Top Producers – Richard Perry

Carly Simon / No Secrets – Listening in Depth

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Balance is key to getting all the tracks to sound their best. Many copies we played were too dull or too bright.

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music.

Two Points

Listen to Embrace Me, You Child on side two — on the best copies you can really hear the rosiny texture of the strings as they are bowed.

The cymbals can sound amazing — listen to how extended the crashes are on You’re So Vain.

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Ringo Starr – Goodnight Vienna

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  • Goodnight Vienna finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Another amazing Richard Perry production with sound by Bill Schnee – on a pressing this good, you’ll be blown away
  • Starr partnered with a host of phenomenal writers and musicians here, including John Lennon, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Harry Nilsson
  • 4 stars: “Goodnight Vienna was very much a follow-up to Ringo… Richard Perry again produced, bringing his strong pop sensibility to the diverse material… a masterpiece.”

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Carly Simon – Hotcakes

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  • A stunning side one, clocking in between Double and Triple Plus
  • Side two is excellent as well, earning One and a Half Pluses for its superb presence and transparency
  • Great sound for Mockingbird and Haven’t Got Time For The Pain
  • All Music Guide gives this Richard Perry production Four Big Stars

The grit and grain that plagues most copies is GONE here, replaced with the kind of space and transparency that really make sense of the recording. The bottom end has real weight and punch, and the whole thing is much richer and more natural than usual.

That Glossy Richard Perry Sound

Many copies of this album suffer from (at least) one of two problems: unnaturally hi-fi-ish sound or an excess of grit and grain. Both are in large part due to the processing-intensive production of Richard Perry.

The best copies make it easy to understand his choices: the sound is lovely. Unfortunately that rich, sweet sound he obviously got on to the master tape didn’t quite make it to the average vinyl pressing of this album. The effects used on Carly’s vocals turn her voice into a gritty, grainy mess on most copies — certainly not the kind of sound that audiophiles want to hear.

As is so often the case, it took a few exceptional copies to make us understand what Simon and Perry were going for. Compare this Hot Stamper to the typical copy and you’ll hear it for yourself right away. (more…)

Carly Simon – No Secrets

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  • Warm, sweet, rich, present and full-bodied, with much less strain on the vocals than almost every other copy we played
  • You’re So Vain was the big hit off of this one, a classic Richard Perry production with huge size and space
  • Five weeks at Number One and 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic, “. . . it wasn’t only Simon’s forthrightness that made the album work; it was also Richard Perry’s simple, elegant pop/rock production, which gave Simon’s music a buoyancy it previously lacked. “

No Secrets is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Due to the mixture of folky pop songs, big production numbers and potential AM radio hit singles, it has to be cut just right to get every track to sound the way the artists (Carly Simon and studio cats), producer (Richard Perry) and engineers (Geoffrey Cable and Bill Schnee) intended.

Balance is key to getting all the tracks to sound their best. Many copies we played were too dull or too bright, but the tonality here is Right On The Money. The clarity and detail are superb; just listen to Embrace Me, You Child on side two — you can really hear the rosiny texture of the strings as they are bowed.

The best copies such as this one are always transparent, natural and musical. The top end is wonderfully extended, balancing a BIG bottom end with lots of deep, well-defined bass. The drums are punchy and dynamic and the cymbals can sound amazing — just listen to how extended the crashes are on You’re So Vain on side one.

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music.

We’re big fans of Another Passenger, the album she cut in 1976 with Ted Templeman producing. If you like Carly, you should definitely check that one out. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Carly Simon’s No Secrets

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The immensely talented engineer ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE worked his audio magic on this album. You may recall that he recorded a number of the greatest sounding rock records of all time, Elton John’s self-titled second album and Tumbleweed Connection, both in 1970, as well as this album and Nilsson Schmilsson in 1972, with Richard Perry producing.

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music.

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Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Top sound for some of the best tracks: My Little Town, I Only Have Eyes for You, 99 Miles from L.A. and more
  • Superb space and clarity, with the rich, tubey smoothness that’s missing from most copies
  • The keyboards are full and rich, the guitars ring sweetly
  • Richard Perry went for the Big Sound here and he got it – this copy will show you just how well recorded the album really is

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is to some degree grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule.

