Top Producers – Richard Perry

Carly Simon – No Secrets

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  • An early Elektra pressing of Carly Simon’s classic 1972 album with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Warm, sweet, rich, present and full-bodied, with much less strain on the vocals than many other copies 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. “
  • If you’re a Carly Simon fan, this title from 1972 is probably her best album, and for non-fans, a good place to start
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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 (Robin 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 have the kind of rich, sweet sound that is obviously the right one for 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…)

Ringo Starr – Ringo

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More Records Produced by Richard Perry

  • This pressing boasts a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Another Richard Perry production that sounds big and rich, just the way we like ’em
  • The audiophile sound is due to the excellent engineering skills of Bill Schnee – you may remember him 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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 equally amazing sound – the bad copies are really just awful. They tend to be veiled, smeary, compressed, rolled off up top and leaned out down low.

This is 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 Hot Stamper pressings of any of our favorite Richard Perry productions — No Secrets, Nilsson Schmilsson, Son of Schmilsson 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.

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Carly Simon / Hotcakes – What to Listen For

More of the Music of Carly Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

Hot Stamper Pressings of Richard Perry Productions

Many copies of this album suffer from (at least) one of two problems: unnatural hi-fi sound or considerable grit and grain.

Both are in large part due to the processing-intensive production of Richard Perry. On the best copies it’s easy to understand his choices as the sound is quite 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 the 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. 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. (You DEFINITELY want your electricity really cookin’ for this shootout, because bad electricity will certainly exacerbate problems with grit and grain.)

You Haven’t Got Time For The Pain, But We Do

It’s one of Carly’s best songs and the title perfectly sums up our selling point for these Hot Stampers. Anyone can do this shootout on his own; these records are in every used record bin out there. Of course, I don’t know if anyone but us would WANT to do this shootout, because so many copies sound just plain awful! If, like Carly, you haven’t got time for the pain, save yourself the trouble and take home a Hot copy. Your free time is valuable — spend it listening to good records and leave the bad ones to us.

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Art Garfunkel – Generally Grainy, Harsh and Shrill

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

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 understand 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 we feel it falls a bit short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. (To be fair, as you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here.)

The Best Songs

The late Harry Pearson knew little about popular music and may have been more impressed by this album than those of us who play pop and rock albums by the boatload.

Most of the pop albums on his Super Disc TAS list are a joke. Only the people who listen almost exclusively to classical or jazz seem to take them seriously, in my experience anyway. (Check out the 12″ pop singles for a good laugh.)

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Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy of Nilsson’s second-in-a-row Masterpiece of Bent Rock is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • 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?)
  • Son of Schmilsson has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote, and should make it a Must Own for every right thinking audiophile with sophisticated tastes in popular music (this means you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this is all married to a fantastic set of songs that illustrate what a skilled, versatile songsmith Nilsson was. No, it may not be the easiest album to warm to — and it’s just about the weirdest record to reach number 12 and go gold — but if you appreciate Nilsson’s musicality and weirdo humor, he never got any better.”
  • This title from 1972 is clearly one of Nilsson’s best, and also one of his best sounding recordings
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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 are too dark and grainy to get 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.

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. 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, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World.

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Carly Simon / No Secrets – Listening in Depth

More of the Music of Carly Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

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 too 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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More by the Beatles

  • 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…)

Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

More Art Garfunkel

  • 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 

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…)

Harry Nilsson / Nilsson Schmilsson – A True Masterpiece

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

  • 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…)