1974-top-ten

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’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…)

Little Feat / Feats Don’t Fail Me Now – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

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A White Hot side one mated to a Super Hot side two make this our big shootout winner this time around. Incidentally our last time around for Little Feat’s fourth album was 2008 for those of you keeping track at home; yes, it’s getting mighty hard to find clean copies of practically all the pre-Waiting For Columbus titles.

The good news we have to offer this time as opposed to last is that we can now clearly say that Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the best sounding album of the first four the band recorded. We think the songs are great too; we would hope that goes without saying.

Waiting For Columbus — their live masterpiece and inarguably the definitive recording statement by the band — has at least one song from this album on each of its four sides. That ought to tell you something.

If only we could find good sounding copies! But enough about that album. Let’s talk about this one. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark

Reviews and Commentaries for Court and Spark

Hot Stamper Pressings of Court and Spark Available Now

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  • An outstanding copy of Court and Spark with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The sound is rich, warm and natural, with wonderful transparency, ambience and loads of Tubey Magic
  • Musically this is one of our favorite Joni albums here at Better Records, and probably her Best Recording as well
  • Court and Spark recently joined Blue on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List for 2019 – yes, it’s that good sounding when it’s mastered and pressed as well as this copy is
  • 5 stars: “[A] remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz … the music is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last.”

Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the naturalness, clarity, beauty and power that our Hot Stamper pressings reproduce so well.

What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character because the mastering is correct and the vinyl — against all odds — managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer. (more…)

10cc’s Brilliant Second Album – Sheet Music

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  • This copy of Sheet Music boasts KILLER Shootout Winning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full and balanced with plenty of deep bass and Arty Rock energy, this is a Truly Amazing Demo Disc
  • Bassist Graham Gouldman calls it “the definitive 10cc album” and he’s probably right about that (although we love The Original Soundtrack that came out a year later)
  • “Three hit singles spun off the record, and most of the other tracks could have followed suit; it says much for Sheet Music’s staying power that, no matter how many times the album is reissued, it has never lost its power to delight, excite, and set alight a lousy day.”

Sheet Music is in our opinion the most consistently well written and produced 10cc album, with every track performed with heart and recorded with exquisite attention to detail. Each song flows into the next and there is simply not a dull moment to be found. Sheet Music is arguably the best record they ever made, although I’m such a fan, I think they’re all great. (The first five albums anyway.) (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

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More Reviews and Commentaries for 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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Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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Reviews and Commentaries for Crime of the Century

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  • This UK copy of Supertramp’s Masterpiece will be very hard to beat
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best rock albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re 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.

Tom Dowd recorded this album at Criteria in Miami, where Layla was recorded. I’d say the sound here is substantially better than what you typically get on that album, keeping in mind the sonic variations from track to track on Layla, which can be fairly dramatic. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt / Heart Like A Wheel – Truly a Country Rock Masterpiece

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More Women Who Rock

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them, this copy was giving us KILLER sound for Linda Ronstadt’s Best Album
  • Both sides here are rich, full-bodied and warm, with harmonically rich guitars and real immediacy to Linda’s heartfelt vocals
  • A Must Own Classic, the best album Ms Ronstadt ever made, and a True Country Rock Masterpiece virtually without peer
  • 5 stars: “What really makes HLAW a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt, and the studio musicians have developed. …[they] help turn Heart Like a Wheel into a veritable catalog of Californian soft rock, and it stands as a landmark of ’70s mainstream pop/rock.”

I’ve been playing HLAW since the year it came out, roughly 46 years by my calculation, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on the album. Folks, we heard it for ourselves: the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here on practically every song.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold.

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing. (more…)

Loggins and Messina – Mother Lode

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  • An incredible copy of Mother Lode with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • A surprisingly well-recorded album – with Demo Disc quality sound – and a personal favorite from way back
  • I can’t recall another pop or rock recording that captures either the plucked energy or the harmonic nuances of the mandolin better
  • Never a band to find favor with the critics, even Allmusic had to concede that the album was “Elegantly, tastefully accomplished.”

This superb Hot Stamper pressing of L&M’s fourth release demonstrates pretty convincingly just how well-recorded this album is! The bottom end is tight and punchy, and the clarity and transparency are truly off-the-charts.

When Jim Messina rips into his mandolin solo half way through Be Free, your jaw is likely to hit the ground. On the best copies, it positively LEAPS out of the left speaker. I can’t recall another pop or rock recording that captures either the plucked energy or the harmonic nuances of the instrument better. To hear such a well-recorded mandolin on a copy of this quality is nothing less than a THRILL.

This copy gives us full-bodied pianos; rich, lively vocals, full of presence and brimming with enthusiasm; harmonically-rich guitars, mandolins, dobros and the like, as well as a three-dimensional soundstage that reveals the space around them all. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for the most part too, although one mark is a problem
  • Rich, smooth, Tubey Magical sound is what makes these wonderful import pressings win our shootouts – that and lots of funky bass
  • The best album Robert Palmer ever made – with Little Feat and The Meters helping out, it had to be
  • 4 stars: “While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer’s voice that is revelatory — he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.”

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