Better Records

Paul Gonsalves – Tell It The Way It Is!

More Saxophone Jazz

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Tell It The Way It Is!
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • Engineered by the great Bob Simpson, this album has it going on – musically and sonically
  • Gonsalves was Ellington’s tenor man, and his wonderfully expressive tone is what makes many of Ellington’s recordings the joy they are to this day

This vintage Impulse! pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Tell It The Way It Is have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Tell It The Way It Is!

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

  • Paul Gonsalves – tenor saxophone
  • Johnny Hodges – alto saxophone
  • Ray Nance – trumpet, violin
  • Rolf Ericson – trumpet
  • Walter Bishop Jr. – piano
  • Ernie Shepard – bass, vocals
  • Osie Johnson – drums

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Tell It The Way It Is
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

Side Two

Duke’s Place
impulsive
Rapscallion In Rab’s Canyon
Body And Soul

AMG  Review

When Duke Ellington’s sidemen recorded on their own, the Duke’s influence often had a way of asserting itself even if he was nowhere near the studio. This was true in the 1930s and 1940s, and it was true on some of Paul Gonsalves’ recordings of the 1960s. Nonetheless, Gonsalves was his own man, and this excellent [recording] points to the fact that the breathy tenor saxophonist wasn’t afraid to enter a variety of musical situations….

AMG Bio

Before joining Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1950, he had also played in big bands led by Count Basie (1947–1949) and Dizzy Gillespie (1949–1950).

At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves’ solo in Ellington’s song “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” went through 27 choruses; the publicity from this performance is credited with reviving Ellington’s career. The performance is captured on the album Ellington at Newport. Gonsalves was a featured soloist in numerous Ellingtonian settings. He received the nickname “The Strolling Violins” from Ellington for playing solos while walking through the crowd.

Gonsalves died in London a few days before Duke Ellington’s death, after a lifetime of addiction to alcohol and narcotics. Mercer Ellington refused to tell Duke of the passing of Gonsalves, fearing the shock might further accelerate his father’s decline. Ellington and Gonsalves, along with trombonist Tyree Glenn, lay side-by-side in the same New York funeral home for a period of time.

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Blondie – Eat To The Beat

More Blondie

More Women Who Rock

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  • Stunning sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines with both sides of this original pressing earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Turn it up as loud as you want – the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy
  • The drums and bass of Die Young Stay Pretty are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet from the band
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming.”

This is Mike Chapman’s Big Beat Sonic Masterpiece — yes, the sound is actually bigger and better than the sound on Parallel Lines — akin to the debuts of The Knack and The Cars, and every bit as huge and punchy as either.

Eat to the Beat lives and dies by its energy, its bass and above all by its transient snap. The drums and bass of Die Young Stay Pretty are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet in front of the band. On the best copies it’s hard to imagine that song sounding any better. The drum and bass are massive in their attack. It’s the very definition of punch.

This original Crysalis pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Eat To The Beat Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

The Magic Formula for Hot Stampers

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, as you work through them you will surely stumble upon some that really rock, with the kind of presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums that make this music come to life in your very own listening room. The best copies were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right.

Way back in 2009 we wrote:

Watch for Hot Stampers of the band’s fourth album coming to the site one of these days, later this year I would guess. The best copies have true Demo Disc sound. If you own the record, drop the needel on Die Young, Stay Pretty and turn the volume up as loud as your stereo will play. (Your own personal Turn Up the Volume Test.) If you have a good copy it will ROCK — the sound can be unbelievably dynamic and punchy. We love that Big Rock sound here at Better Records, and the very special Hot Stamper pressings that have it!

And here, years later, is the very pressing that will back up those claims. Turn it up as loud as you want; the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy, so it just keeps getting better the louder you go (within reason of course).

To be fair, consistency is the problem with this album, with some songs being absolute Pop Masterpieces (Dreaming on side one, Die Young Stay Pretty on side two), but other tracks not quite at the level set by Parallel Lines, where every track was a gem of songcraft and Glossy Pure Pop Production.

