1983

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

More Billy Joel

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this copy of Joel’s ninth studio album
  • Dynamic and open, with driving rhythmic energy – this early pressing brings this great batch of songs to life
  • Jam packed with hits: An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, Leave a Tender Moment Alone, and more – seven singles in all
  • 4 stars: “[H]e’s effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles, from the Four Seasons send-up “Uptown Girl” and the soulful “Tell Her About It” to a pair of doo wop tributes, “The Longest Time” and “Careless Talk.” Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.”

Both of these sides have the huge soundstage and startling clarity and immediacy that characterizes this album, but they also add an ingredient missing from most we heard — a full, rich, musical midrange!

On many pressings, the vocals can get hard and harsh on the uptempo tracks (“Uptown Girl” is a notable offender, and never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album), but this copy manages to fix that problem (mostly) without sacrificing transparency or top end.

This was a monster in its day, generating a Number One hit and seven total single releases out of the ten songs that comprise it. Seven out of ten, not a bad track record. We couldn’t find a weak song on the album either, which is surely one of the reasons it sold seven million copies in the states alone. (more…)

Tears for Fears – The Hurting

More Tears for Fears

More Art Rock

  • This early British pressing of TFF’s debut album is close to the BEST we have ever heard, with both sides earning killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Classic tracks like “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter,” and “Change” have stood the test of time – they’re played in TFF’s concerts to this day (we saw them not that long ago)
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings – with top quality Hot Stamper sound, this copy is sure to trounce anything you’ve ever heard
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…powerful pieces of music, beautifully executed in an almost minimalist style…an exquisite sonic painting sweeping the listener up in layers of pulsing synthesizers, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and sheets of electronic sound…”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.


Folks, take it from us, it is not every pressing that can manage to get rid of the digital harshness and congestion that so many copies suffer from, and then go on to open up its soundstage to be as wide, deep and tall as the enormous soundstage that you will hear on this very copy. When you have at your disposal a pressing like this one — notably richer, smoother and sweeter than many — the minor shortcomings of the recording will no longer interfere with your enjoyment of this groundbreaking music.

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David Bowie – Let’s Dance

More David Bowie

  • Boasting two killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this vintage pressing is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of solid bass, clear guitar transients, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • A real Demo Disc on the right system – “Modern Love,” “China Girl” and the title track are knockouts when you play them good and loud
  • On a Hot Stamper pressing that sounds as good as this one does, Omar Hakim’s drumming will rock your world like nothing you have heard
  • Top 100, of course – Let’s Dance is one of the best sounding Bowie albums ever recorded – this superb pressing is proof!
  • One of the best releases of 1983, although that may not be saying much, since by 1983 popular music was definitely headed downhill — Bowie himself would never again release an album as good as Let’s Dance

Bowie is without question one of the all time great frontmen and producers. This is his last good album and a Must Own for audiophiles, especially if you have big dynamic speakers. Like we say, with this one you are in for a treat.

Hearing a top copy of Let’s Dance is truly a special experience; the damn thing is amazingly well recorded, especially considering it came along well after the Golden Age of Rock Recording (the ’60s and ’70s, don’t you know). The sound is analog at its best; rich, full and super-punchy.

I have never heard a CD in my life with this kind of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness. That medium never does justice to the sound of recordings like this one, in my experience anyway. People who exclusively play CDs have forgotten what that sound is; that’s why they can happily live without it. I sure can’t. At present, this sound is exclusively the domain of analog and likely to remain so well into the future.

In addition, the musicianship is Top Notch and then some. Omar Hakim’s drumming is powerful, energetic, and performed with military precision. The guy is out of his mind on this album.

The combination of Nile Rodgers and the Legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar makes for a tasty, intricate mix of subtle rhythm work and searing leads. Or is that soaring leads? Hey, on this album it’s both.

If you’re a fan of big drums in a big room, this is the album for you.

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Willie Nelson – Without A Song

More Willie Nelson

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout 
  • As he did so brilliantly on Stardust, here Willie brings his inimitable singing style to classics of love and loss taken from The Great American Songbook
  • Top quality arrangements – drop the needle on Autumn Leaves or A Dreamer’s Holiday to hear Booker T and his bandmates at their best
  • Top tracks include Autumn Leaves, As Time Goes By, Harbor Lights and of course, Without a Song
  • The critics may not have been impressed, but music lovers sure were – Amazon buyers award the album more than 4 1/2 stars

Once again Willie is backed by a top-notch backing band fronted by the one and only Booker T. Jones. Drop the needle on “Once In A While” and dig the uncanny presence of the vocal and astonishing clarity of the ensemble.

Much like Stardust, a Hot Stamper pressing of this record is a real treat for we audiophiles. This is some amazingly soulful music with midrange magic to spare.

There’s lots of air up top, giving the instruments plenty of room to breathe. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied; if Willie’s voice doesn’t sound a bit gravelly, you’re probably playing an overly smooth or lo-rez copy, and we take away a lot of points for both.

This copy gives you everything you could ask for from this music — tight bass, clearly audible guitar transients, generous amounts of warmth and sweetness, vocal immediacy and studio ambience like no other.

