1976-top-title

J.J. Cale – Troubadour

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More of Our Favorite Titles from 1976

  • Cale fans take note: this early Shelter pressing was doing almost everything right — rich, full and musical with great bass
  • Eric Clapton described the man as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all.”

If you’re hankerin’ to hear Cocaine on the authentic original, you will really have to work hard to hear it sound any better than it does on this pressing.

Wikipedia lists his many styles as “Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound” but we think Americana is probably all you really need.

AMG  Review

Producer Audie Ashworth introduced some different instruments, notably vibes and what sound like horns (although none are credited), for a slightly altered sound on Troubadour. But J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all. This one is notable for introducing “Cocaine,” which Eric Clapton covered on his Slowhand album a year later.

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Although “Cocaine” would be a major hit for Clapton in 1977, the first single released by Cale from Troubadour in 1976 was the restless “Travelin’ Light” with “Hey Baby” as the b-side. Critics from the music website Alltime Records reviewed the recording: “‘Travelin’ Light’, with its funky James Burton–style guitar that Jimmy Page tried to copy on “The Crunge”, along with great xylophones to fill out the sound – it moves and cooks and rolls and rocks and has just an absolutely earthy quality.”

Wikipedia

Cocaine

Troubadour was produced by Audie Ashworth, who had also produced Cale’s first three studio albums. In the 2004 documentary To Tulsa and Back, Cale recalled, “I wrote ‘Cocaine’, and I’m a big fan of Mose Allison…So I had written the song in a Mose Allison bag, kind of cocktail jazz kind of swing…And Audie said, ‘That’s really a good song, John, but you oughta make that a little more rock and roll, a little more commercial.’ I said, ‘Great, man.’ So I went back and recut it again as the thing you heard.”

The song’s meaning is ambiguous, although Eric Clapton describes it as an anti-drug song. He has called the song “quite cleverly anti-cocaine”, noting:

It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be “anti”—which the song “Cocaine” is actually an anti-cocaine song.

If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought … from a distance … or as it goes by … it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.

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The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

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  • Glyn Johns engineered, and the better pressings are full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • A copy this good lets you appreciate Billy Preston’s contributions on the keys – he’s all over the album, a very good thing indeed
  • “Melody ought to be a tentative experiment with Billy Preston’s jazzy keyboard sound. Instead, it’s a triumph, Jagger’s voice swooping and snaking around Preston’s piano and harmonies.”

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, that’s if we’re talking about the better copies of course, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of). (more…)

Boston – Self-Titled

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

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  • With big, bold, hard-rockin’ Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this pressing will show you just how good Boston’s debut can sound
  • The multi-tracked, multi-layered guitars are as big as life on this copy and guaranteed to rock your world
  • Top sound for all the hits: More Than a Feeling, Long Time/Foreplay, Rock & Roll Band, Peace Of Mind…
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nearly every song on Boston’s debut album can still be heard on classic rock radio today due to the strong vocals of Brad Delp and unique guitar sound of Tom Scholz. Boston is essential for any fan of classic rock, and the album marks the re-emergence of the genre in the 1970s.”

Boston’s first (and only good) album is a long-time member of our Top 100, and on a great pressing like this it’s easy to see why. It’s an incredible recording when you can hear it right, and this is about as right as it gets!

It’s obvious why the first Boston album became a Multi-Platinum Record. Practically every one of its songs still gets heavy radio play on every rock station in town. Consummately well-crafted music like this is almost impossible to find nowadays. I guess that’s why they call it Classic Rock. (more…)

Steely Dan / The Royal Scam

  • Stunning sound from start to finish: Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it on both sides
  • This is a killer Shootout Winning copy of The Dan’s hard-rockin’ classic from 1976 – HERE is the right sound for this music
  • These two sides give you what you need for The Royal Scam – rich, meaty, with powerful rhythmic energy and not too bright
  • “Drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie lashes out the rolling grooves on most of the nine tracks, establishing the album’s anxious feel, and Larry Carlton’s jaw-dropping guitar work provides a running commentary to Fagen’s strangulated vocals… These are not the sort of Steely Dan songs favored by smooth-jazz stations.”

The best copies of Steely Dan’s brilliant effort from 1976 — so different from the album before, Katy Lied, as well as the album to follow, Aja — manage to combine richness and smoothness with transparency and clarity, a tough combination to find on The Royal Scam. (more…)

Eagles – Hotel California

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Ca you’ve heard
  • We are having a devil of a time finding this album in audiophile playing condition these days, which is why you practically never see them on the site anymore, and copies quieter than Mint Minus Minus are practically unheard of
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick – here’s a copy that’s transparent, and hi-rez, with all the energy and Tubey Magic that can only be found on these original pressings
  • 5 stars: “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band… The result was the Eagles’ biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.”

We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP.

From first note to last, this pressing has Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song Hotel California. It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

Life In The Fast Lane is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture, and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is Try And Love Again. On a Nearly White Hot Stamper copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level. (more…)

The Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM)

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • You’ll find Demo Disc Quality Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 45 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

Genesis / A Trick Of The Tail – A Must Own Prog Masterpiece

Hot Stamper Pressings of Genesis Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Genesis on Vinyl

  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Here’s an amazing Trick of the Tail that absolutely blows the typical pressing out of the water!
  • The sound is BIG, BOLD and OPEN, breaking free from the grainy and cloudly qualities that screw up the average copy
  • HERE is the deep, note-like, well-articulated bass that the MOFI and 95% of all the other pressings don’t have

It was a thrill to finally hear this album sound great after all these years. The cymbals are clean and silky, the vocals are present, the bass has real weight and the overall sound is balanced and natural! You’ve got to clean and play a TON of copies to have any hope of finding one that’d come anywhere near this one.

At the end of the second track on side one, Entangled, there is a wonderful sounding choral effect which Alan Parsons liked so much he decided to use it liberally on his own recordings. He’s famous for having admitted to analyzing classic rock records, then taking the best bits and pieces, cobbling them together and producing the “music” that he is known for. I prefer the original bits and pieces myself. (more…)

James Taylor – In The Pocket

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  • Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects; there’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album
  • Rich, sweet, and lively — Woman’s Gotta Have It sounds fantastic here
  • An underappreciated album that we’re big fans of here at Better Records!

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Both of these sides are rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. (more…)

Jackson Browne – The Pretender

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  • One of the all time great rock / pop Demo Discs — the best copies are so rich and full-bodied they make most rock records sound positively anemic
  • Five Stars in Rolling Stone, one of their Top 500 Albums, and a true classic from 1976
  • Without a doubt the best sounding record Jackson Browne ever made – this is the pressing that backs up everything we say and more

As I’m sure you know by now, especially if you own a copy or two, pressings of The Pretender don’t usually sound like Demo Discs. In fact, most copies of this record are mediocre at best — thin, grainy, and flat sounding.

This copy is none of those things. And it positively kills the famous MoFi pressing. (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. / Danse Infernale / Fiedler – Our Favorite Night On Bald Mountain

More of the Music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Reviews and Commentaries for Mussorgsky’s Music

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the consistently best sounding batch of Orchestral Showpieces we have ever played
  • After a two year hiatus, our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain is back, and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Both sides are clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Watch your levels – this pressing is dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances of these barnburning showpieces is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor we have heard.

This pressing boasts relatively rich, sweet strings, especially for a Deutsche Grammophon LP. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy (and the reason it is so hard to find a copy that plays better than Mint Minus Minus. We do have a quieter copy with lower grades if you are interested though.) (more…)