Jimmy Smith – Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • If you dig Oliver’s Nelson’s swingin’ BIG BRASS as much as we do you are in for a treat with this stereo pressing
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving 
  • Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is the monster track leading off here, and it swings the way Walk on the Wild Side does – like crazy, man!

This is some of the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for any RVG recording of Jimmy Smith with arrangements by Oliver Nelson (Claus Ogerman also took on some of the arranging duties; his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim is superb in all respects).

It’s super rich, full and Tubey Magical with real bottom end weight and a nicely extended top end. This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy did.

In the past we’ve complained about “Rudy Van Gelder’s somewhat over the top echo-drenched brass,” but on a Super Hot copy such as this there is not much to complain about If you have a top quality front end (and the system that goes with it), this recording will be amazingly spacious, three-dimensional, transparent, dynamic, open and above all LIVELY.

How Good Are the Original Pressings

This early pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real concert hall, this is the record for you. It’s what Golden Age Recordings are known for — this sound.

This is the sound of vintage vinyl. