Better Records

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

We have been trying to find great sound (on reasonable surfaces) for this album for YEARS — I kid you not — but this 2-pack is the first Hot Stamper version to ever hit the site. We have fired up this shootout multiple times since 2006 and been left empty-handed each and every time until the last go-around. We have sunk an insane amount of dough into trying to get a few killer copies because we love the music so much, but we just haven’t had much to show for it. If you love this Brazilian-flavored cool jazz as much as we do, you might want to snap this one up because who knows when or if we’ll find another one.

Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side one has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz.

Side two for me is even more magical. Getz fires up and lets loose some of his most emotionally intense playing. These sad, poetic songs are about feeling more than anything else and Getz communicates that so completely you don’t have to speak Portugese to know what Jobim is saying. Call it cool jazz with feeling.

Side one here has good bass, wonderful transparency and more presence than we heard elsewhere. The female vocals sound excellent and the sax is full bodied with clear leading-edge transients.

The side two of this set is even better, more extended up top and incredibly smooth and sweet overall. It’s got the impressive presence of the first side but could stand to be a bit fuller.

Both sides are a bit noisy as is pretty much always the case with this record — a big reason why we’ve struggled so hard with this album. The other big reason is that most copies just plain sound mediocre or worse, which you can find out for yourself by flipping over either of the Hot sides in this set.

This is an all-time jazz classic and it’s a shame we can’t find more great copies. This one isn’t going to be a top Demo Disc for any of you but it will give you two sides that show you how lovely this music sounds when you’re lucky enough to get a hold of a copy that’s not poorly mastered and obscured by seriously noisy vinyl.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Girl From Ipanema
Doralice
P’ra Machucar Meu Coracao
Desafinado

Side Two

Corvocado
So Danco Samba
O Grande Amor
Vivo Sohando

AMG Review

One of the biggest-selling jazz albums of all time, not to mention bossa nova’s finest moment, Getz/Gilberto trumped Jazz Samba by bringing two of bossa nova’s greatest innovators — guitarist/singer João Gilberto and composer/pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim — to New York to record with Stan Getz. The results were magic. Ever since Jazz Samba, the jazz marketplace had been flooded with bossa nova albums, and the overexposure was beginning to make the music seem like a fad. Getz/Gilberto made bossa nova a permanent part of the jazz landscape not just with its unassailable beauty, but with one of the biggest smash hit singles in jazz history — “The Girl From Ipanema,” a Jobim classic sung by João’s wife, Astrud Gilberto, who had never performed outside of her own home prior to the recording session…

This music has nearly universal appeal; it’s one of those rare jazz records about which the purist elite and the buying public are in total agreement. Beyond essential.

The Doors – The Doors – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

THE BEST SOUNDING COPY OF THIS ALBUM WE’VE EVER HEARD! This Elektra Gold Label SLAUGHTERED the DCC, MURDERED the MoFi, and DECIMATED every last pressing we played it against! You aren’t going to believe all the TUBEY MAGIC on this copy!

Both sides are chock full of wonderfully grungy guitars, BIG beefy bass, and amazingly full-bodied vocals. The overall sound is open and spacious with lots of room around the instruments. This copy has the kind of presence and energy that will have you really rockin’ out! Side one rates an A+++ and side two is right behind, rating A++ – A+++. We’ve never heard a better copy and we expect that you haven’t either — it’s OUT OF THIS WORLD!   (more…)

Eagles – Eagles – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

A WHITE HOT side one that was so darn good, we had to break our own rules and give it FOUR BIG PLUSES — A++++! This side one is a DEMO DISC like you will not believe. When the big chorus comes in on Take It Easy — one of the toughest tests for side one — you will be amazed by how energetic and downright GLORIOUS these boys can sound. Believe us when we tell you, it’s the rare copy that can pass that test. 

This side one had some of the best ENERGY we heard in our entire shootout (composed of all original pressings by the way; nothing else comes close, a subject we discuss below). With big bass and huge scope, this may become your favorite disc for showing your friends just what analog is really capable of. (We’ve heard many times from customers that they use Hot Stamper pressings of this very album for that exact purpose.)

It won’t take the future owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Want your speakers to disappear? Want to hear Live Rock Music in your listening room? This side one will make it happen!

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better. It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile pressing pale in comparison.

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. We picked out a Top Ten from that list and you will not be surprised to learn that this record made the cut. (Top Two or Three is more like it.)

At one time this was my single favorite Demo Disc. A customer who bought one of these one time told me it was the best sounding record he had ever heard in his life. I don’t doubt it for a minute. It’s certainly as good as any rock record I have ever heard, and I’ve heard hundreds if not thousands of awfully good ones.

