Well Recorded Rock & Pop Albums – The Core Collection

Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man – “Donovan’s hardest-rocking hit”

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The 1968 sound here is GLORIOUS — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Side one is where you will find The Hurdy Gurdy Man and it is crazy good sounding here. No wonder: Hurdy Gurdy was engineered by Eddie Kramer and produced by none other than John Paul Jones.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.  Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first rate.

Song Review

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” was undoubtedly Donovan’s hardest-rocking hit, though mystical folk-rock was still at the core of this 1968 number five hit single.

Certainly it started in as gentle a frame of mind as the typical Donovan song, with a hypnotic wordless vocal hum which reached back to the very roots of Celtic folk music, sounding like a prayer from a devotional ritual. The hum was then joined by a gentle acoustic guitar strum, and when Donovan began singing lyrics, set to one of his more beguiling tunes, some slight distortion made it sound as if his voice was traveling through time. When he got to the latter part of the verse, though, the hard rock bass, drums, and guitar piled on like gangbusters.

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After the Gold Rush – Our “Hard” Work in 2005 Continues to Pay Dividends

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This is an album we admit to being obsessed with. We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.

Folks, your Hot Stamper collection is just not complete without a knockout copy of After The Gold Rush; that’s why we’ve named it a Better Records All Time Top 100 title. We built our reputation on finding records that sound like this, because who else can find a copy of this album that delivers so much magic? When you drop the needle on any track on side two, you’ll know exactly why we are able to charge these kind of prices for a record like this — because on the right system, it’ll sound like a million bucks! (more…)

James Taylor – JT

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  • This KILLER copy of an exceptionally well-recorded album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s a superb recording – a member of our Top 100, in fact – but it takes a pressing like this to show you just how BIG and LIVELY it can sound
  • The big hits Your Smiling Face and Handy Man both sound great here – thanks Val Garay!
  • 4 stars: “JT was James Taylor’s best album since Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon because it acknowledged the darkness of his earlier work while explaining the deliberate lightness of his current viewpoint, and because it was his most consistent collection in years.”

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Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

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  • A superb vintage UK copy of the band’s masterpiece, boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard, and on this record that is saying a LOT
  • A tough record to find in audiophile playing condition – copies without audible marks were not easy to come by
  • The band’s Magnum Opus, a Colossal Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time (Whew!)
  • 4 stars: “Thanks to the duo’s uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe’s final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears’ masterpiece.”

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Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity — this one!
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us. We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout. (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

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  • Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum of the guitars, along with the kind of richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern remasterings.
  • Becker and Fagen spared no effort in the recording of this album – the mix is PERFECTION
  • A Top 100 Album and our pick for The Best Sounding Steely Dan Recording of Them All
  • 5 stars: “Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one.”

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Santana – Abraxas

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Santana - Abraxas - Nearly White Hot Stamper 

  • With two outstanding sides each rating a Double Plus (A++) for sound, this copy is guaranteed to rock like no other you’ve ever heard
  • The sound is rich, full-bodied and musical with punchy drums and guitar solos that really get LOUD
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, and a Top 100 title for its blistering solos that soar into space
  • “America was never the same after Carlos Santana discovered the smoldering Afro-Cuban magic of Tito Puente. A sinuous cha cha cha that sounds as if it had been waiting for Santana’s soulful guitar licks to reinvent it, the Puente-penned “Oye Como Va” became the pillar of U.S. Latin rock.” -Rolling Stone

This copy is smooth, sweet, rich, full-bodied, and SUPER dynamic. The vocals are shockingly present and clear, with breath and body like nothing you have ever heard. Just listen to all that room around the drums!

The sound is transparent, open, and spacious, with life and rhythmic energy to spare. The bass is deep, tight, and note-like, exactly what this music needs to REALLY ROCK!

Both sides have an exceptionally big soundfield, which opens up and allows you to appreciate all of the players’ contributions. That’s a BIG deal for this music. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than Abraxas.

Abraxas Rocks

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the the big room, big speakers, and plenty of power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house.

When Santana lets loose with some of those legendary monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s important to make something clear about this music. It doesn’t even make sense at moderate listening levels. Normal listening levels suck the life right out of it. You can tell by the way it was recorded — this music is designed to be played back at LOUD levels, and anything less does a disservice to the musicians, not to mention the listener, you. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Stand Up

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  • An outstanding UK import LP with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a True Tull Classic – my favorite by the band – and a VERY tough record to come by with this kind of sound and surfaces this quiet, as quiet as any copy we have ever played
  • Both of these sides give you richness, Tubey Magic, clarity and resolution few copies can touch – these are the Hot Stampers, folks
  • “Stand Up! has great textural interest, due, in part, to a more sophisticated recording technique, in part to the organ, mandolin, balalaika, etc., which Anderson plays to enrich each song. The band is able to work with different musical styles, but without a trace of the facile, glib manipulation which strains for attention.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Island pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. We must give thanks to the brilliant engineer Andy Johns. (more…)

Paul McCartney – Unplugged

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  • A true Demo Disc and superb sounding import pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
  • You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange
  • 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” sound fresh.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

Superb sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact. (more…)

The Beatles – The White Album

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  • An outstanding British pressing of The White Album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with unacceptable flaws and not enjoyable on high-quality equipment, unlike this copy which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)