Top Producers – Ted Templeman

Van Halen – 1984

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  • 1984 finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • These sides have the kind of BIG, full-bodied sound that lets this rockin’ band come to life exactly the way you want them to
  • Nothing phony here – the sound is natural and balanced, with meaty guitars and big punchy drums
  • Plenty of hits: “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Jump,” and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”
  • If you’re a fan of Van Halen when Diamond Dave was still the front man, a killer copy of their album from 1984 belongs in your collection

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”– sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that far too many copies were unimpressive. Most just do not have the weight on the bottom end that this music needs to work.

Turn your nose up if you like, but this music is Classic Rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but the band on this album definitely knows how to rock. The All Music Guide gives this one 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that plenty of audiophiles feel just as strongly about it. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing a batch of great songs, not to mention some Blue Eyed Soul-ful vocals, this has long been a favorite Doobies album here at Better Records
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of Hot Stamper pressings such as this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

Best Practices

How to Find Your Own Hot Stamper

Recently we did one of our regular shootouts for Takin’ It To The Streets, using pressings we know from experience to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them as carefully as we always do. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. The first step is to go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

The Rich, Smooth Sound of Seventies Analog

Credit Donn Landee (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.

Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

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The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street

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  • Two of our favorite engineers – Stephen Barncard & Donn Landee – worked their magic here, and they really knocked it out of the park
  • Back in the ’70s I had no idea that any pressing could be this punchy in the bass, this dynamic in the choruses, yet still have smooth, sweet vocals (partly because I heard it on crap equipment at Pacific Stereo)
  • 4 stars: “…it all still sounds astonishingly bracing 30 years later; it’s still a keeper, and one of the most inviting and alluring albums of its era.”
  • If you’re a Doobies fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

To be clear, as a budding audiophile back in the day, I had no idea that any pressing could be this good sounding because I had only ever heard the album on the crap equipment at Pacific Stereo. They used the album as a demo disc in their High End room, but their High End room wasn’t very high end, just high end for Pacific Stereo in the early ’70s. Anybody remember Quadraflex speakers?

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The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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Reviews and Commentaries for The Doobie Brothers

  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound excellent – smooth, rich and full of energy
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambiance. (more…)

Van Halen – Women And Children First

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Halen

  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it 
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”

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Van Halen – Van Halen II

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Halen

  • These killer sides are highly resolving, smooth and full-bodied, with a huge bottom end and massive amounts of rock and roll energy – if this isn’t the right sound for Van Halen’s music, we don’t know what else could be!
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 stars: “… this feels both heavier and lighter than the debut. Heavier in that this sounds big and powerful, driven by mastodon riffs that aim straight of the gut. Lighter in that there’s a nimbleness to the attack… it’s hard not to marvel at these two frontmen, and hard not to be sucked into the vortex of some of the grandest hard rock ever made.” 

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Michael McDonald / If That’s What It Takes – A Masterpiece of Blue-Eyed Soul

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  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic – more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

I’m proud to count Michael McDonald among my favorite recording artists. He made this Desert Island Disc and single-handedly turned the Doobie Brothers into a band I could enjoy and even respect. This is a Must Own if you like the later Doobies and the kind of highly-polished but heartfelt and intelligent pop records the major labels excelled at in the ’70s.

With the right pressing the highs open up and his vocals JUMP out of the speakers. He’s RIGHT THERE. The next step is to check to see if you have punchy, well-defined bass, a key element in this rhythmically complex music. With plenty of presence in the vocals and punch down below, you have a copy that can hold its head high, with sound that really brings this music to life. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

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  • An outstanding original Warner Bros. pressing of the band’s Masterpiece, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • An Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production as close to perfect as one could possibly wish for, thanks to Ted Templeman and Donn Landee
  • 4 stars: “…this is where the ‘new’ Doobie Brothers really make their debut, with a richly soulful sound throughout and emphasis on horns and Michael McDonald’s piano… It’s still all pretty compelling even if its appeal couldn’t be more different from the group’s earlier work. The public loved it, buying something like three million copies, and the recording establishment gave Minute by Minute four Grammy Awards, propelling the group to its biggest success ever.”

This is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. We can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a wonderful sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with big bass and vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

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  • A superb pressing with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Forget the cardboardy reissues and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl pressing they’re making now – if you want to hear all the Tubey Magic and energy of these recordings, you need a vintage Hot Stamper pressing like this one
  • Black Water was the big hit on their breakthrough fourth album, and it sounds wonderful here – Eyes of Silver and Another Park, Another Sunday are killer too
  • “The Doobies team up with the Memphis Horns for an even more Southern-flavored album than usual…”

These songs sound every bit as good now as they did thirty-plus years ago when they came out. Better, because we can clean these old records and play them so much better than we could back then. I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day I was a bit of a snob when it came to bands like this. Too mainstream. Too radio-friendly.

Now I realize that the best of this kind of pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is good music that belongs in your collection. (more…)