Still, what’s good is good, and the sound is STUNNING, with real Demo Disc qualities.

What We’re Listening For on Eat To The Beat

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Dreaming 
The Hardest Part 
Union City Blue 
Shayla 
Eat to the Beat
Accidents Never Happen

Side Two

Die Young Stay Pretty
Slow Motion 
Atomic 
Sound-A-Sleep
Victor 
Living in the Real World

AMG Review

…The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming.

My favourite album

Blondie’s masterpiece is usually held to be 1978’s Parallel Lines, while Eat to the Beat, which followed a year later, is considered an inferior attempt to duplicate its arty/trashy perfection. I can understand why Parallel Lines gets so much love – any album that contains Heart of Glass, Hanging on the Telephone and Sunday Girl is going to rank high in people’s Best Records of All Time list. For me, though, it lacked the special shot of cool downtown decadence that, in my impressionable head, underpinned Eat to the Beat.

I wasn’t really aware of Eat to the Beat until several years after it came out. I discovered it during the summer that I lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, on a street populated by drug dealers and new wave scenesters. The area had a sordid glamour that I fancied was a bit like Paris in the 20s, and my preoccupation was how to be part of it. Too geeky to be one of the cool kids, too chicken to actually take drugs, I nonetheless wanted to swap places with one of the heroin-addled Johnny Thunders/Lydia Lunch lookalikes who slouched around the place in studded belts and black hair.

Then I came across Eat to the Beat, which seemed to embody all the nocturnal seediness of their lifestyle. The album, I should explain, wasn’t overtly about sex, drugs or the after-hours clubs where they hung out – in fact, you could’ve mistaken it for a collection of catchy pop songs. (One music site retrospectively dismisses it as mere “corporate rock” – how dare they?) But when you connect with an album, it doesn’t matter so much how it sounds as where you are when you hear it. And I was in my room on East 7th Street, playing Atomic and Die Young, Stay Pretty over and over, wondering how to become a drug addict without taking drugs.

So, for one humid New York summer, it was my soundtrack. The pinging disco of Atomic sounded to me like a monumentally hedonistic rush, The Hardest Part evoked the Italian-American truck drivers who catcalled the new wave girls sidling down 7th Street and Die Young, Stay Pretty’s beginner-level reggae sounded strange and dangerous. Even the delicate lullaby Sound-a-Sleep captured the disorienting feeling of leaving a club at dawn, when the streets were silent and swept clean. Eat to the Beat brilliantly encapsulated all the things that made New York so intoxicating. And it helped that Blondie themselves lived this dark downtown life (or so I thought – in fact, by then, guitarist Chris Stein had contracted a serious illness, and the band soon split up).

I left the album in New York when I moved to London, and haven’t listened to it all the way through in years. The only song I play occasionally now is Atomic. But when I do, I still remember wandering down the streets of the East Village with the album on my Walkman, trying to pass for one of the cool kids.

Caroline Sullivan – The Guardian

1979 – The Year in Music

Nineteen Seventy Nine sure was an interesting year.

The Wall, Breakfast in America, London Calling, Off the Wall, Get the Knack, Damn the Torpedoes, Armed Forces, Spirits Having Flown, Tusk, The B-52s, Rust Never Sleeps, Rickie Lee Jones, Candy-O — the variety is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the number of albums recorded in ’79 that sound fresh and engaging to this day, more than 35 years after they were released. I could sit down in front of my speakers today and play any one of them all the way through. Try that with ten favorite albums from ’89, ’99 or ’09.

Eric Clapton – Slowhand

More Eric Clapton

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  • This KILLER of Clapton’s 1977 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • One of our favorite Clapton albums – this one is notoriously difficult to find good sound quality and reasonably quiet surfaces
  • With Glyn Johns behind the board, rest assured the sound will be suitably rich, smooth, sweet and above all ANALOG
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is laid-back virtuosity — although Clapton and his band are never flashy, their playing is masterful and assured. That assurance and the album’s eclectic material make Slowhand rank with 461 Ocean Boulevard as one of Eric Clapton’s best albums.”