Listen to the song ‘Disney Girls’ on side one. If you own the average pressing – odds are your copy is in fact quite average unless you went through a pile of copies and played them in order to find a good one – parts of that song will sound painfully hard and shrill, assuming your playing the record at the kinds of levels we do.

Which is the main reason I’ve never understood what qualified this record to be on the TAS Super Disc list. Now, having heard the best of the best copies sounding so big, rich and tubey, I can certainly say I hear what impressed HP (he likes that sound, as do we). It may indeed be a very well recorded album, but it clearly falls short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. As you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here. (more…)

Ringo Starr – Ringo

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  • A KILLER copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades for sound and pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • Another Richard Perry production that sounds great – big and rich – thanks to excellent engineering skills of Bill Schnee, who you may remember from the credits of some of Sheffield’s better direct to disc recordings
  • The big hits are here and they sound fantastic: Photograph, You’re Sixteen, Oh My My and many, many more
  • “Ringo’s best and most consistent new studio album, Ringo represented both the drummer/singer’s most dramatic comeback and his commercial peak.”

Like Nilsson Schmilsson – an amazing Richard Perry production with much the same amazing sound – the bad copies are really just awful — veiled, smeary, compressed, rolled off up top and leaned out down low. It’s a big studio pop production with a lot going on; when it doesn’t work it really doesn’t work. Thankfully, on some copies it does, and this is one of those.

If you’ve tried killer Hot Stamper pressings of any of our favorite Richard Perry productions — No Secrets, Nilsson Schmilsson, Son of Schmilsson and Breakaway come to mind — you know the sound of this album.

Bill Schnee did some of the engineering. You probably know his name from the famous Sheffield Direct to Disc recordings he made there. If you like your records will lots of bottom end, richness, Tubey Magic and powerful dynamics, he’s the guy that can get that sound on tape, and Doug Sax, the mastering engineer for the album, is the guy that can get that sound onto disc. They made a great team. (more…)

Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Harry Nilsson’s indisputable Masterpiece of Bent Rock
  • Both sides are exceptionally good sounding, and the recording is brilliant thanks to the skills of Phill (That’s Two L’s) Brown
  • A Better Records favorite (we give it Five Stars) that really comes to life on an amazingly good pressing such as this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…it’s a near-perfect summary of everything Nilsson could do; he could be craftier and stranger, but never did he achieve the perfect balance as he did here.”

Big production pop like this is hard to pull off. Harry did an amazing job, but the recording is not perfect judging by the dozen or so copies I played this week and the scores I’ve suffered through before. Let’s face it: Jump Into The Fire will never be smooth and sweet; neither will Down on side one. But other tracks on this album have DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. (more…)

Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

We had a great time shooting out a big stack of these, as we’re just wild about Harry here at Better Records. Unfortunately, most copies out there are too dark and grainy to get all that excited about. Here’s a copy that tells a much different story —both sides have good energy, smooth and sweet vocals, and nice extension up top. Drop the needle on Turn On Your Radio or The Lottery Song and we bet you fall in love with this one!

What Shootout Winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above

Ken Is The Man

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century and many more).

This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. (With Ken Scott at the board at Trident Studios the sound has to be good, doesn’t it?) Side one is amazingly good from start to finish. On the two CD set of Nilsson’s greatest hits (which is excellent, by the way) almost all of side one from this album is used, as well as the best material on side two here, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World. In other words, this album has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote.

Nilsson Schmilsson and the album simply titled Harry are the other two superb Nilsson records that I highly recommend. Harry is my favorite of all his albums, maybe because it was so different from anything that I’d ever heard up to that point. A Little Touch… is also a personal favorite — standards done in the Nilsson style — is wonderful.

By the way, if the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is on the box, you should definitely check it out. Most of us here have seen it by now and it’s a ton of fun. (more…)

Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

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

Both sides are transparent, open, and spacious, with dramatically more life and energy than the typical pressing. The bottom end on this copy is surprisingly meaty as well, with far more punch than most of the pressings we played. 

The keyboards are full and rich, the guitars ring just right. This copy is killer in practically every way. You will be hard-pressed to imagine it sounding much better than it does here.

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is, to some degree, grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule. (more…)