Sammy Davis, Jr. Albums We’ve Reviewed
A Pop & Jazz Vocal Album that Belongs in Any Audiophile Record Collection
We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” with an accent on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.
This album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but would certainly benefit from getting to know better.
It’s one of the most emotionally rich and sublimely enjoyable collections of romantic ballads ever recorded.
Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to demolish the DCC CD (should you have one laying around, an admittedly unlikely proposition to be sure).
The sound is rich, warm and natural beyond expectation — assuming you’ve suffered through other of Sammy’s recordings from the ’60s, as we have, finding little of merit in their sound.
On most of them, at some point in the first track the phony vocal EQ and heavy reverb dashed whatever hopes we might have had for the sound.
Soon enough the record would be consigned to the trade-in pile, perhaps to find a home where bad sound is not a deal-breaker (which means pretty much everywhere).
For us audiophiles, at least most of the time, it has to be.
Yes, Almeida on guitar is superb, as is to be expected. The surprise and the real magic of this album is in Davis’ deeply sensitive renditions of these standards, stories of heartbreak and loss that have stood the test of time. He’s tapping into a well of deep feeling on the record that you sense from the very first track.
Sinatra had a way with this kind of material, of course, but as heretical as it may sound, I find this group of ballads the equal of any that Frank ever recorded. (And getting good sounding Sinatra recordings, now that his CD catalog has been remastered and ruined, is not a task that can be accomplished without the benefit of a good turntable and a large record budget.)
I prefer the simple arrangements for starters.
Secondly, the choice of material could hardly be better, as well worn favorites like The Shadow of Your Smile and Where Is Love? get fresh readings, rich with genuine feeling.
Next, add superb recording quality, with just the right amount of lovely analog echo on Sammy’s voice and the kind of guitar sound that would be right at home in a small jazz club (like the one you may feel you are sitting in when you close your eyes).
Those of you who frequent the site may have noticed that we have never listed a Hot Stamper pressing of any of Sammy’s albums outside of this one. [As of 2023, this is no longer true, of course.]There’s a reason for this, and it’s probably the one you guessed: few of them sound any good. Like much of Dean Martin’s catalog — his labelmate on Reprise not coincidentally — they are usually drenched in reverb, as well as more often than not dark and distant, not to mention pressed on noisy vinyl, factors that have put the kibosh on practically all of the ones we have sampled to date.
We’ll keep looking though; it’s our job. The only way to find great records in large numbers is to play as many as you can get your hands on. Devoting practically all day every day to the endeavor explains how we’ve managed to discover so many killer recordings of which the audiophile community is unaware, at least that portion of the community that doesn’t come to our site.