1985-best

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love

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  • An original UK import pressing with seriously good sound from start to finish
  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, lively, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Kate’s wonderfully breathy vocals really soar
  • The domestic pressings are clearly made from dubs and should have no business taking up space in any serious audiophile record collection (but you may have noticed that we have a habit of saying that about a lot of records)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…from the minutiae of each song to the broad sweeping arc of the two suites, all heavily ornamented with layered instrumentation, makes this record wonderfully overpowering as a piece of pop music.”
  • If you’re a fan of the Ms Bush, her Magnum Opus from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Simply Red – Picture Book

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  • Big, spacious and clear, but also remarkably analog-sounding, with the kind of fullness and richness that’s so rare on records from this era 
  • “Holding Back the Years” was the big hit (#1), but what really sold me on the album was the band’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” – not an obvious choice, and a truly inspired one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band finds a steady R&B groove reminiscent of ’60s Stax house band the MG’s, and, as with the MG’s, it’s all in the service of a big-voiced soul singer, in this case a British redhead.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finally, Analog Sound for this wonderful music. The average copy of this album may sound like you’re playing a CD, but not this one. Here is the warmth and richness and depth you didn’t know you could find on Simply Red’s Masterpiece (assuming you were even looking).

That flat, opaque, dry CD sound that we all love to hate is nowhere to be found on this pressing.

The domestic pressings can be good, but they sure don’t sound like this killer import.

A recording from 1985 is unlikely to have the Tubey Magic and warmth of an old Columbia. Let’s be serious, the 1980s – unlike the three decades that preceded them — were not known for the naturalness of their recordings. A few would make our Top 100 list (Let’s Dance springs to mind) but the pool of available candidates is shallow, not wide and deep like that of the decades before, in which so many records sound so good we could not begin to squeeze them nto a list limited to merely one hundred. Two hundred would easily make the cut, maybe more.

For the ’80s, it would be hard to come up with even a dozen I should think. Which is neither here nor there. The record must stand or fall on its own merits, not those of other records from the same decade, and fortunately this one stands very tall, with A Triple Plus As Good As It Gets sound on side one and a side two that nearly reaches such rarefied sonic heights. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

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  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • 4 stars: “Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar… a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this.

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)

Sade – Promise

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More Titles Only Offered on Import LP

  • Sade’s Best Album returns with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides of this UK disc are guaranteed to be amazing sounding compared to whatever you’ve heard
  • There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it – she is on fire on this album
  • Her best song is on side one here – Is It a Crime – and the big band arrangement will surely send chills up and down your spine, especially with Triple Plus sound quality

Not many copies manage to have this kind of consistently sweet sound across both sides. Here are the kind of present, breathy vocals this music absolutely requires to work its magic.

If you know this album at all, you know that most pressings are just too damn dark sounding. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy. (more…)

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

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  • An outstanding early British pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, spacious and lively, with an open, extended top end – this is the sound you want from Tears for Fears
  • More great songs than practically anything from the ’80s – Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Head Over Heels, just to name a few
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It is not only a commercial triumph, it is an artistic tour de force. And in the loping, percolating “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs From the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade.”

This is a CLASSIC in the Tears for Fears canon, probably the album most people regard as their best. I myself prefer Seeds of Love, which should take nothing away from Big Chair — both are exceptional productions from the ’80s no matter how you look at them.

SFTBC went to Number One on the charts for a reason. There’s really not a bad song on either side and mostly absolutely brilliant ones. (more…)

Talking Heads – Little Creatures

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  • An outstanding pressing of Little Creatures with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – this one has the BIG BEAT sound we love
  • I ask you, what record from 1985 sounds better than Little Creatures?
  • These sides are rockin’ on tracks like Stay Up Late, Road To Nowhere, And She Was, Creatures of Love and more
  • Surprisingly big, punchy and open sound for this ’85 pop classic – a Top 100 album and longtime Better Records favorite
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ear Candy …a pop album, and an accomplished one, by a band that knew what it was doing.”

We’re huge fans of Little Creatures, and when you hear a copy like this you’ll know exactly why. Not many records from this era sound as amazingly rich as this one, not in our experience anyway.

On the better copies, the sound is punchy, smooth & so ANALOG, with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good Big Beat Pop Album record needs. For a good reference think Get The Knack or Parallel Lines.

Tight, punchy, surprisingly deep note-like bass absolutely makes or breaks the sound on Little Creatures. Without the proper bass foundation this funky beat-crazy Talking Heads album can’t BEGIN to do what it’s trying to do: get your feet tappin’ and your body rockin’ to the music.

The better pressings are surprisingly dynamic, with a sweet, often silky top end. The drums are very well recorded throughout — you can really hear the room around that big kit. You will also find that the higher-rez pressings give David Byrne’s vocals the presence and breathy texture they need. The overall sound will be open, spacious, and sweet — even three-dimensional. (more…)

Squeeze / Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti – A Personal Favorite from 1985

 

If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson and even quite a few other lesser-knowns from this era, Squeeze is the band for you. I put them right up there with Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel in the pantheon of Best British Pop Music of All Time.

This has long been a favorite album of mine, a Desert Island Disc if you will, with some of the most powerfully produced, intelligently written and passionately performed songs in the entire Squeeze canon.

There’s plenty of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness on the best British pressings — such as this one — qualities the domestic pressings are sorely lacking. If you want to hear this music right, on vinyl it’s British or nothing, and with one of our Hot Stamper pressings it’s British and everything — everything that’s good about this recording is captured on these sides.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

The overall sound needs to be rich and tubey, not dry, thin or modern. Clarity and space are nice but not if they come at the expense of the smooth, rich, natural sound of tubes (whether there are tubes in the chain or not). (more…)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents

  • You find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this wonderful early pressing, guaranteed to beat anything you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “Southern Accents is an ambitious album, attempting to incorporate touches of psychedelia, soul, and country into a loose concept about the modern South… “Rebels” and “Spike” are fine rockers, and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” expand The Heartbreakers’ sound nicely.”

If you’ve tried to find a good sounding copy of this album, you could easily be forgiven for throwing in the towel — we almost did ourselves, and more than once. We’ve cleaned and played a pile of copies over the years, and now we are glad to report that this one sounds like a completely different album — it’s rich, smooth and sweet, a big step up over the typical gritty, grainy copy.

Credit must obviously go to the man behind the console, Shelly Yakus, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, had never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing a White Hot Stamper pressing of Damn the Torpedoes and a killer copy of Crack the Sky’s Animal Notes, as well as amazing sounding pressings of Moondance (his first official lead engineering gig) and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, we realize that we have seriously underestimated the man. (more…)

Anita Baker – Rapture

  • This quiet-storm classic earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides and plays on exceptionally quiet vinyl to boot
  • Rapture is one of the best sounding recordings from the era – with all due respect to Whitney Houston, if I could have only one album of ’80s soulful female vocals, it would have to be this one
  • Key to the sound is richness and Tubey Magic, along with strong midrange presence, and on this Super Hot Stamper you get all three
  • 5 stars: “Rapture gave Baker one moving hit after another, including ‘Sweet Love,’ ‘Caught up in the Rapture,’ ‘Same Ole Love,’ and ‘No One in This World.'”

A Soul Classic — winner, and deservedly so, of 2 Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best R&B Female Vocal. (more…)