Sides One and Two

Think this is all hyperbole? You sure won’t when you play side one on this copy! The sound positively JUMPS out of the speakers and fills the room! The transparency and clarity are nothing less than SHOCKING — just listen to all that ambience; those clear transients on the acoustic guitars, their harmonics captured so beautifully; the sound of the room around the drums.

The bass too is simply AMAZING — deep, tight, BIG and punchy. Take this record with you when shopping for speakers. The speaker that gets the POWER and ENERGY of this music right is the one you want. This record will separate the men from the boys thirty seconds into Take It Easy. It will be quite obvious who’s got the real piston power and who doesn’t.

One of the best things about this side one is the separation between the various parts, a result of the phenomenal transparency and freedom from distortion of these very special Hot Stamper pressings. You can easily tune in to each of the musicians and follow what they are doing over the course of a song. That’s what you’ve come to expect from a Better Records Hot Stamper, and this copy delivers on that promise.

Side two is good but a big step down from this amazing side one. It earned a grade of A Plus. It’s musical in the midrange but recessed, a little too smooth and lacking any real top. A nice sounding record but not a life-changing experience like this side one might be!

The Real Sound Comes from the Real Master Tape

There’s an interesting story behind this album, which I won’t belabor here. One listen and you’ll know I speak the truth when I say that the tape used to cut this pressing was never used again to cut any other. It is GONE. LOST FOREVER. All reissues of this album are mediocre at best, and positively painful to listen to once you’ve heard the right original pressing, the one cut from the real tape.

Which mostly explains why I never had any respect for this first album. The average copy sounds so bad that the musical values just aren’t communicated to the listener. Isn’t this why we have all this fancy equipment in the first place, to allow the musicians to communicate with us the way they intended? And when the record is a poor reproduction of the artist’s work, it prevents this communication from taking place. (And don’t get me started about CDs.)

Those poor reproductions are probably the ones you have, if you even have one at all. I’ve been buying Eagles records for almost 30 years and I only discovered this hot version about a year ago, entirely by accident. Before that I had one of those crappy sounding versions like everybody else. Live and learn, right?

You Heard It Here First!

Have you ever read a word about the hot version in any audiophile or record collecting publication? Of course not. These people wouldn’t know a good record from a hole in the ground. You’ve got to come to Better Records to find records like these. We’re the guys that play the records we sell, remember? How else would you ever know how good this pressing is? You’ve got to play it. Ten seconds into either side and you’ll know. That’s how good it is.

If you own one of those bad later pressings, it’s a record you might have played once or twice, gotten little out of, and put back on the shelf, wondering why those stupid Eagles couldn’t get their act together and record their music better.

But they did! They were recorded brilliantly. Glyn Johns, the recording engineer, is a GENIUS. The sound is rich, sweet and tubey as anything you have ever heard. I would say it’s as good a rock studio recording as any I have ever heard, and better than 99.99% of the competition.

Track Commentary

We made some notes about what to listen for under the Track Listing tab above which you might want to use to judge your own copy, or this one if you are the lucky man (person?) who takes it home. I would find it very hard to imagine that any record you might own could better it, let along compete with it. It’s practically in a league of its own, and priced accordingly.

Tough to Find These Days

Clean White Label pressings like this one are getting more and more scarce and more and more expensive for us to buy with each passing day. We can barely even find Jackson Browne’s first album on the Asylum white label at allanymore, in decent enough condition to play on an audiophile turntable anyway. One or two in a year would be a very good year for us. The same thing is happening to all these rare originals; look at the prices they are fetching on eBay. And keep in mind many of those copies are noisy and full of groove damage — we should know, we’ve bought plenty that way.

So when a great copy of an amazing album — musically and sonically — comes our way we have to price it accordingly. We guarantee this record is worth every penny of the many thousands of pennies we are charging for it or we will refund your money, down to the very last penny, no questions asked.

Super Seventies

If you like reading the reviews of the day, the Super Seventies website has a ton of them for this title, almost all of them raves.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Take It Easy Track Commentary

On most copies the vocals in the chorus will be a little bit strained. When you hear the vocals sound completely free from harmonic distortion or “edge” of any kind, you have yourself an exceptionally well mastered and pressed copy.

Witchy Woman Track Commentary

Witchy Woman is one of the key test tracks we use for side one. Take It Easy, the opening song, often sounds amazingly good — it’s got that driving beat and those acoustic guitars and it just seems to be one of those songs that usually sounds right on the original pressings.

Witchy Woman starts out with huge, powerful drums: they should just knock you out. Next comes an acoustic guitar with a lot of echo: the more echo the better, because that means the pressing has lots of resolution. The echo is on the tape, and the more of the tape that ends up on the record the better. Then comes the vocal. It should not be too bright, spitty or grainy. The vocals also have tons of ambience surrounding them on the best copies.