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The Rolling Stones – Undercover

More of The Rolling Stones

More Rock and Pop

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this vintage pressing will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are BIGGER and RICHER and have more of the rock solid energy that’s missing from the average copy
  • If you know Chris Kimseys engineering work from Some Girls, Tattoo You, Frampton Comes Alive and the like, then you should have a good idea of what this album sounds like on the better copies
  • “As the Rolling Stones’ most ambitious album since Some Girls, Undercover is a weird, wild mix of hard rock, new wave pop, reggae, dub, and soul. [A] fascinating record…”

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The Police – Synchronicity

More Police

More Sting

  • A Synchronicity like you’ve never heard, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this vintage copy
  • Clearly better than most other pressings we played – when you can hear it sound this good you may come to appreciate, as we did, just how good the music is
  • “Every Breath You Take” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” are amazingly big, rich and Tubey Magical here – they are exceptional recordings, and this pressing does them proud
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Few other albums from 1983 merged tasteful pop, sophistication, and expert songwriting as well as Synchronicity did, resulting in yet another all-time classic.”

This music can have real Rock and Roll POWER — if you’re lucky enough to own a pressing with the energy of the master tapes inscribed in its grooves. Some have it and some don’t.

Welcome to the world of analog, where no two copies sound the same and most are nothing special. (No two covers of this album look the same either. Get a pile of them out and see if you can find two that match. It’s not easy.) (more…)

Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

More Count Basie

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A KILLER piano trio recording with superb sound on both sides of this original Pablo LP
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than most other copies we played
  • A different, more compact sound for Basie, joined here as he is by two of the most sympathetic sidemen in jazz: Ray Brown on bass and Louis Bellson on drums
  • “[T]he main joy of this set is hearing Basie stretch out on such numbers as ‘If I Could Be with You,’ ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ and ‘The One I Love,’ tunes he did not play much with his orchestra in this later period.”
  • Steer clear of the OJC of this title – it’s thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want

It’s a joy to hear Basie perform as a frontman, stretching out on tunes that were no doubt dear to him. Veterans of hundreds of sessions, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson are just as interesting as Basie, high praise.

Recorded by the legendary engineer Ed Greene (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba) — that accounts for the exceptional sound.

Naturally we pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days, having had very good luck with a great many of them. When we dropped the needle on a copy of this one a few years back we were amazed at the sound. My post-it, still on the record, reads “SUPERB DEMO DISC.” It certainly is.

This album was part of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City that Pablo undertook with Basie later in his career. Basie had recorded a piano trio record with the same gents the year before For the First Time and must have enjoyed himself enough to give it another go.

The best copies are big and rich, and present you with a solid, weight, clear piano like few piano trio recordings you have ever heard.

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U2 – War

More U2

  • A War like you’ve never heard, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing had more presence, clarity and resolution in the midrange, and less of the congested, dark sound we hear on so many of U2’s records
  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is key to the best pressings, and here it is on both sides
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the ominous, fiery protest of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ War immediately announces itself as U2’s most focused and hardest-rocking album to date. Blowing away the fuzzy, sonic indulgences of October with propulsive, martial rhythms and shards of guitar, War bristles with anger, despair, and above all, passion… U2 always aimed at greatness, but War was the first time they achieved it.”
  • If you’re a fan, this U2 title from 1983 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1983 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

When you get hold of a good pressing, War can be a surprisingly good sounding album; much better than The Joshua Tree (although that may not be saying much).

Many of the LPs we played were as dry and flat as a cassette. Not this copy, even though it had the same stampers as some of those that did not earn particularly good sonic grades.

The vocals were present and breathy, even silky on some songs. There was real clarity and resolution throughout the midrange, not the congested, dark sound we’ve heard on so many of the records from this band. (The ones that don’t sound thin and aggressive, that is.)

Our advice: Drop the needle on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” turn it up good and loud and get ready to rock. Check out the drums at the opening — they are right there. The drums on Joshua Tree sound like cardboard boxes covered in blankets. Not these.

You can thank producer Steve Lillywhite for the hard-driving sound on War. He keeps the sound simple, clean and punchy.

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Yes – 90125

More Yes

More Prog Rock

  • An original German Atco import pressing that was doing practically everything right, earning killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both of these sides are spacious, solid and dynamic with huge bass and analog richness that’s hard to find on this album
  • There’s tons of life and energy here and the vocals sound just right
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A stunning self-reinvention by a band that many had given up for dead, 90125 is the album that introduced a whole new generation of listeners to Yes… there’s nary a duff track on the album.”

I’m pleased to report that we can now add 90125 to our small list of ’80s albums that can sound excellent on the right pressing. Drop the needle on “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” and we bet you’ll agree.

So many copies we played were full of that digital grit and grain that we hear on so many records from the era. This one is an entirely different story. It has wonderful analog qualities, with more richness and smoothness than most pressings.

The recording itself is outstanding: punchy and lively with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good rock record needs. But you would never know it by playing the average pressing you might pick up for five bucks at your local used record store. The typical copy of this record is pretty average sounding. Let’s face it: Every mastering mistake that CAN be made WILL be made sooner or later with mass-produced vinyl like this.

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Bob Dylan – Infidels

More Bob Dylan

  • An outstanding copy of Infidels with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, strong bass and plenty of space, this copy sounded just right to us
  • 4 stars: “… its writing is closer to Dylan’s peak of the mid-’70s, and some of the songs here… are minor classics, capturing him reviving his sense of social consciousness and his gift for poetic, elegant love songs.”

This is one of the better sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)