heavily-processed-recordings

10cc / Deceptive Bends – Listening in Depth

More of the Music of 10cc

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of 10cc

If you are interested in digging deeper, our Listening in Depth commentaries have extensive track by track breakdowns for some of the better-known albums we’ve done multiple shootouts for.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Good Morning Judge

There’s a wonderful guitar duel in this song, but notice how the guitar in the right channel is softer than the one in the left. It’s the same way on every copy we played, so it must be that way on the tape. The guitar in the left channel is louder so it wins.

The Things We Do for Love

A big hit for the band on both sides of the pond, and as such, there’s always a touch of radio EQ to the lead vocals on this track. If you have an suitably transparent copy you’ll be able to hear that the background vocals actually sound much more natural. They’re tonally correct, assuming your copy is right enough in the first place to let you hear it.

Marriage Bureau Rendezvous

This track has wonderful Tubey Magical Tillermanesque guitars. They sound out of this world on a copy with the kind of clarity and sweetness found on the best pressings.

People in Love
Modern Man Blues

Side Two

Honeymoon With B Troop

Amazing DEMO DISC SOUND on the best copies! Some of the punchiest sound we have ever heard, bar none.

I Bought a Flat Guitar Tutor

This track has a richer, more relaxed sound than most of the rest of the album. The sparse instrumentation allows the various elements more room to breathe. On a Hot Stamper copy even the whistling will sound full-bodied.

This is Analog Magic at its best. The sound is effortless, completely natural, and totally free from any hint of hi-fi-ishness. Not one out of a hundred rock records has a track this well recorded.

As long as it’s not too bright. If it is it will spit like crazy.

(more…)

Crowded House – Woodface

More Crowded House

Reviews and Commentaries for Crowded House

  • An outstanding European import pressing of Crowded House’s 1991 Pop Masterpiece boasting Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The care and effort that went into every aspect of the recording and production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding this excellent copy – one of the better sounding copies we have played
  • It is our opinion that this is some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last thirty years, the kind that should find favor with any audiophile who likes the popular music, starting with The Beatles and ending who knows when
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.”

This excellent copy of Woodface fulfills the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all. In your mind, you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers, and engineers intended it to sound. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music without limitation. (more…)

Lou Reed – Transformer

More of Our Favorite Artists’ Best Sounding Albums

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Excellent sound for Lou Reed’s Glam Rock Classic, Transformer, engineered to sound as Tubey Magical as Ziggy Stardust by none other than Ken Scott
  • Here is an import pressing with the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • A side one this good means Walk on the Wild Side is a Demonstration Quality track that will have your audiophile friends turning green with envy
  • Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock
  • “… Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain.” 
  • Transformer is his Masterpiece, a Core Collection title, and possibly a case of One and Done since it’s the only Lou Reed album we sell. (You, of course, may feel differently.)

Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock. You’ve got Lou Reed teamed up with David Bowie (in the producer’s chair!), Mick Ronson, Herbie Flowers and Klaus Voorman, and on top of that the album was recorded at Trident and mixed by the great Ken Scott.

Throw in the fact that this is the best set of post-Velvets material Lou would ever write and it is a recipe for success. There are so many good songs on here I won’t bother to list them one by one. Satellite Of Love is especially good though, if you ask me. If you agree, and you’ve never heard the VU demo version, make sure to seek it out. It’s completely different and good fun.

(more…)

James Taylor / Dad Loves His Work – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the Music of James Taylor

More Personal Favorites

This Hot Stamper original Columbia is THE KING, the Best Sounding Copy we have ever played — the sound was OUT OF THIS WORLD! In fact, side two went so far beyond what we’ve come to expect from this album that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade.

We no longer give Four Pluses out as a matter of policy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t come across records that deserve them from time to time.

Even recordings that are as heavily processed as this one. We don’t have a problem with that approach when it works as well as it does here. Mud Slide Slim this is not. It’s also 1981, not 1971. We prefer the recordings from 1971, undeniably the Golden Age for rock and pop recording quality[1], but we know that to expect the sound of the ’70s in 1981 would simply be setting oneself up for disappointment.

