- This original Epic pressing has superb Shootout Winning sound, earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade on side two and close to it on side one
- If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1966 All Tube Analog sound can be, this copy is just the record that can do it
- The soundstage, depth and height of this spacious recording are as huge and three-dimensional as any you’ve heard
- “One of the better early bossa albums by Bonfa, and one that doesn’t have the sleepy quality that you find on some of his other records. Luiz’ guitar is backed by a nice little combo, and the tracks have a lively rhythm, with occasional vocals, and some nice flute solos from time to time.”
This is a simply wonderful Brazilian jazz guitar record, as well as what appears to be a mostly undiscovered gem. As an exceptional recording of excellent Brazilian guitar music from 1966, it is being offered to you by the music loving audiophiles at Better Records, folks who like to think they know a good sounding record when they hear one.
The samba music here is captivating and fun from first song to last. With the superbly talented Luiz Bonfa on guitar how could it not be – the guy’s widely considered a genius, and after playing this record we would have to agree that it’s one of the best of its kind. Allmusic notes:
Although overshadowed by the towering figure of Antonio Carlos Jobim and to a lesser extent by João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá was right there at the birth of bossa nova as well. In fact, at least two of his songs, the haunting “Manha de Carnaval” and equally evocative “Samba de Orpheus” swept the world at least three years before Jobim’s songs began to make a global impact, paving the way for the first Brazilian wave.
In addition, Bonfá cultivated a delicate, precise classical guitar style, though more attuned to the traditional samba rhythm than the Gilberto/Jobim bossa nova lilt.
Like many records from the era Softly… does have a a fair amount of echo, which bothers some people. If it doesn’t bother you — and it doesn’t bother me — you will probably enjoy the authentic Brazilian guitar playing of Luiz Bonfa, one of the legends of the instrument.
What do the best Hot Stampers of Softly… give you?
- First: presence and immediacy. The guitar isn’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. It’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put it.
- Rhythmic Energy is next. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitar notes, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
- Tight note-like bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- The Big Sound follows — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Percussion Is Key
There is a wonderful array of percussion on this record, so the top end of any pressing should ideally be extended, clear and sweet. Some pressings of Softly… have no real top end, which is the reason we have to do shootouts — to find the copies that are actually mastered and pressed right, not just the ones that should have been because they have the right stampers or are on the right label.
On this record there’s plenty of information above 12K I would guess — all those delicate percussion instruments ring so sweetly, the highs have to be extending way up there. Softly… would probably make a good test disc to see how well your tweeters work, as well as a good test disc for turntable setup.
The right azimuth, tracking weight and VTA are crucial to getting all the harmonics of a record like this right.