Better Records

Gershwin / All the Works for Orchestra / Slatkin / Siegel

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Hall of Shame 3 Record set that had us asking: Why would anyone want to own this awful set? TAS List or no TAS List, the performances are much too slow for my taste.

TRACK LISTING

Concerto in F
Cuban Overture 
Lullaby (Version for String Orchestra)
Catfish Row (Suite from “Porgy and Bess”)
An American in Paris
Promenade
Rhapsody in Blue
Second Rhapsody
“I Got Rhythm” Variation

Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – The Timekeepers

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this Pablo original pressing of the Two Masters in a small group setting. Basie and Peterson recorded five albums together, and this may very well be the best of the bunch, though I have yet to hear one that I didn’t enjoy. I wrote a rave review about this title when I first heard it more than ten years ago. If you like small group piano jazz — here we’re talking two pianists accompanied by Louie Bellson on drums and John Heard on bass — this should be right up your alley. 

Side One

Big, rich pianos. Everything here is clear with no smear, with a fair amount of space. This side is a bit opaque compared to the best we heard, and the bass isn’t quite as deep as it was on the top copies, but overall this side is doing most of what we wanted it to.

Side Two

This side is lively and tonally correct — getting the music right — but lacks extension on both ends. (more…)

The Ornette Coleman Trio – At The Golden Circle Vol. 1

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

This is a Blue Note LP with EXCELLENT sound! We didn’t have enough clean copies to do a shootout, but you can be sure that each side rates at least an A+ for sound.

Side one has tons of energy, gorgeous highs and a nice deep bottom end. Side two is rich and full-bodied with wonderfully textured brass. This is a superb copy with sound that does this complex music justice. 

Whether you’ll like the music or not is another question — this is free form jazz; not everybody’s into it, that’s for sure. Ornette Coleman, though, is undeniably one of the masters of this genre. If you have a taste for adventurous, avant garde jazz, this is an excellent record for you both musically and sonically. (more…)

Styx – In Pieces Of Eight

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  • A superb sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is the kind of sound we want on our ELP, Yes and Queen-like multi-layered Proggy Pop Rock – big, full-bodied and lively
  • 4 Stars: Styx’s feisty, straightforward brand of album rock is represented best by “Blue Collar Man,” an invigorating keyboard and guitar rush… reaching number 21, with the frolicking romp of “Renegade” edging in at number 16 only six months later… the rest of the album includes tracks that rekindle some of Styx’s early progressive rock sound, only cleaner. Tracks like “Sing for the Day,” “Lords of the Ring,” and “Aku-Aku” all contain slightly more complex instrumental foundations…”

Who likes their Wall of Sound small and closed-in? Certainly not Big Speaker guys like us. By all accounts this band wanted their records to sound good, or at least as good as their contemporaries (and the bands that inspired them, name-checked above). There’s no shortage of production polish here and on the best pressings the sound really works. (more…)

The Tale of Tsar Saltan – What to Listen For: The Triangle

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your pressing of the album. 

This is a work that makes extensive use of the triangle, and I don’t know when I’ve ever heard a better recording of that instrument. (I think there are actually two being played.) It’s incredibly sweet, detailed and extended, without calling attention to itself in an unnatural manner. When you hear it, you know it, and I’m hearing it in my head as this is being written. 

Want a good tweeter test next time you’re in the market for new speakers? Play a record with a well-recorded triangle. It’s a surprisingly hard instrument to reproduce.  (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren

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

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it. As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis.

Somehow they never seem to get old, even after more than thirty years.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way “in” to the band’s music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven — Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones. (more…)

Carly Simon – What to Listen For

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

Too many copies we played erred on the hi-fi-ish side, with not enough warmth. The copies that sound incredibly clean and clear just didn’t do much for us; they weren’t able to convey the intimacy and emotion of the music.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience playing CDs of some of your old favorites. You keep wondering why you liked the music in the first place. Don’t blame the music. Blame those crappy CDs. 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be
Alone
One More Time
The Best Thing
Just A Sinner

Side Two

Dan, My Fling
Another Door
Reunions
Rolling Down The Hills
The Love’s Still Growing

Review

Carly Simon was mostly well received by critics when released. Timothy Crouse, writing in Rolling Stone, stated “Carly’s voice perfectly matches her material” and her “…superbly controlled voice is complemented by deft arrangements.”

In more recent years, William Ruhlmann, writing for Allmusic, gave the album a three and a half star rating out of a possible five, and stated “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Dan, My Fling”, were the stand-out tracks.

Simon stated in the Ask Carly section on her website that “Reunions” was her mother’s—Andrea Simon—favorite song of hers.

Wikipedia

Genesis – Trespass

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  • Only the second Shootout Winning copy to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides 
  • About as quiet as these British copies come – Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “… “tasteful, subtle and refined” – Melody Maker

This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Cleaner and Clearer than You Might Think

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We used to say that Springsteen recordings from this era always suffered from some grit and grain. With the better cleaning technologies we employ now, and dramatically better playback quality as well, much of that gritty, grainy sound is simply no longer a problem. That change and the others like it come under the general heading of Revolutionary Changes in Audio. It’s what real Progress in Audio is all about. 

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a much better recording than we ever gave it credit for. Full and solid with a big, punchy bottom end, this pressing has the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music. (more…)

Tony Bennett & Count Basie – Strike Up The Band on Emus

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Emus pressing of Count Basie and Tony Bennett’s 1959 classic collaboration 
  • The originals we have played are uniformly horrible sounding compared to these wonderful reissues – the tonality here is Right On The Money
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the pairing between Bennett and Basie remains impressive. The band raves through tunes like “With Plenty Of Money And You,” and Bennett matches them, drawing strength from the bravura arrangements, while band and singer achieve a knowing tenderness on “Growing Pains.” This is an album well worth owning…”

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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. (more…)