Those days are gone, as are the amazing sounding pressings that came out then, and nobody, repeat nobody, pressing records today can figure out how they did it.

The soundstage and depth on our best Hot Stamper copies is HUGE — this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we’ve ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it.

But of course there’s a lot more to the sound of the best copies than a big soundstage.

Tonality is key.

As usually happens in these shootouts, we learned that there’s so much more to this album than just great songs. What really makes this music work on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply:

(1) Correct Tonality

Most copies have a phony MoFi-like top end boost in the 10k region that we found irritating as hell. The longer we listened the less we liked the copies that had that boost, which adds a kind of “sparkle” to cymbals and guitars that has no business being there.

Now if you’re a MoFi fan and you like the boosted highs that label is famous for, don’t waste your money buying a Hot Stamper copy from us. Our copies are the ones with the correct and more natural-sounding top end. The guitars will sound like real guitars and the voices will sound like real voices.

(2) Lower Midrange and Bottom End Weight

When the vocals sound thin, bright and phony, as they do on so many copies of this album (partly no doubt the result of the grainy crap vinyl Columbia is infamous for) that hi-fi-ish sound takes all the fun out of the music. Many tracks have background vocals and big choruses, and the best copies make all the singers sound like they are standing in a big room, shoulder to shoulder, with the full lower midrange weight that that image implies.

The good copies capture that energy and bring it into the mix with the full-bodied sound it no doubt had live in the studio. When the EQ or the vinyl goes awry, causing Taylor and crew’s voices to take on a lean or gritty quality, the party’s over.

Transparency and That Feeling of Reality

Transparency is always a big deal on pop recordings such as this. Of course this has to be a multi-miked, multi-tracked, overdubbed pop record — they don’t make them any other way — but it doesn’t have to FEEL like one.

When you get a good copy it feels like all these guys are live in the studio. They may have their own mics, and are certainly being placed artificially in the soundfield to suit the needs of the track (kick drum here, hand-claps over there), but the transparency of the killer pressings makes them sound like they are all in the same room playing together, clearly occupying their own share of the space in the studio.

This is one of our favorite Taylor albums here at Better Records. It’s the last album by the man that bears any resemblance to the genius of his early work. It’s steeply, steeply downhill after DLHW. (Case in point: His specials for PBS of the last few years are a positive cure for insomnia, with every song slowed down and all the energy drained from the material.)

But he still had fire in his belly when he made this one — one listen to Stand and Fight is all the evidence you need; the song rocks as hard as anything the guy ever did. (And it’s got plenty of cowbell, always a good sign.)

(more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

More Supertramp

Reviews and Commentaries for Crime of the Century

  • This INCREDIBLE copy of Supertramp’s Masterpiece boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best rock albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

This is engineer Ken Scott‘s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings; a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on “School” or “Bloody Well Right,” you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.)

(more…)

Steely Dan / Katy Lied – Our Favorite Dan Album of Them All

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Katy Lied

  • An outstanding early ABC pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Our pick for the best Dan album of them all, a Masterpiece of Jazzy Swing Pop that is sure to reward hundreds of plays in the decades to come
  • Take it from The Dan: “The sound created by musicians and singers is reproduced as faithfully as possible, and special care is taken to preserve the band-width and transient response of each performance.”
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you, especially for this title, which is almost never quiet
  • 5 stars: “Each song is given a glossy sheen, one that accentuates not only the stronger pop hooks, but also the precise technical skill of the professional musicians drafted to play the solos.”

The covers for these original Katy Lied pressings on ABC always have at least some edge, seam or ringwear. We will of course do our best to find you a cover with the fewest problems, but none of them will be perfect, or even all that close to it. It is by far the hardest Steely Dan album to find good covers for.

