Top Producers – Jimmy Miller

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – We Was Wrong

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This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

The Rolling Stones / Exile On Main Street – A Good Test for Grit and Grain

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The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on sides two, three and four and superb Double Plus (A++) sound on the first side
  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great presence and energy
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for this Stones album – here is a copy that plays very close to Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on all four sides
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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  • This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best
  • We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG
  • Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault – thanks Eddie and Jimmy!
  • “Winwood is simply incredible. He has a top group of musicians with him and they have made an album which is one of the best from any contemporary group.” – Rolling Stone, 1968

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup

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  • This superb copy of Goats Head Soup has stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • Who knew the record could sound this good? Certainly not us – we had no luck with this album for years
  • “This may not be as downright funky, freaky, and fantastic as Exile, yet the extra layer of gloss brings out the enunciated lyrics, added strings, wah-wah guitars, explicit sex, and violence, making it all seem trippily decadent…”

The best pressings give you exactly what you want from this brand of straight-ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals, solid, note-like bass, big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound we love here at Better Records. With big speakers and the power to drive them, at loud levels YOU ARE THERE.

And why not? The engineer is Andy Johns, Glyn’s very talented younger brother (sadly, now deceased). They worked together on the Stones’ previous album, Exile on Main St.

Andy engineered the Zep albums from II through Physical Graffiti, and those are amazingly well-recorded albums in anybody’s book when you have pressings that allow you to hear them right.

And you can add to that group Tull’s Stand Up (69), Traffic’s John Barleycorn (70) and the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request (67), Sticky Fingers (71) and It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (74). Even two tracks from Stephen Stills’ first album (71). (more…)

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – 25th Anniversary British Pressing

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This Minty looking Island 25th Anniversary British Import LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND! I’d have to say it’s the best sounding record from this series I’ve ever heard. (Note that this is the British version and not the Italian one.)

I can’t vouch for other copies of this record — they may not sound as good as this one — but this one has the bass that’s missing from some of the Pink Label copies and is overall tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), with almost none of the transistory grain that you find on domestic pressings. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks for a Hot Stamper, this is probably the next best way to go.

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – Worst Version Ever!

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

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Sonic Grade: F

This RTI 180g copy (with the zipper cover) is one of a series of five titles Bob Ludwig cut in the ’90s. According to the man, after cutting the record he chanced upon a consumer copy and was shocked to hear how bad it sounded.   

It sounded, according to him, nothing like the record he had cut. Somehow they had botched the pressings and ruined the sound. How this could happen I can’t imagine.

Bob says that’s what they did and we’ll take him at his word, out of respect for one of the all-time great mastering engineers, RL himself. He promptly sold off all his analog mastering equipment and got out of the game.

Can you blame him? According to him they put his name all over a record the sound of which they had ruined. Guess I would stop making records too if that were the case.

By the way, the sound was dismal on every title from that series we played except for Heart’s, which was okay, certainly better than the average pressing out there, but no Hot Stamper by any stretch of the imagination. 

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The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All – Now With Video

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

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Sonic Grade: F

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

FURTHER READING

The Rolling Stones / Goats Head Soup – Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

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This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat’s Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 — and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

But we’re taking that position now. All it takes is one great sounding copy to show you the error of your ways, and we had more than one! (more…)