This White Hot stamper side two was either the equal of, or BEAT, three out of the four 45 RPM Japanese pressings in our shootout, and all the Direct Disc pressings as well. There was a time when this Demonstration Quality sound would have easily have won our shootout. We know now that it’s possible for the sound to get even better, on 45, but at the cost of two out of the six tracks.
Which simply means that if you want to hear all six songs that recorded that day by The Three, this is the best way to go. The album as a whole is so good that I would not want to live with less than the complete album, that’s for sure.
Unless you have the 45 made from these same tapes, we guarantee you have never heard a better sounding jazz record than this side two or you get your money back. And it’s not the Direct Disc. It’s better than the direct to disc. It’s live to TAPE.
The Inner City LPs are exceptionally difficult to find in quiet condition on flat vinyl. I can’t tell you how many I run across that are noisy and warped. I used to buy them off eBay but I got so many bad ones I finally just gave up and threw in the towel.
This is that rare copy that actually has decent surfaces, is not noticeably warped, and, most importantly, sounds amazing.
So Many Takes
There are two takes for the Direct Disc, the first of which is terrible and the second of which we offer Hot Stamper pressings of. (The first take is so bad I simply cannot stand to listen to it anymore, no matter how good the sound is. And most of the direct disc copies do not sound all that good anyway, truth be told. The only combination of music and sound that makes any sense to us here at Better Records is take 2 of the direct disc, the 45 RPM from tape, and the 33 from that same tape on the Inner City label.
Four takes, and this is the best one!
I could go on for days about the sound of this album and how much I like the music, but for now I’m going to let our previous commentary suffice. Believe me, you have probably never heard a record like this in your life, it’s that good.
A+++, White Hot! Hard to beat unless you have the right 45 (and there’s very little chance you do unless you bought it from us or went through a bunch of them to find it). Energy, extension high and low, presence — this side is doing everything right!
A++, doing everything side two did but not quite extending all the way up or down, so we knocked off a plus. So clear and present and lively you will have to refer back to side two to hear what’s missing.
Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet a copy as we can find, and the vinyl is almost never dead flat. Please click on the Sonic Grade tab above to read more about this copy’s surfaces.
Let’s Talk Energy
This is a quality no one seems to be writing about, other than us of course, but what could possibly be more important? On this record, the more energetic copies took the player’s performances to a level beyond all expectations. It is positively SHOCKING how lively and dynamic this record is. I know of no other recording with this combination of sonic and musical energy. It is sui generis, in a league of its own.
The Sound in General
Open, airy, and so transparent. The transients are superb, conveying TONS of energy. The piano, bass, and drums — what else is there? — all sound JUST RIGHT.
Both sides here are lively and full-bodied with STUNNING clarity. The piano has real weight to it just as it should, allowing you to really appreciate both the power of Joe Sample’s performance and the percussive qualities of the instrument.
The bass is SUPERB — deep and punchy with definition that defies understanding. You will not believe how real Ray’s bass sounds here. There’s plenty of extension on the top end — just listen to the sustain on the cymbals.
Overall the sound is open, spacious, and tonally correct from top to bottom with virtually no distortion.
Side one is so transparent you can hear Shelly Manne vocalizing as he’s playing the drums. Side two as well. The drum solo on side two is killer here. So full of energy and so dynamic. Why aren’t more drum kits recorded this well? Check out the pictures inside the fold-open cover to see all the mikes that were used on the drums. That’s where that wall to wall, floor to ceiling sound comes from.
The transients are uncannily lifelike, conveying the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals. On a copy like this you can really tell how HARD he is hitting everything.
Ne Plus Ultra Piano Trio
This is without a doubt my favorite piano trio record of all time. Joe Sample, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown only made one album together, this one, recorded direct to disc right here in Los Angeles for Eastwind in the Seventies. Joe Sample for once in his life found himself in a real Class A trio, and happily for jazz fans around the world he rose to the occasion. Actually it was more like an epiphany, as this is the one piano trio album I put in a class by itself. All three of The Three are giving us the best they’ve got on this November day in 1975.
When it comes to small combo piano jazz, there is none better.