This copy has the all-important rock energy we look for, although rocking is not quite what Steely Dan are up to here. Cameron Crowe calls it “…absolutely impeccable swing-pop”, a four word description that gets to the heart of the music far better than any combination of adjectives and nouns containing the word “rock.” (more…)

The Pretenders – Get Close

More of The Pretenders

More Women Who Rock

  • Get Close returns to the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them throughout this vintage WEA import pressing
  • These sides are energetic, clear and full-bodied, with Chrissie Hynde’s vocals front and center where they belong
  • If all you know are audiophile or domestic pressings, you should be prepared for a mind-blowing experience with this German-pressed copy
  • It takes years to get a shootout for this album going – three to five is my best guess, so get while the gettin’s good if you’re as big a fan of the album as we are
  • “Hynde’s voice is in great form throughout, and when she gets her dander up, she still has plenty to say and good ways to say it; ‘How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?’ is a gleefully venomous attack on the musically unscrupulous; ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ is a superb pop tune and a deserved hit single; and the Motown-flavored ‘I Remember You’ and the moody ‘Chill Factor’ suggest she’d been learning a lot from her old soul singles.”

Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with “My Baby,”” one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangements and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved.

(more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love

More Bruce Springsteen

  • On the better pressings you get something approaching the warmth and unforced clarity of analog we audiophiles crave
  • Some of Bruce’s best material is here: the title track and One Step Up are two of our favorites  
  • “Bruce Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with [a] low-key, anguished effort, Tunnel of Love.”

As is the case for the Bob Clearmountain mix of Born in the USA, the sound is not exactly vintage analog at its best, but at least on vinyl you get more analog qualities than would otherwise be possible. This is 1987, not 1967 and not even 1977. That said, the copies that earned the better grades were big and rich, with plenty of studio space and nicely present vocals.

Mostly what they do well is that they fill out the sound and take the edge off of it without losing musical information, dynamics or energy. Not many copies managed that feat but this one did. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

More Linda Ronstadt

More Nelson Riddle

  • So spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and fairly natural sounding Linda, this is the way to hear it
  • What engineer George Massenburg gets right is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio
  • “…the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania… undid in the mid-60’s.”
  • Watch for my MoFi review coming later this year – talk about a disaster, that reissue is beyond awful
  • If you’re a Ronstadt fan, this title from 1983 is surely a Must Own. The complete list of titles from 1983 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With two outstanding sides, this pressing gets two critically important elements of the recording right:

The strings in the orchestra, and, for obvious reasons, even more importantly, Linda’s voice.

We guarantee that these sides give you a more natural sounding Linda than you’ve ever heard, or your money back.

If all you own is an mediocre sounding pressing or the truly awful Mobile Fidelity from 1983, you are in for a world of better sound with this very record.

(more…)

Electric Light Orchestra – Face The Music

More Electric Light Orchestra

More Art Rock Records

  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • You probably know most of these songs, even if you don’t recognize the titles (Waterfall, One Summer Dream)
  • “The soulful ‘Evil Woman’ was one of the most respectable chart hits of its era, and one of the best songs that Lynne ever wrote (reportedly in 30 minutes), while ‘Strange Magic’ showed off his writing in a more ethereal vein.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this classic from 1975 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Nobody seems to have noticed — at least I can find no evidence for anyone noticing, using a google search — that the song Fire on High, which opens side one of this album, is directly lifted from the opening song on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Funeral for a Friend.

He owes a lot of his sound to The Bee Gees as well as The Beatles, another thing about his music that nobody seems to notice.

But that takes nothing away from the fact that he is a consummate craftsman of catchy pop songs, the kind that get stuck in your head and make your day brighter than it would otherwise have been.

There are many fine examples of these kinds of songs on this very album. The first three (out of four) tracks on side one are all very strong: Fire On High, Waterfall and Evil Woman. On side two all the songs after Poker are very strong: Strange Magic, Down Home Town, and One Summer Dream.

That makes this a fairly consistent ELO record. Not quite the equal of A New World Record but not that far behind it either.

(more…)