Month: February 2018

Listening in Depth to Brewer & Shipley – Down In L.A.

This has long been one of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums here at Better Records. If you like Crosby, Stills and Nash’s first album or Rubber Soul — and who doesn’t love those two albums — you should much to like on Down in L.A.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Truly Right

The drumming on this first track is out of this world — it relentlessly propels this track forward, and you can thank top studio drummers for bringing this kind of energy to the song. Also the fuzzed out guitar that comes in toward the end is pure ’60s pop, exactly the kind of thing we love.

She Thinks She’s A Woman

I love the studio chatter at the opening of this song. The transparency should be striking. When the vocals come in they should be smooth and sweet, better than the first track by a wide margin. And I love this song — it’s one of the strongest on the album.

Time And Changes

Another one of the better sounding songs. This one has exceptionally nice bass. (more…)

Charles Mingus / Mingus Revisited – 25 Guys in a Big Room Playing Live

This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which it surely was. The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it. Allmusic gives it 4 stars and we think it’s maybe even a better than that.

On both sides the best sound can be heard starting with the second track, but on side one the first track was very spacious and had a fuller sounding piano than practically any other we played. (more…)

The Hi-Lo’s – All Over The Place

Side two is nearly White Hot, with rich, natural vocal reproduction. This is the glorious sound of Columbia’s All Tube chain in 1960. Marty Paich (the genius) is back conducting the orchestra for this set of standards.

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These records are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

If you’re an audiophile, both the sound and the music are crazy fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this is the record that will do it!

Side One

A++, by the second track the highs open up and the sound is superb throughout the rest of the side. Listen to Autumn in New York for a taste of the huge, rich and natural sound that Columbia was famous for in 1960.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better. By track two the voices are breathy and clear with no noticeable tube smear.

Johnny Mathis – Warm

Side one is killer sounding, with the All Tube Analog sound that Columbia was famous for. The vinyl is fairly quiet as well for a ’50s Columbia 6 Eye pressing. I don’t know how many unscratched, lightly-played Mathis records you’ve ever seen, but in our experience they are few and far between — hence the fact that this is the first one to make it to the site.

AMG Review

Johnny Mathis released Warm, his sophomore album, in 1957. The album is an example of the classic romantic mood that made Mathis a superstar. The lush, romantic Warm includes “My One and Only Love” as well as “A Handful of Stars,” “By Myself,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” “I’m Glad There Is You,” and “While We’re Young.” A classic Mathis album with a title track that ranks, with “Misty,” as one of his best.

Eartha Kitt – St. Louis Blues

Don’t expect to see another copy of this album on the site any time soon. Pressings of this album are extremely rare in any condition, and this one not only sounds great but plays surprisingly well for RCA in 1958.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you!

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

What do we love about these LIVING STEREO Hot Stamper pressings?

The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. Everything, including the Ms Kitt’s voice, is reproduced with remarkable fidelity.

Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this one up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both of these Six Eye Columbia stereo sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing fairly quietly
  • On the right system, this is a All Tube Chain Demo Disc that demonstrates the superiority of both the analog medium and the vintage pressing (not to mention the concept of Hot Stampers) – I cannot recommend a record on the site more highly than this very disc
  • On a copy this good, The Hi-Lo’s will appear as living, breathing (albeit disembodied) persons right in your very own listening room. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • “The Hi-Los weren’t really a jazz unit, but more of a pop band that knew how to incorporate jazz’s harmonic sensibilities. This was among their better albums, complete with catchy title.”

(more…)

Listening in Depth to ELO’s Masterpiece – A New World Record

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

  • If like us you’re a fan of Arty Rock from the ’70s, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included. But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. This is the band’s MASTERPIECE in my humble opinion. For audiophiles ELO on LP doesn’t get any better.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Tightrope

Both sides start off with a uptempo rocker, and this side’s is Tightrope.

Watch your string tone. If it’s shrill or grainy you are going to find yourself in trouble on practically every song on A New World Record — they all have strings and lots of them. (more…)

June Christy – June’s Got Rhythm

More June Christy

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

This Super Hot Stamper original stereo Capitol LP from 1958 has SUPERB SOUND on both sides and some of the best June Christy music we’ve ever had the pleasure to play. Just listen to the piano on Gypsy In My Soul; it’s rich, warm and full-bodied. You’ll never hear an RVG recording with a piano that sounds like that. On side two drop the needle on Easy Living to get a taste of some of Capitol’s luscious Tubey Magical midrange.

Musically this album is right up there with the best we know, the creme de la creme of female vocal recordings, albums on the level of Clap Hands and Something Cool and Lady in Satin.

Backed by an intimate combo of star jazzmen, June swings a set of fresh songs in an eventful album that sings out to the whole world that she has, indeed, got rhythm.

For an album of warm, breathy, intimate female vocals, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

What to Listen For

We had the best luck with copies that were warm and rich yet clear, and not too dry or harsh when June decides to really belt it out. Practically no copies did not have at least some grit, dryness or harshness on June’s vocals at some point. (more…)

Jesse Belvin – Mr. Easy

Zero distortion. zero smear, huge amounts of space and breathy rich vocals – what’s not to like? Marty Paich and Art Pepper lend a hand, and with Al Schmitt behind the board the sound is 1960 Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its finest.

If you know anything about this record you know that it is practically impossible to find in clean condition. The mono pressings are much more common but we did not care for their sound in the least.

We consider ourselves lucky to have found one with this kind of sound, because side one is getting everything so right we simply have no faults to make note of.

Notice especially how rich and textured the strings are on Marty Paich’s arrangements.

Side two was clearly not as good, hence the lower sonic grade. We could have called side two A++ but we felt that a more conservative approach might be a wiser choice in this case.

Al Schmitt

Al Schmitt recorded and mixed Mr. Easy for RCA back in 1960 and on side one of this very copy it should be clear to all that he knocked it out of the park.

We know his work well; he happens to have been at the controls for many albums with audiophile quality sound: Aja, Hatari, Breezin’, Late for the Sky, Toto IV, as well as some we can’t stand (the entire Diana Krall digital-echo-drenched catalog comes to mind).

The guy’s won 13 Grammy Awards, that ought to tell you something.

Tony Bennett – Alone Together

More Tony Bennett

More Vintage Hot Stamper Pressings on Columbia

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES for this Six-Eye pressing, including a near-White Hot A++ to A+++ side two! This album has Bennett singing a collection of ballads, and when you hear it with this kind of transparency and immediacy it REALLY works. He’s one of our favorite singers, so it’s a real treat to find a copy with this kind of sound.

Side One

A++, rich and full with big time immediacy. The soundfield has real depth, and the transparency is wonderful. So good!

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better than side one! Albums like this live and die by the reproduction of the vocals, and this side really nails it. There’s plenty of space and openness, and the presence is startling. Tony Bennett is right there in the listening room.