Better Records

Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take This Kind of Sound Seriously?

xxx

Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

 

Sonic Grade: F

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me. (more…)

Mozart / Piano Concertos # 17 & 21 / Anda – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Piano Concertos # 17 & 21 / Anda

xxxxx

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

This EARLY heavy cardboard Stereo in Red DG Large Tulips pressing is nothing short of PHENOMENAL on side one. It’s SPACIOUS and three-dimensional that goes beyond practically any classical recording I’ve ever played. I would rank it in the Top One Per Cent for those two qualities. You hear into the soundstage on this record like you will not believe.  

The string tone is especially rich and sweet on this side, yet full of texture and that lovely rosiny quality that vintage pressings capture so well. (Sometimes capture so well. Side two here has a slightly smeary quality that hurts it in that area.) (more…)

Ray Charles – Soul Meeting

More Ray Charles

Soul Meeting

xxxxx

  • This outstanding pressing of Ray Charles and Milt Jackson’s 1958 collaboration boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet too
  • Wonderful sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Kenny Burrell lends his innovative guitar stylings to this soulful jazz collaboration
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Oscar Pettiford, Connie Kay, and Kenny Burrell in the various lineups, this is bluesy jazz in a laid-back manner; it surprised many hardcore R&B fans when these albums were originally issued.”

This wonderful pressing has superb sound throughout! It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of this title in anything but beat condition. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

More Bob Dylan

Highway 61 Revisited

xxxxx

  • A superb 360 Stereo pressing of Dylan’s 1965 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Live-in-Your-Listening-Room sound throughout – guaranteed miles beyond any copy you’ve ever heard 
  • In the same way Sgt. Pepper changed music a mere two years later, Highway 61 Revisited left all of Dylan’s contemporaries behind, scrambling to keep up with the standard it set
  • 5 stars: “Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster … it proved that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.”

(more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – Listening in Depth

More Sergio Mendes

More Ye-Me-Le

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Ye-Me-Le.

The first three tracks on side 1 are the best reason to own this album, especially the first two (Wichita Lineman and Norwegian Wood), which are as good as anything the group ever did. I’m a big fan so that has to be seen as high praise indeed.

Let’s be frank: the average LP of this album is terrible. Shrill, aggressive sound is the norm, but compression and overly smooth (read; thick and dull) sound are also problems common to Ye-Me-Le. There’s also a “strained” quality to the loud vocal passages on almost every copy; only the best are free of it.

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

This recording is quite Difficult to Reproduce, which means it ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS). Do not attempt to play it using any but the best front ends. Unless you are using a very good cartridge and arm the vocals are apt to tear your head off when they get loud (which they do; this is a dynamic recording).

In a way, this is the perfect record to demonstrate how much progress you have made in audio. I remember playing these albums many years ago and hearing lots of harmonic distortion and other unpleasant sonic qualities. Those very same pressings sound DRAMATICALLY better today. (more…)

Nat “King” Cole’s – Love Is The Thing

More Nat “King”

Love Is The Thing

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

  • A lovely pressing of this audiophile favorite, with Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides to rival the best pop vocal recordings we know of
  • Nat himself sounds especially immediate and real, and the strings are much less of a problem here than they are on most pressings
  • If all you know of this album is the weirdly unnatural remix DCC did (on Analogue Productions vinyl too) this pressing will be nothing less than a revelation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nat King Cole’s collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. 1957’s Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair’s undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks.”

Love Is The Thing has always been one of the better Nat “King” Cole recordings we play. The music is sublime, and on the right copy the sound can be superb. Armed with a much larger variety of pressings to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, our recent shootout convinced us that it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the best copies of this very recording.

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the quality of relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the good sounding pressings. On some pressings that casual quality is not nearly as noticeable. (more…)

Sammy Davis Jr. – The Nat King Cole Song Book

More Sammy Davis Jr.

The Nat King Cole Song Book

xxxxx

  • A superb sounding original stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Bigger and richer, with lovely Tubey Magic and breathy vocals, this Tri-Color Reprise pressing lets us hear Sammy at the peak of his powers performing some of Nat’s most memorable songs
  • 4 Stars: “Alongside Cole’s collaborator, Billy May, and notable jazz arranger Claus Ogerman, Davis and company turned in one of the finest and most underrated efforts.”

(more…)

Yes – Close To The Edge

More Yes

Close To The Edge

  • An amazing copy of this Prog Blockbuster, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second – super quiet vinyl too, as quiet as any copy we have ever listed
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts   
  • A recording that will push even the highest quality, most heavily tweaked stereo to its limits – if you can play this record good and loud, you can play anything
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years. In 1972, Close to the Edge was a flawless masterpiece.”

This vintage Atlantic 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. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Concerto No. 2 / Katchen / Solti – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Concerto No. 2 / Katchen / Solti

xxxxx

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

Folks, what we are offering here is THE SLEEPER Hot Stamper pressing of all time. Side one earned an amazingly good grade of A++ with side two every bit as good. The buyer of this album is going to be SHOCKED when he sees what pressing it is. 

For those of you who cherish pressings for their best sound and performances — as opposed to the typical audiophile collector who prefers the “right” original labels on his records, of course produced only in the “right” countries — this is the record for you.

Hold it up for your (right-thinking or otherwise) audiophile friends to witness before you put it on your table and BLOW THEIR MINDS.

How did this kind of sound get produced so cheaply, so late in the game? From what tape, by what engineer? It is a mystery to me, one that is very unlikely to be explained.  (more…)

Mozart – Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Munchinger – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Munchinger

xxxxx

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

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out back in 1994. We wrote: “Probably the best sound and performance of the Eine Kleine available — highly recommended!  

We haven’t played a copy in years, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. (more…)