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Foreigner – 4

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  • You’ll find stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this Radio Rock Classic 
  • This copy had the best energy, the punchiest bass, and biggest, most immediate presentation in our shootout
  • Rockers like Juke Box Hero and Urgent, along with the heartfelt ballad Waiting For A Girl Like You, are guaranteed to sound better than you ever imagined or your money back
  • “In producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange – fresh off his massive success with AC/DC’s Back in Black – guitarist and all-around mastermind Mick Jones found both the catalyst to achieve [a grand slam of a record] and his perfect musical soulmate… All things considered, 4 remains Foreigner’s career peak.”

What’s key to the sound of Foreigner’s records? Obviously, the big one would have to be ENERGY, a subject we have discussed at length here on the site. Next would be punchy ROCK BASS, followed by clear, present vocals.

Those are the big ones, and we are happy to report that this copy had the best Foreigner sound in all three areas. (more…)

Prince – Purple Rain

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More 5 Star Albums

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  • This copy of Prince’s legendary 1984 release is big and rich, with rock solid energy to beat the pants off of any pressing you have ever heard
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and smooth are harder to come by on this record – and here they are!
  • 5 stars: “Purple Rain finds Prince consolidating his funk and R&B roots while moving boldly into pop, rock, and heavy metal with nine superbly crafted songs… a stunning statement of purpose that remains one of the most exciting rock & roll albums ever recorded.”

The best copies, like this one, sound pretty much the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, Tubey Magical, with breathy vocals and little to no spit, grit, grain or grunge.

That’s the sound of analog, and the best copies of The Purple Rain have that sound. (more…)

The Ramsey Lewis Trio – More Music From The Soil

  • More Music From The Soil makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this early Argo stereo LP
  • This pressing stood head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, present, full-bodied sound this top piano trio demands (which is precisely where the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue fails so spectacularly, most notably in the areas of size and presence)
  • Hard to imagine we could find another copy with sound this good and vinyl this quiet – not many Ramsey Lewis records from this era did survived with audiophile quality playing surfaces the way this one did
  • “This is a typically enjoyable and accessible early Ramsey Lewis Trio recording. The pianist, bassist Eldee Young, and drummer Red Holt swing their way through…”

(more…)

Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick

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Reviews and Commentaries for Thick as a Brick

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  • This superb copy of Thick As A Brick offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • One of the few copies we’ve found lately with this kind of sound and audiophile quality playing surfaces
  • A Top 100 title and the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded – allow us to make the case
  • A stunning Demo Disc to Rule Them All — sure to be the best you’ve ever heard Tull sound if you have the system for it
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock – a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener.”

(more…)

The Fabulous Thunderbirds- Tuff Enuff

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  • The band’s 1986 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full and balanced with Blues-Rock energy to spare, this is a killer copy of a fun album
  • “Their breakthrough success. The title track and soul covers point the band in a new, more mainstream direction.”

(more…)

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…)

Rossini / Overtures / Maag

More of the music of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

More of Our Favorite Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

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  • With a BETTER than Triple Plus (A+++ to A++++) side two and a side one that earned a very respectable grade of Double Plus (A++), the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s Rossini is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

Please note: we award the More Than Three Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we called it A+++ to A++++!

We award this copy’s side two our better than Three Plus grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

The reason we called side two More Than Three Pluses is that of the eight or so copies we had in our shootout, no other copy on either side sounded as good as side two of this copy. We play a lot of classical records around here and this one really stood out from the pack as a true One Percenter.

Maag breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

Everyone needs a good Rossini Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons could not be equaled. Gamba on London was much too sleepy for our tastes, and the famous Reiner on RCA left a lot to be desired. It’s mid-hall perspective and dynamic compression took all the fun out of this music. After hearing the killer Maag pressings, nothing else would do!

Note that the orchestra is none other than the Paris Conservatoire, whose playing of the famously demanding Stravinsky Rite of Spring, under Monteux (LSC 2085), is absolutely stunning as well. (more…)

Whitney Houston – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • A stunning early Arista pressing, this copy earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to record by 1985 – but here it is, thank goodness
  • Consistently strong material: You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, All at Once, and Greatest Love of All (the last of seven (!) singles released from the album)
  • “…introduced the world to ‘The Voice,’ an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel.”

Having done this for so long — 2020 marks our 33rd year in the record business — we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound — even as late as 1985! — is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording; rather it lives or dies by its ability to recreate a solid, palpable, Whitney Houston singing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Elton John – Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player

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More Titles Only Offered on Import Vinyl

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  • A KILLER copy of Elton John’s 1973 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Forget the dubby, closed-in and transistory domestic pressings – here is the relaxed, rich, spacious, musical, lifelike sound that only the best imports can show you
  • Thanks to Ken Scott’s brilliant engineering and Gus Dudgeon’s production savvy, every song here sounds better than you imagined, because finally you are hearing it right
  • 4 stars: “His most direct, pop-oriented album… a very enjoyable piece of well-crafted pop/rock.”

The amazing engineer Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, Truth, Birds of Fire) is the man responsible for the stunning sound here.

The kind of Tubey Magical richness, smoothness and fullness he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s, as well as here at a certain French country estate, have never been equaled elsewhere in our opinion. (more…)

Rossini / Overtures / Maag

More of the music of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

More of Our Favorite Performances with Top Quality Sound

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  • With superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, the orchestral power on display here is positively breathtaking – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s Rossini is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

Maag breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

Everyone needs a good Rossini Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons could not be equaled. Gamba on London was much too sleepy for our tastes, and the famous Reiner on RCA left a lot to be desired. It’s mid-hall perspective and dynamic compression took all the fun out of this music. After hearing the killer Maag pressings, nothing else would do!

Note that the orchestra is none other than the Paris Conservatoire, whose playing of the famously demanding Stravinsky Rite of Spring, under Monteux (LSC 2085), is absolutely stunning as well. (more…)