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The Pareto Effect in Audio – The 80/20 Rule Is Real

Hot Stampers of Ambrosia Available Now

Commentaries and Letters for Ambrosia’s Debut

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Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better audio tweakers.

You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak your equipment to get it.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought. At least 80% is what you’ve done with it. (Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%.)

This is known as the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few and The Principle of Factor Sparsity, illustrates that 80% of effects arise from 20% of the causes – or in lamens terms – 20% of your actions/activities will account for 80% of your results/outcomes.

The Pareto Principle gets its name from the Italian-born economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who observed that a relative few people held the majority of the wealth (20%) – back in 1895. Pareto developed logarithmic mathematical models to describe this non-uniform distribution of wealth and the mathematician M.O. Lorenz developed graphs to illustrate it.

Dr. Joseph Juran was the first to point out that what Pareto and others had observed was a “universal” principle—one that applied in an astounding variety of situations, not just economic activity, and appeared to hold without exception in problems of quality.

In the early 1950s, Juran noted the “universal” phenomenon that he has called the Pareto Principle: that in any group of factors contributing to a common effect, a relative few account for the bulk of the effect. Juran has also coined the terms “vital few” and “useful many” or “trivial many” to refer to those few contributions, which account for the bulk of the effect and to those many others which account for a smaller proportion of the effect. — Juran

This Is One of The Records That Did It For Me

Perhaps hearing Dark Side was what made you realize how good a record could sound. Looking back on it over the last thirty years, it’s clear to me now that this Ambrosia album, along with a score of others, is one of the surest reasons I became an audiophile in the first place, and stuck with it for so long. What could be better than hearing music you love sound so good?

It’s clearly an album we are obsessed with. We have written extensively about 50 of them to date. It is our contention that to be any good at this hobby, you have to become obsessed with well-recorded albums and work out the consequences of those obsessions for yourself. We wrote about it here. An excerpt:

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year.

As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some of them will no doubt become more apparent. For the most part, however, with continual refinements and improvements to your system and room, vintage pressings will continue to sound better the longer you stay active in the hobby.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

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Listening in Depth to Aftermath – The First in a String of Must Own Stones Albums

More Rolling Stones

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

Lady Jane, Under My Thumb and Mother’s Little Helper are three of the best sounding tracks on side one — all three are lively and solid here. On side two Out of Time and I Am Waiting are especially well recorded.

DAVE HASSINGER rightly deserves the credit for the best sounding early Stones album — this one.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Mothers Little Helper

Superb! On the best copies this track is so transparent you can feel the cool air of the studio.

Stupid Girl

Somewhat dark and compressed as a rule. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Animals

More Pink Floyd

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

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  • An outstanding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too (for the most part)
  • The best sounding pressing are British reissues, a discovery we made about ten years ago — nothing can touch them
  • Forget the dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl – only these Brits have the Tubey Magical Midrange that lets Pink Floyd come alive 
  • “Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall. Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly …it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures.”

As of 2021, Animals sounds better to us this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On the Right Import Pressing 

On the Right Reissue Pressing

If you are interested, click on the link below for:

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice


This vintage Harvest pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Animals Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Animals

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of vintage UK pressings of Classic Pink Floyd albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1
Dogs

Side Two

Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Sheep
Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2

AMG Review

Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall.

Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly, with Richard Wright’s keyboards rarely rising above a mood-setting background (such as on the intro to “Sheep”). This gives the music, on occasion, immediacy and actually heightens the dark mood by giving it muscle.

It allso makes Animals as accessible as it possibly could be, since it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures. Through it all, though, the utter blackness of Waters’ spirit holds true, and since there are no vocal hooks or melodies, everything rests on the mood, the near-nihilistic lyrics, and Gilmour’s guitar.

The Big Sound

Pink Floyd easily qualifies as one of the handful of bands to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s, music that holds up to this day. The music on their albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into their complex sound.

Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen the more you are apt to discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the band. And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of their recordings.