This is a HUGE Demo Quality track. If this song doesn’t knock your socks off something is not working right.

Chug All Night 
Most of Us Are Sad 
Nightingale

Side Two

Train Leaves Here This Morning Track Commentary

This is my favorite track on the album. In fact I like it so much I think it’s the best Eagles song ever recorded. (Dillard and Clark recorded it on their album as well.) The acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies on this track are simply as good as it gets. If somebody can play me a CD that sounds like this I will eat it.

Take the Devil 
Early Bird Track Commentary

This is another tough track to master properly. The mix is very complicated, and there’s a banjo that figures prominently in it. Getting that banjo to sound musical is the trick. The bass is very rich on the best copies. On those copies that are a bit on the lean side, the banjo can take on an edgy and aggressive quality.

The best copies get the banjo JUST RIGHT and place it perfectly in the mix. On The Border, their third album and my personal favorite, makes wonderful use of the banjo. When the band changed their sound to take them in the direction of more straight ahead rock (One of These Nights) they lost me. The public felt differently, sending the album to Number One in the charts, which set the stage for the monster success of Hotel California.

Peaceful Easy Feeling 
Tryin’

AMG Review

Balance is the key element of the Eagles’ self-titled debut album, a collection that contains elements of rock & roll, folk, and country, overlaid by vocal harmonies alternately suggestive of doo wop, the Beach Boys, and the Everly Brothers. If the group kicks up its heels on rockers like “Chug All Night,” “Nightingale,” and “Tryin’,” it is equally convincing on ballads like “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Train Leaves Here This Morning.”

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Although none of the original members of the Eagles were originally from California, the group came to symbolize the West Coast country rock that became hugely popular in the late 1970s. Originally members of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, The Eagles’ formation as a distinct group coincided with the launch of Asylum Records, and they were one of the first acts signed to the label, along with Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

Anxious to work with Glyn Johns, the English engineer/producer who had worked with The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Led Zeppelin, and The Steve Miller Band, the group recorded their debut album at Olympic Studios in London, which was where Johns liked to work: “I brought them to England, and we made the album very quickly, in under three weeks,” he remembered. “I don’t think I’d been as excited since probably Led Zeppelin — they were amazing but they didn’t really know what they’d got.”

“Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” were all U.S. Top 30 singles and the album was soon certified gold. Part of its success was down to the quartet’s glorious vocal harmonies. Factor in accomplished musicianship (Bernie Leadon’s country roots are strongly evident in the banjo and guitar work), and the strength of the songwriting (all of the group contributed original material; lead vocals were also rotated) and it is little wonder that the band soon secured a strong live attraction, and were one of the biggest acts in the world five years later.

John Tobler

John Coltrane – Blue Train – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Blue Note pressing has THE BEST SIDE TWO we’ve ever heard or expect to hear! It does EVERYTHING right, giving you the kind of Blue Train sound that most jazz fans have dreamed of forever but certainly have never heard before. The sound is absolutely KILLER, sounding dramatically more like live music than any copy we’ve played. It’s full-bodied and rich with tons of energy, YOU ARE THERE immediacy and wonderful clarity. There’s also a ton of tubey magic and an unbelievably strong bottom end, making this the kind of record that’s going to BLOW YOU AWAY. I bet you never believed Blue Train could sound like this — heck, we sure didn’t! (more…)

McCoy Tyner – Extensions

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Extensions

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  • With nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side one this copy has the real Blue Note magic 
  • The sound on side one was bigger, clearer, less boxy and simply more relaxed and musical than almost any other side we heard
  • The really good RVG pressings like this one sound shockingly close to live music
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “The all-star sextet stretches out on lengthy renditions of four of Tyner’s modal originals, and there is strong solo space for the leader and the two saxophonists. Wayne Shorter in particular is often quite intense. Stimulating music.”

With Alice Coltrane on harp, this is one trippy album! For those with adventurous tastes you are sure to have an interesting musical experience with this one.

We enjoy the sound of a great many Blue Note pressings from the ’70s, although to be fair there are plenty of dogs out there too. The reason this LP and others from the era have such transparency and such an extended top end compared with some of RVG’s older recordings is due, at least to some degree, to the better cutting equipment he had available to him in the ’70s. (more…)

Getz Au Go Go on the 1987 Reissue – Isn’t This Record Supposed to Be Stereo?

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As part of our recent shootout for the album we played what turned out to be a later reissue. According to my research it’s most likely from the late ’70s or early ’80s.   

As a general rule we make a point to go out of our way to play practically any copy we can get our hands on, in the off chance that a reissue will beat the original. It’s happened plenty of times. Those of you with White Hot Stamper shootout winning copies of some of our favorite titles know what I’m talkin’ about.

