100 or two

Bob and Ray / Throw a Stereo Spectacular

More Bob and Ray

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Living Stereo pressing with be very hard to beat
  • Originally produced as a sampler record for the Living Stereo line, it is an absolute MUST OWN for serious audiophiles looking to take their system to the next level
  • Our reference copy here at Better Records is so vital to our operation that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price!
  • 4 stars: “The gleefully cacophonous Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band takes the prize for providing the most unusual musical selection, but the overall program is extremely diverse [and] the comedy and music are enjoyable.”

Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only: The Bob and Ray Test.

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: “The Song of the Volga Boatman.”

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is “The Song of the Volga Boatman” on Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change, some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test, as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last several years.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right, the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one. It will be invaluable to you in the long run.

The copy we have is so good, and is so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

(more…)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Self-Titled on Cotillion

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • This vintage Cotillion pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – this Hot Stamper pressing makes the case that ELP’s debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy – these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord’s engineering work on this band’s albums
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • “Lucky Man” and “Take A Pebble” on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This Cotillion pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
(more…)

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Equinox

More Sergio Mendes

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this wonderful copy of Equinox, along with vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find it
  • The breathy intimacy of the two wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen – were brilliantly captured by the engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine at A&M
  • It’s humble records like this one that blew my mind when I first discovered them back in the ’80s, with their dynamic, energetic, spacious sound, as well as shockingly good music that at the time I had no idea existed
  • “Watch What Happens,” “Night and Day,” “Wave” – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.
  • Equinox is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, but only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of “Watch What Happens,” “Night and Day,” or “Jobim’s Wave” to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For we audiophiles, it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox is right up there with it.)

(more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

More Tears For Fears

More Art Rock

  • A superb vintage UK copy of the band’s masterpiece – 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.”

(more…)

Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – One of Bonnie’s Best

  • Full-bodied and warm, with harmonically rich guitars as well as real immediacy to Bonnie’s heartfelt vocals, this is the classic sound of Seventies Rock
  • The sound is big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic, which wouldn’t mean anything if the music weren’t good, but this actually happens to be Bonnie’s best album in our opinion, with Home Plate a close runner-up

I learned recently that Jack Haeny is one of the two engineers on this album, which goes a long way toward explaining the excellent ’70s analog sound. He worked on The Pretender, Don’t Cry Now, and many of the early and quite wonderful sounding albums Judy Collins did for Elektra in the earlier part of the decade. This guy knows sound.

(A good copy of The Pretender is an amazing Demo Disc that will put 99% of all the rock records you’ve ever played to shame. But the truly Hot Stamper pressings are few and far between, so most audiophiles have no idea how well recorded that album is.) (more…)

Holst – The Planets / Previn

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

  • With outstanding sonic grades on both sides, this early EMI pressing is guaranteed to be the best copy of Holst’s Magnum Opus, The Planets, you have ever played
  • Orchestral power like practically no other music on vinyl you may have heard, and Previn’s and the LSO’s performances are without peer in our estimation
  • These sides are rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass, and the kind of dynamic power that lefts the energy level right into space
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance that’s as spectacular as the recording by the two Christophers
  • More of our Favorite Orchestral Performances with Top Quality sound

These sides have some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, and that’s saying something considering the scores of recordings we have played of this famous and famously well-loved piece.

Fortunately for audiophiles who love The Planets but are disappointed by most performances, a group that includes us to be sure, the amazing sound found on this copy is coupled with a superb performance.

As you might imagine, on a big system this would make for a powerful listening experience, which is exactly the experience we ourselves had during our recent shootout. This copy actually deserves its place on the TAS List.

Both sides earned strong grades for their powerful energy and orchestral excitement, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac / Greatest Hits

More Fleetwood Mac

More British Blues Rock

  • An excellent vintage British pressing on the original CBS Solid Orange label with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Big, rich, energetic, with tons of Analog Tubey Magic, this original Orange Label UK pressing has exactly the right sound for this music
  • “Oh Well, Parts One and Two,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Man of the World,” and the surprise Number One single “Albatross” are all here and guaranteed to blow your mind
  • Peter Green is hands down our favorite British Blues Guitarist of All Time – play this record and you will surely see why we feel that way
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

If you’re a fan of Fleetwood Mac, this copy is guaranteed to blow your mind. Like all the best vintage British pressings, the sound is smooth, rich and full. This is Old School ANALOG, baby. They don’t make ’em like this anymore because they don’t know how to.

(more…)

This Is the Most Amazing Record the Dregs Ever Made

dixiedregs

This is the band’s masterpiece as well as a Personal Favorite of yours truly.

It’s also a clear case of One and Done, at least when it comes to vinyl. (The live album, Bring ‘Em Back Alive, is only available on CD, but comes highly recommended as well.)

If you want to hear what happens when five virtuoso instrumentalists manage to combine their talent for Jazz, Rock, Classical and Country (thanks god there aren’t any vocals) into a potent mix that defies classification and breaks all the rules, this is the one. It reminds me of Ellington’s famous line that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. This is the kind of music you may have trouble describing, but one thing’s for sure — it’s good. In fact it’s really good.

This is the most AMAZING album the Dregs ever recorded, and now this wild amalgamation of rock, jazz, country, prog and classical music has the kind of sound I always dreamed it could have. It’s rich and smooth like good ANALOG should be. It’s also got plenty of energy and rock and roll drive, which is precisely where the famous half-speed falls apart.

Few audiophiles know this music, and that’s a shame. This record is just a delight from beginning to end.

I’m apparently not the only one who noticed how good the album is. In 1980 Dregs of the Earth received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. (more…)

Hall and Oates / Abandoned Luncheonette – Their Best Sounding Album

More Hall and Oates

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

  • This early Atlantic pressing was clearly bigger, smoother and more open than practically any other copy we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • By far the best sounding record these guys ever made, and for our money nothing in their recorded canon can touch it
  • A Better Records favorite, a longtime member of our Top 100, and an absolute thrill when it sounds like this
  • The early 4 Digit pressings are the only way to go on this one — all the reissues (including the worst reissue of them all, the MoFi) are terrible sounding
  • 5 stars: “Abandoned Luncheonette, Hall & Oates’ second album, was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single ‘She’s Gone,’ which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of ‘Sara Smile.'”

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.

Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.


Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album. Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a true Demo Disc.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, look no further. This record is ALIVE! Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track popular recording, this is about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth — most of the time (although the multi-tracked vocals might be a little much on some songs, depending on your front end) — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.

(more…)

Roxy Music / Self-Titled

  • An excellent UK pressing of Roxy Music’s debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – this is some of the most dynamic sound the band achieved
  • Andy Hendriksen’s engineering (over the course of a week!) is superb in all respects – we think the best pressings of this first album reveal a recording that is superior to any other by the band
  • A Top 100 album, Roxy’s Masterpiece, and a Must Own Desert Island Disc of Glamorous Arty Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music’s eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock’s boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures.”

Folks, this is a true Demo Disc in the world of Art Rock. It’s rare to find a recording of popular music with DYNAMICS like these.

The guitar solo at the end of “Ladytron” rocks like you will not believe.

In both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply fail to show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we find here.

We hope you will agree with us that it was entirely worth the wait, as this album is a MASTERPIECE of Art Rock, Glam Rock and Bent Rock all rolled into one.

AMG calls Roxy Music the “most adventurous rock band of the early ’70s” and I’m inclined to agree with them. Roxy is certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a listener and audiophile, along with the likes of Supertramp, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and others, groups of musicians dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

(more…)