Shooting Out the Tough Ones

Pink Floyd albums always make for tough shootouts. Like Yes, a comparably radio-friendly Pop Prog band, their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording makes it difficult to translate their complex sounds to disc, vinyl or otherwise. Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. (Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.)

If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be).

Obsessing over every aspect of record reproduction is what we do for a living. Pink Floyd’s recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing their albums as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.

When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun.


FURTHER READING

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Making Audio Progress 

We Get Letters 

We Was Wrong

The Who – Who’s Next

More of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout and vintage vinyl that’s about as quiet as we can find it
  • This pressing is every bit as quiet as our recent White Hot Stamper which went for $749, and the sonic grades are nearly the same, only one half plus lower on one side
  • This British Track pressing is guaranteed to blow your mind with its phenomenal sound — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em, Sock ’em bottom end energy
  • Compare this to any Heavy Vinyl (or other) pressing and you will hear in a heartbeat why we think The Real Thing just cannot be beat
  • 5 stars: “This is invigorating because it has. . . Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse. Those were art — this, even with its pretensions, is rock & roll.”

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After Years of Searching, We Finally Found an Old Beatles Record that Sounds Pretty Good to Us

The Beatles for Sale

On the Yellow and Black Parlophone label! This is best sounding early label pressing we have ever played. Not a Shootout Winner, far even close, but a perfectly enjoyable copy of one of the best sounding Beatles albums we play on a regular basis.

Before this, the only Beatles record we would sell on the Yellow and Black Parlophone label was A Collection of Oldies… But Goldies. That title does have the best sound on the early label. In numerous shootouts, no Black and Silver label pressing from the ’70s was competitive with the best stereo copies made in the ’60s.

Until now, it was clearly the exception to our rule: that from With the Beatles up through Sgt. Pepper, the best sounding Beatles pressings would always be found on the best reissue pressings.

Here are the notes for the best sounding For Sale on the early label we played in our recent shootout.

For those who have trouble reading our writing, the basics are:

Side One

Track one is clear enough, a bit recessed.

Track two is clear, open and lively, with good space, but not as weighty as the best.

Side Two

Track one is relaxed, solid and musical, with good size.

Track two is full, solid and musical, with good bass.

We Was Wrong

A very good sounding record, with few of the problems we heard on the other early label Beatles pressings we’ve played in the past. Most of them had the kind of Old School sound — compressed, congested, harmonically distorted, bandwidth limited, etc. — that kept them from making the cut.

For Sale here is one we have to admit defied our expectations. A classic case of Live and Learn.

But that’s the reason to play records, not judge them by their labels, right? How else would you possibly learn anything about their sound? And you have to play them head to head against other copies, a normally crude process we’ve refined over the last twenty years into a science: the Hot Stamper Shootout.

The Bottom Line

Will we ever buy another one? Probably not. The right later label pressings always win the shootouts, and the second tier copies on the later label will tend to be cheaper to buy, in better condition and pressed on quieter vinyl.

If you really must have an early label pressing, like this guy, you will have no trouble finding one in good shape.  Well, maybe not no trouble, because buying records over the internet is a major pain. Let’s just say it can be done.

Cleaning the record is another matter. For that you need a lot of expensive equipment and plenty of time on your hands. (more…)

Workingman’s Dead is Dead as a Doornail on Rhino Records

More Grateful Dead

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

The 2003 Rhino reissue on heavy vinyl of Workingman’s Dead is absolutely awful. It sounds like a bad cassette. The CD of the album that I own is superb, which means that the tapes are not the problem, bad mastering and pressing are. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

More Randy Newman

More Singer Songwriter Albums

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  • A superb original pressing of Good Old Boys, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • 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
  • 5 Stars: “Good Old Boys is one of Newman’s finest albums; it’s also one of his most provocative and infuriating, and that’s probably just the way he wanted it.”

With Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman producing, and Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee engineering, this album has the exceptionally smooth, rich, analog sound you would expect to find on a production guided by these men. It also happens to be a sound we love here at Better Records.

It’s the sound of vintage Reprise from 1974. (more…)