Better Records

Journey – Evolution

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the first – (mostly) exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Three distinctive qualities of vintage analog recordings – richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality – are most clearly heard on a Big Production Rock Record like Evolution in the loudest, densest, most climactic choruses of the songs, and this side one delivers that size and power like no copy you’ve ever heard
  • “Journey could seemingly do no wrong. Evolution quickly became the band’s biggest-selling album, and Perry and co. soon embarked on yet another mammoth tour, which set many an attendance record, and set the stage for even greater triumph with 1980’s Departure.”

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The Beatles on Vinyl – An Audiophile Wake Up Call

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Beatles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Beatles

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This commentary was written about 15 years ago. Unlike some of the things I used to say about records and audio, every word of this commentary still holds true in my opinion.

The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles — when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine — are truly revelatory.

So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It’s getting the damn vinyl clean. (It’s also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn’t add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)

Know why you never hear Beatles vinyl playing in stereo stores or audio shows?*

Because they’re TOO DAMN HARD to reproduce. You have to have seriously tweaked, top-quality, correct-sounding equipment — and just the right pressings, natch — to get The Beatles’ music to sound right, and that’s just not the kind of stuff they have at stereo stores and audio shows. (Don’t get me started.)
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Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece

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  • An amazing sounding copy of this 1974 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Most copies weren’t nearly this rich, warm and sweet.
  • This inspired collection reflects Morrison’s Irish roots, with Celtic, acoustic influences, and the same introspective quality found on Astral Weeks
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Veedon Fleece is every bit the creative equal of its more famous predecessors… If any album reflects a real period of transition for an artist, it’s this one. It’s brilliant.”

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Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

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  • Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The vinyl is quite good on side one, but side two is its usual crackly self in the quieter passages — at least no marks play
  • The sound is KILLER from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers (which is exactly the sound the modern Heavy Vinyl pressings cannot give you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity? (more…)

Weather Report – Sweetnighter

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Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

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  • Boogie Woogie Waltz was one of the most mindblowing tracks found on any album from 1973
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • 4 stars: ” It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers.”

This is our favorite Weather Report album here at Better Records. Heavy Weather is arguably a more ambitious and more accomplished piece of work, but Sweetnighter is so original and rhythmically compelling that we find ourselves enjoying it more. I don’t know of any other album on the planet like it. We only know of two Must-Own Weather Report albums, this one and Heavy Weather. They both belong in your collection if you’re a fan of jazz fusion.

The top end is fully extended here in a way that most copies barely hint at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined. All the stuff we look for on a Classic Weather Report album is here.

Note especially that the energy is excellent, and both sides are also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Listening in Depth to So Far

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Records in Stock

More Commentaries and Letters for So Far

This is a very difficult record to find with proper mastering (and good vinyl, ouch!). It seems that all of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s albums are that way. The average domestic pressing rarely even hints at how well recorded this band really was (and the imports are even worse — we’ve never heard one that didn’t sound dubby, veiled and compressed).

In my experience not even one out of ten LPs sounds right; I put the figure at one out of twenty. Most of them are shrill, dull, grainy, flat, opaque, harsh and in varying degrees suffer from every other mastering and pressing malady known to man.

But the best ones have some tracks in superb sound. When you hear the Hot Stampers for records like this you will simply be AMAZED. If you’ve ever heard a really good If Only I Could Remember My Name, an album that CAN be found with proper mastering, that should give you some idea of how good the first two albums can sound.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Déjà Vu

When you get a good copy of this album, this song sounds like it was lifted right off of a Hot Stamper copy of Deja Vu itself. It’s so rich and Tubey Magical you’d swear it couldn’t get any better. Huge amounts of deep bass. Acoustic guitars that ring for days. Midrange magic to die for. Not many of them sound this way, unfortunately.

If I could indulge in some more MoFi and Half-Speed bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MoFi, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MoFi, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either of So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MOFI is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

Stephen Barncard Does It Again

Listen to this song and compare it to anything on the Barncard-engineered first solo LP by David Crosby. That is the sound of Barncard’s engineering — open, spacious, rich, sweet; tons of deep bass; absolutely no trace of phony eq on vocals; acoustic guitars that ring for days — the man is a GENIUS. Thank god he was involved with music of this quality. If only more of the LP pressings did a better job of revealing the exquisite beauty of the recordings themselves. (I suppose that burden must be carried by the few Hot Stamper copies we can dig up.) (more…)

Jimmy Page – The Session Man

I’m so glad this music from the early ’60s does nothing for me because I sure wouldn’t want to try and find any of these old records!

 

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Led Zeppelin

Albeniz / Suite Espanola / De Burgos – Such a Dynamic Recording

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Suite Espanola sound remotely as good as it does on this amazing London pressing
  • The orchestral power on display is positively breathtaking – few recordings we know of are this DYNAMIC and EXCITING
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of clear, spacious, realistic sound that can only be found on the best vintage vinyl LPs
  • Performances and sound like no other – De Burgos’s Suite Espanola is practically in a league of its own

Wow, is this record ever DYNAMIC! I would put it right up there with the most dynamic recordings we have played over the course of the last twenty five years. It also has tons of DEPTH. The brass is at the far back of the stage, just exactly where they would be placed in the concert hall, which greatly adds to the realism of the recording.

Note that careful VTA adjustment for a record with this kind of dynamic energy is a must. Having your front end carefully calibrated to this record is the only way to guarantee there is no distortion or shrillness in even the loudest passages.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Clear castanets.

Big bass drum thwacks.

Crescendos that build to intense climaxes.

We Was Wrong (Already?)

The last time we did this shootout we noted:

The strings may not be quite as sweet as the best earlier Londons, but the trade off is well worth it when you hear a record with this kind of LIFE and so little distortion. Rich strings (or as rich as they can be in 1969, a good ten years after the amazingly Tubey Magical recordings of the ’50s).

This time around we heard plenty of Tubey Magic on our Shootout Winning pressing. Did we find a hotter one than last time? Are we doing a better job of bringing out that quality during playback?  Would this pressing hold its own against another recording made in Kingsway Hall a decade earlier?

Yes. No. Maybe? Who really knows?

We will leave it to the lucky customer who ends up with this killer copy to tell us. (more…)