Imagine our surprise when this pressing — in a stereo jacket with the label you see in the picture with the word “stereo” printed right on it — turned out to be dead MONO!

The sound was godawful — small, flat, and bereft of the ambience that makes this recording so enjoyable. The same would probably be true for the mono originals but since I haven’t played one of those in decades I will just say that that would be no more than a guess, to be taken for what it’s worth

Yet another reason not to believe a word you read on an album jacket or label.

A public service from your record loving audiophile friends here at Better Records.

Cool Jazz

I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of this Getz album than any other, including those that are much more famous such as Getz/Gilberto (which doesn’t sound as good by the way). This one is (mostly) live in a nightclub and it immediately puts you in the right mood to hear this kind of jazz.

Listening to side one I’m struck with the idea that this is the coolest jazz record of cool jazz ever recorded. Getz’s take on Summertime is a perfect example of his “feel” during these sessions. His playing is pure emotion; every note seems to come directly from his heart.

What really sets these performances apart is the relaxed quality of the playing. He seems to be almost nonchalant, but it’s not a bored or disinterested sound he’s making. It’s more of a man completely comfortable in this live setting, surrounded by like-minded musicians, all communicating the same vibe. Perhaps they all got hold of some really good grass that day. That’s the feeling one gets from their playing. As one is listening, there’s a certain euphoria that seems to be part of the music. This is definitely one of those albums to get lost in.

AMG Review

… this recording hails from the venerable Greenwich Village venue, the Café Au Go Go, in mid-August of 1964 — two months after “Girl From Ipanema” became a Top Five pop single. However, the focus of Getz Au Go Go steers away from the Brazilian flavored fare, bringing Astrud Gilberto into the realm of a decidedly more North American style. That said, there are a few Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions — “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)” and “One Note Samba” — both of which would be considered as jazz standards in years to follow — as well as the lesser-circulated “Eu E Voce.” Getz and crew gather behind Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring,” and the scintillating instrumental “Summertime,” from Porgy & Bess. Other equally engaging cuts include affective vocal readings of “Only Trust Your Heart,” and the diminutive, yet catchy “Telephone Song.” There is also some great interaction between Getz and Burton on “Here’s to That Rainy Day.” Getz Au Go Go is highly recommended for all dimensions of jazz enthusiasts.

 

 

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (Mono) – Sundazed Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C-

Back around 2000 I spent a fair amount of time comparing this pressing with both an RCA 1S Black Label original, two different RCA Orange Label reissues, and the DCC 180 gram pressing. To make a long story short, if you’re willing to buy this record for the songs that really sound amazing on it, like “Today”, then you should try one.  (more…)

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Columbia Double LP pressing has some of the very best sound we’ve heard for this album, with all four sides finishing strongly in a recent shootout. Of course, given the nature of these recordings, you don’t get stunning sonics along the line of, say, Magical Mystery Tour or Dark Side Of The Moon, but at least you get to hear these great songs sound the way they were intended to, without the complications of bad mastering and pressing getting in the way.  (more…)

Falla / Three-Cornered Hat / Argenta (CS 6050) – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat is positively WONDERFUL on this copy (A++), and the Sinfonia Sevillana by Turina on side two is every bit as good! The second suite on side one is particularly lovely — check out how rich and full the sound is. Side two has a HUGE soundstage, as wide as they come. The sound is very rich and full of audiophile colors — this is the kind of record that you’re going to love playing for your audio pals!  

Argenta brings the authentic Spanish flavor out in these works. Like so many audiophile reviewers over the years, you may find these performances definitive.

The strings on the first side are a bit dry to start,  like the sound many of you will recognize from Mercury’s classical records. Still, there’s much to like about the sound and you’ll have a very hard time finding a copy that’s any better. Most pressings do not have such an extended top end, and that quality here really brings this music to life. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

OH BABY! This is the HOTTEST copy of The Captain And Me to ever hit the site, bar none. The sound is nothing short of PHENOMENAL from the first cut to the last. Side two earned our top A+++ grade while side one clocked in just half a plus behind. You can’t even begin to imagine what we’ve gone through trying to find Hot Stampers for this album. Here’s the copy that proves it was all worth it. 

We had TWICE tried to shootout this album and gave up both times with little to show for it. The one great sounding, reasonably quiet copy we found had a nasty edge warp that obliterated the first track on both sides. So we knew that great copies of this album must be out there, but where? We had OVER THIRTY COPIES of this record on our shelves and none of them were worth listing. The warped copy sounded so much better than any of the rest, and we felt it was wrong to call even the best of the rest a Hot Stamper. (more…)