Top Producers – Keith Olsen

Bob Weir – Heaven Help The Fool

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • A surprisingly well recorded album, this pressing is simply bigger, bolder and richer than most of the other copies we played
  • ” … showcases the special flavor that Weir added to Jerry [Garcia]’s genius, where 2 identities blend effortlessly. “
  • “Jazzy in places, soft and smooth in others. Out of the ordinary for the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, but easier for the uninitiated to absorb without losing the trademark oddity that Weir has always displayed. Top-notch stuff.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 20 light to moderate pops at the end of Track 2.

What separated the best copies from the also-rans was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Bob’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery much, MUCH more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Keith Olsen produced and co-engineered here, which should go a long way toward explaining why the sound is so good. He is of course the man helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 album such a sonic blockbuster. (more…)

Foreigner – Double Vision

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  • This outstanding copy of Foreigner’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from beginning to end – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you own the Half-Speed or any modern reissue, you won’t believe how much bigger, clearer and more energetic this pressing is
  • Keith Olsen produced and engineered – he’s the man behind the amazing sound of Buckingham/Nicks and Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • 4 stars: “Foreigner promptly followed up its blockbuster debut with the equally successful Double Vision LP in 1978, which featured the FM mega-hits “Hot Blooded” and the driving title track.”

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#1-052).

We haven’t played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as most of the other MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse? If any of our Hot Stamper customers have purchased the current release, I would be interested in hearing how you think it stacks up against this copy. (more…)

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

TWO WHITE HOT A+++ SIDES! The overall sound is UNBELIEVABLY rich, sweet, open, spacious, and transparent. Most copies suffer from a seriously bloated bottom end, but the bass on this one is nice and tight. The other big problem with the typical copy is a harsh top end, but the highs here are much sweeter and never aggressive.

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically whole from the listing. The British Sound? This record has it in spades:

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well controlled bass will have a tough time with this one.

But never fear; it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment.

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom end than the one found on both these sides.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky-sweet and tubey-magical, THIS IS THE SOUND WE LOVE.

We Love The Music Too Of Course

We really enjoy this album here at Better Records. It’s a wonderful preview of things to come for these two. Check out the wonderful early version of Crystal. On the best copies, it is warm, rich, and sweet — just like it is on the best copies of the Fleetwood Mac self-titled LP. In fact, many parts of this album bring to mind the best of ’70s Fleetwood Mac. Fans of the self-titled LP and Rumours are going to find A LOT to like here.

What We’re Listening For

There are a couple of qualities that set that Top Copies apart. The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he’s doing. Most copies don’t let you do that.

The other problem is smeary guitar transients. The multi-tracked acoustic guitars tend to be rich and sweet on practically every copy you can find; this is not the problem. When they lack transient information, the right amount of “pluck”, they also tend to lack harmonic information, the overtones of the notes. Put those two together and you get a blobby mass of smeared guitars overlaid onto one another — not an irritating sound, but not a pleasing one either.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Crying In The Night
Stephanie
Without A Leg To Stand On
Crystal
Long Distance Winner

Side Two

Don’t Let Me Down Again
Django
Races Are Run
Lola (My Love)
Frozen Love

AMG Review

While it will be hard to find, this lone album cut by a young and ambitious (and still romantically attached) Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham a short two years before joining Fleetwood Mac is well worth digging out for your turntable… Buckingham Nicks is an engaging listen and served as a proving ground of sorts for both artists’ songwriting chops and for Buckingham’s skills as an emerging studio craftsman. Crisp, ringing acoustic guitars and a bottom-heavy rhythm section (using the talents of Waddy Watchel, Jim Keltner, and Jerry Scheff) framed the pair’s songs in a sound something akin to FM-ready folk-rock. Lesser known tracks like the glistening opener, “Crying in the Night,” from Nicks and Buckingham’s lonely-guy lament, “Without a Leg to Stand On,” are on a par with their later mega hits.

Foreigner – Double Vision

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

The fullest, richest, smoothest, most energetic and clearest copy we played in our shootout by far – this is how good the album can sound! This one has the clarity and energy that let this music come to life. The sound was jumping out of our speakers.

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#052).  (more…)