Better Records.

We thank Chris Thomas for his production and John Punter for his engineering work at AIR Studio. This album and the first one are without question the two best sounding Roxy albums, and that’s true for any incarnation of the band.

Both belong in any serious rock and pop collection, and if you are a fan of Art Rock, every Roxy album should be on your shelf, along with all your Bowie, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Eno, Peter Gabriel, 10cc and so many others (most of which are personal favorites of mine, albums I have played hundreds of times over the last 30 years and plan to play hundreds of times in the next). (more…)

INXS – Kick

More INXS

More Kick

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • INXS’s one true Masterpiece album comes to the site with two KILLER sides each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich and full-bodied, the best copies really ROCK with big bass and punchy drums.
  • The Big Rock sound is courtesy of Chris Thomas’ production and Bob Clearmountain’s mix
  • “Kick is an impeccably crafted pop tour de force, the band succeeding at everything they try. Every track has at least a subtly different feel from what came before it; INXS freely incorporates tense guitar riffs, rock & roll anthems, swing-tinged pop/rock, string-laden balladry, danceable pop-funk, horn-driven ’60s soul, ’80s R&B, and even a bit of the new wave-ish sound they’d started out with.”

For a recording from 1987 there is a surprising amount of rich, Tubey Magical Analog sound to be found here.

There is almost always a trace of hardness in the loudest vocal parts; that’s where the 1987 recording technology raises its head, but the better copies such as this one keep it to a bare minimum.

The copies that were the richest and had the biggest bottom end, without being smeary or dark from a lack of top tended to do the best in our shootout. The copies that lacked weight or lower midrange fullness were most often rejected; rhythmically driven Funk Rock simply doesn’t work without plenty of richness and bass. (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren

More Roxy Music

More Siren

xxxxx

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

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it. As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis.

Somehow they never seem to get old, even after more than thirty years.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way “in” to the band’s music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven — Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones. (more…)

Chris Thomas Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

xxxxx

CHRIS THOMAS is one of our favorite engineers and producers. Click on the links below to find our Chris Thomas engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.  

Chris Thomas Engineered or Produced Albums with Hot Stampers

Chris Thomas Engineered or Produced Albums We’ve Reviewed

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

More Roxy Music

More For Your Pleasure

xxxxx

  • With two seriously good Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this UK LP is sure to be one of the best sounding Roxy Music records you’ll ever play
  • These sides are unbelievably rich and Tubey Magical – Roxy just does not get much better than this!  
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • AMG 5 Stars: “…another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”

This album is a MASTERPIECE of Art Rock, Glam Rock and Bent Rock all rolled into one. Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.) (more…)

The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl – Awesome on the Right German Pressing

More The Pretenders

More Learning To Crawl

xxxxx

  • The first Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in over a year – we’ve never heard it sound better
  • Both sides of this (very specific) German pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 Stars: “While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders’ early work, on Learning to Crawl there’s a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes…”

This is where Chrissie Hynde matured into a top class songwriter; every track is good and many are brilliant. With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song. Great songs and great guitar work — what more do you need in a rock record?

Think of Middle of the Road — everything that’s good about this band on this album is there in that song: it’s uptempo, with a driving beat, a rock solid rhythm section and a beautifully distorted guitar out front and high up in the mix.

German Pressings? Why Not British? (more…)