1974-best

Average White Band / Self-Titled

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More Soul, Blues and R&B Albums with Hot Stampers

Having done this shootout a number of times since we first discovered a hot sounding copy all the way back in 2007, it’s hard to imagine this music sounding any better than this very copy. It’s smooth, sweet, airy, open, spacious and ALIVE. The best sounding songs here truly have Master Tape Sound.

We’ve been playing this record for years, but until finding a very Hot copy back in 2007 we had no idea what a sonic monster it could be. The typical copy tends to be smeary, with sour horns and not very much energy.

The overall sound on both sides is lively and energetic with superb transparency. The bass is deep, rich, and tight — just what this funky music demands. The brass sounds wonderful — it has just the right amount of bite and you can really hear the air moving through the horns.

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Tower of Power – Back To Oakland

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More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this copy was doing just about everything right
  • Our Hot Stamper pressings are rich, warm and dynamic, with plenty of Analog Tubey Magic
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, presence and energy on this copy than anything else around, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Back to Oakland had tougher, funkier and better-produced cuts, stronger vocals from Lenny Williams, and included an excellent ballad in ‘Time Will Tell,’ and a rousing tempo in ‘Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream).'”

We love this funky music and have long been delighted with how wonderful the best pressings can sound. This may be Tower of Power’s best; certainly it’s one of their most consistent and well-recorded.

When you hear it on a Hot Stamper like this, there is little in the recording to criticize. The brass is textured with just the right amount of bite (but not to the point of sounding gritty). In addition, the soundstage is wide and three-dimensional, with the kind of transparency that allows you to hear into the music all the way to the back wall of the studio (assuming your system resolves that kind of information).

The most obvious effect is that all the horns are separated out from one another, not all smeared together, with plenty of space around the drums, guitars and vocals as well. The sound is freely flowing from the speakers, not stuck inside them.

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Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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Jackson Browne / Late for the Sky – Lovin’ That Rich, Smooth Asylum Sound

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More 5 Star Albums

  • This outstanding pressing of Browne’s third album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This one was bigger and bolder, with more Tubey Magical richness on Jackson’s voice, than most of what we played
  • We love the rich, smooth, natural sound that Asylum was known for, and this copy has a healthy dose of each of those qualities
  • It’s getting harder and harder to find these in good condition these days – the man has a lot of fans, and they prefer to hear him on vinyl
  • 5 stars from AMG and Rolling Stone calls it the “quintessential Browne album,” saying the “… open-ended poetry achieves power from the nearly religious intensity that accumulates around the central motifs; its fervor is underscored by the sparest and hardest production to be found on any Browne album yet… as well as by his impassioned, oracular singing style.”
  • If you’re a fan of the man, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here. (more…)

Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard

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  • An outstanding UK pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Big and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals, strong rhythmic energy and virtually none of the smear that plagues so many copies
  • As good as the best domestic pressings can be, these British LPs simply capture more of the 461 midrange magic than they do
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the pop concessions on the album don’t detract from the rootsy origins of the material, whether it’s Johnny Otis’ ‘Willie and the Hand Jive,’ the traditional blues ‘Motherless Children,’ Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ or Clapton’s emotional original ‘Let It Grow.'”

This album has some of Clapton’s best material, including Motherless Children and the famous cover of Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff. (more…)

Robin Trower / Bridge of Sighs – A Demo Disc for Size and Space 

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Reviews and Commentaries for Robin Trower and Procol Harum

A Demo Disc for Size and Space 

  • An outstanding copy of Trower’s amazingly well recorded Psych masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This early UK pressing is huge, rich and punchy, with guitar solos that soar like few others you’ve heard
  • The title track is on this killer side one – you have never begun to hear it sound like this!
  • Brilliant engineering by Geoff Emerick at George Martin’s AIR studios – maybe the best sounding album Emerick ever made
  • Top 100 and 4 1/2 stars on AMG: “…his most stunning, representative, and consistent collection of tunes. Bridge of Sighs holds up to repeated listenings as a timeless work, as well as the crown jewel in Trower’s extensive catalog.”

We’d been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until about 2015 when we finally stumbled upon a certain UK Chrysalis pressing in audiophile playing condition.

Now we know just how good this album can sound. How good? Astonishingly good. The three-dimensional space is positively breathtaking on the best UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time (1971) such a mind-expanding experience. Both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records.

You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga – An Audiophile Record with Honest-to-Goodness Real Music

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More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for Volume III, clearly the best sounding title in the series
  • A superb pressing with energy and presence that just jumps right out of your speakers – this is but one of the qualities that separates the truly Hot Stampers from the pack
  • Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright – on this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom
  • If you’re a Lincoln Mayorga fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, both musically and sonically
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tambourines, big bass drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day is because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around at the time.

That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up, and there are not many audiophile recordings you can say that about.

Just listen to the astoundingly powerful brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one. (more…)

Saint-Saens / Chabrier / Danse Macabre / Espana and More

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894)

  • This EMI import pressing boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are BIGGER and RICHER than any other we played – they’re super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, and have all of the weight of the orchestra down low (not to mention some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard)
  • If you want a classical record to TEST your system and DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy!

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David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

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  • This UK pressing will show you a Diamond Dogs you had no idea existed, yet here it is – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and the presence, bass, and dynamics on this incredible copy placed it head and shoulders above the competition
  • It’s ridiculously tough to find even passable sound for this album – we guarantee you have never heard better than these two killer sides
  • Great songs including the title track, “Rebel Rebel,” “1984,” “Sweet Thing,” “Big Brother,” “Rock & Roll With Me” and more

The sound on this UK pressing is Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious — you’ll need a lot of luck and a good-sized pile of records to find a copy that sounds like this one.

“1984” (a favorite of ours on David Live) sounds great here. In addition to singing, the man handles sax, Mellotron, and Moog duties on the album, and, most surprisingly, plays practically all of the electric guitar parts.

Bowie was one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, often groundbreaking and always multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into the complex sounds he recorded.

Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you will discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the man, his producers (Tony Visconti among them) and engineers (our favorite being Ken Scott). And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of his recordings.

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Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

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More Soul, Blues and R&B

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  • Finding the right balance between Tubey Magical Richness and Transparency is the trick, and we think this copy strikes that balance as well as any pressing we’ve heard
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing were the big hits but the other tracks on the album are where the real Stevie Wonder MAGIC can be found
  • 4 1/2 stars [but we give it 5]: “The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it (“Creepin'”) to being bashful of it (“Too Shy to Say”) to knowing when it’s over (“It Ain’t No Use”).”
  • 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. Fulfillingness’ First Finale is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.
  • If you’re a Stevie Wonder fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, his two best in our opinion, just a tad behind his masterpiece, Inner Visions
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We’re big fans of Stevie here at Better Records, but it’s always a challenge to find good sound for his albums. Tons of great songs here, including the ones everybody knows, Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing. Both sound WONDERFUL on this pressing.

But…

For the first time in my life, over the course of the last five years or so I’ve really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car (and now I also have a cassette to play in my Walkman while working out).

I’ve listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times. I now see that it is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album, including Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life.

The best songs on the album to my mind are the quieter, more heartfelt and emotional ones, not the rockers or funky workouts. My personal favorites on side one are: Smile Please. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Too Shy to Say and Creepin’, which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are all the songs that weren’t hits.

On side two the two slowest songs are the ones I now like best: It Ain’t No Use & They Won’t Go When I Go (famously and brilliantly covered by George Michael on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990). (more…)