Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley – Another Reissue that Kills the Original



  • Both sides of this Mel Torme vintage masterpiece boast Double Plus (A++) grades and play fairly quietly
  • One of our all-time favorite Male Vocal albums that’s just mindblowing on a copy like this
  • Big and spacious with amazing richness and warmth, this is Vocal Demo Disc like few others
  • 5 stars: “The overall mood… is unrestrained enthusiasm, and it makes for an excellent record.”

We are HUGE fans of this album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble!

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Mel is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Swings Shubert Alley is one of our very favorite male vocal albums, and a great copy like this will show you why — the audiophile quality sound and swinging jazz vocal music are simply hard to beat.

1961 – It Was a Very Good Year

This album finds Mel in his prime. By the ’70s he was a shadow of himself, and more modern (read: less natural) recording technology wasn’t helping. None of those later albums does much for us here at Better Records.

His Bethlehem recordings can have outstanding sonics and music to match, but try to find a clean one. It’s been years since one came our way that wasn’t noisy or groove damaged.

The sound here is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy has more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few male vocal recordings give you the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing, particularly on side two! 

Midrange Magic, Man!

This Verve LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the 180g reissue (one of the few Heavy Vinyl pressings we used to like). As good as that pressing is, this one is dramatically more REAL SOUNDING.

On the best pressings, Mel’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any hi-fi-ishness you immediately find yourself lost in the music — there’s no artificiality to the sound to distract you.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.


Side One

Too Close for Comfort 
Once in Love With Amy
A Sleepin’ Bee 
On the Street Where You Live
All I Need Is a Girl 
Just in Time

Side Two

Hello Young Lovers 
The Surrey With Fringe on Top
Old Devil Moon 
Whatever Lola Wants 
Too Darn Hot 
Lonely Town

AMG Review

Though the nominal concept for Swings Shubert Alley is Broadway standards, this last moment of pure Mel Tormé brilliance swings much too fast and hard for the concept to be anything but pure swing. Of course it starts out with a bang, the punchy “Too Close for Comfort.” As with his other classic swing albums, Tormé does insert a few slower songs; here, “Once in Love with Amy,” “A Sleepin’ Bee” and “Old Devil Moon” are down-tempo — with a smile. The overall mood, however, is unrestrained enthusiasm, and it makes for an excellent record.