Carly Simon – Self-Titled

More Carly Simon

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  • An outstanding original Elektra LP with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Can you believe that the producer and engineer of Carly’s debut is none other than Eddie Kramer!?
  • That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be is the killer track here and it sounds wonderful on this copy
  • This pressing really brought this Big Production to life and allowed so many elements to work in harmony.
  • It’s a good example of what a truly Hot Stamper is supposed to do – let the music work as music

The richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies are exactly what you’d be looking for on this heavily-produced pop album, and this copy gives you that sound like no other copy you’ve ever heard.

Credit must go to Eddie Kramer, legendary producer and engineer for the likes of Hendrix and Zeppelin. He knows how to get good sound all right, although Female Singer Songwriter albums in his catalog are fairly light on the ground. (Richard Perry became the go-to guy for those productions as the ’70s wore on.) This may in fact be the only one Eddie ever did. But he knows Big Production Rock, and that’s what most of this album is about. (more…)

Elvis Costello / My Aim Is True – More Heavy Vinyl Trash from Rhino

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

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Sonic Grade: D

I’m embarrassed to say we used to like the Rhino Heavy Vinyl version, and in our defense let me tell you why: it was (for the most part) tonally correct, fairly low distortion, and had tight punchy bass.

Boy, Was We Ever Wrong. Now it sounds positively CRUDE and UNPLEASANT next to the real thing — if by “the real thing” you mean an honest to goodness properly mastered, properly pressed copy (also known as a Hot Stamper). Kevin Gray’s crude cutting system did this album no favors.

The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant.  The British pressings are mud.

You either have to work very hard to find a good domestic pressing (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.

Or just buy one from us and save yourself all the trouble.


FURTHER READING

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners 

and we can’t forget this one

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

More John Sebastian

More Sixties Pop Recordings

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, the sound quality of the tracks on this compilation is impressive
  • Both sides are rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, and natural with a solid bottom end – no sign of radio EQ to be found
  • Features most of the band’s best songs, including Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Six O’clock and Nashville Cats (a personal fave)
  • The Allmusic critic is not too crazy about this album, but the User Rating is 4 1/2 stars, which we think is about right

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophiles — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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Letter of the Week – Bridge Over Troubled Water Needs Big Speakers to Play Right

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

That latest S&G album — BOTW — is absofuckinglutely blowing my mind tonight. Wow. Those deep horns (?) blasting at times (end of Keep the Customer Satisfied, chorus of Why Don’t You Write Me, end of The Boxer… whole thing is hopping and dancing with huge beautiful sound. Hard to sit down!!
Conrad

The weight of those horns is exactly what I was telling you about –  they cannot be reproduced until you have speakers with enough large dynamic drivers to play the weight of the brass

This is something not many audiophiles seem to understand, no matter how much we write about it.

TP


We discuss the idea of Big Speakers in this boilerplate commentary all over the site:

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER record. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at fairly loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It’s the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers for as long as I can remember. You need a lot of piston area to bring this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so and I have never looked back.) (more…)

Kenny Burrell with Gil Evans – Guitar Forms

More Kenny Burrell

More Gil Evans

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  • This STUNNING pressing offers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Gil Evans wrote the superb orchestral arrangements and Rudy Van Gelder captured them on lovely analog tape – what’s not to like? 
  • We’ve really been digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now – it may not be serious jazz, but it’s no less interesting and captivating for it
  • “His landmark 1965 collaboration with Gil Evans, Guitar Forms rivals anything the arranger did with Miles Davis. Indeed, the track “Lotus Land” has a bolero form very reminiscent of Sketches of Spain. Throughout, Burrell takes thoughtful, concise, and utterly musical solos, and even switches to acoustic classical guitar on “Prelude #2” and “Loie.””

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1965 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet, and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

War / Why Can’t We Be Friends? – A True Demo Disc

More War

This Well Recorded Album Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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  • An incredible copy of the band’s 1975 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • One of our favorite albums here at Better Records and clearly the band’s Masterpiece – the bass and dynamics on the better pressings make this a Demo Disc on the right system
  • 4 stars [but we give it 5]: “Cut from the same cloth as the band’s 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War’s 1975 Why Can’t We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. [It] remains one of War’s truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre’s landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour.”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1975.

Low Rider sounds AWESOME on this one. This is the kind of record you can take to any stereo store or audiophile friend’s house and bring their stereos to their knees. Audiophile systems are rarely designed to play this kind of music at the levels it demands, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. Records like this are the challenge we audiophiles need to make our stereos even better. When the music is this good it’s worth the effort

What superb 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 1975
  • 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 the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

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Living Stereo Chamber Music Shootouts – How Many Clean Copies Can YOU Find?

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

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RCA is justly famous for its chamber recordings, which tend to be somewhat rare for some reason. Let’s be honest: we did not conduct our last shootout with a dozen copies of the album. It would probably have taken us ten years to find that many clean pressings.

What we had were quite a few other Heifetz RCA chamber recordings, as well as some favorites by the Quartetto Italiano and I Musici that we are very fond of and know well.

After 33 years in business selling vintage vinyl, by now we’ve played scores if not hundreds of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound (as well as correct violin tone, not exactly the same thing) when we hear it.

In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good, not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. More on that subject here and here.

Now that we are able to do classical shootouts on a regular basis, we hope to have enough superb sounding classical recordings for all of our audiophile customers.

A Certain Balance

I’ve often commented over the years that one should listen to classical music on a regular basis — at least once a week seems to be about right. I love rock and roll, jazz and all the rest of it, but there is something about classical music that restores a certain balance in your musical life that can’t be accomplished by any other means that I know of.

It grounds your listening experience in something perhaps less immediately gratifying but deeper and more enriching over time. This has been my experience, and with good Hot Stamper classical pressings to play, it can surely be yours.


The Doobie Brothers / The Captain and Me – Nautilus Debunked

More of The Doobie Brothers

More of The Captain and Me

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked and another We Was Wrong listing to boot.

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free.

The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no excuse now is it?


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem

How to Make All Your Records Sound Like Mobile Fidelity Pressings – For Free! (more…)

Red Garland Trio – Groovy

More Red Garland

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What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades. (more…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

More Miles Davis

More Gil Evans

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  • A Shootout Winning copy of this Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic and one of only a handful to hit the site in years
  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was close behind at A++ to A+++
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the best sounding
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing they sound rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

We recently shot out a short stack of these — not an easy record to find in clean condition, in stereo, on the earlier labels, at affordable prices these days, so we didn’t have the eight to ten copies we like to have for a full shootout — and found that the music on Quiet Nights was every bit as enchanting as we remember it.

The music is very much in the style of Sketches Of Spain and the sound is comparable to that album as well. This is Davis’ final official collaboration with arranger and conductor Gil Evans. The quintet on this album includes Miles Davis on the trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Victor Feldman on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Frank Butler on drums. (more…)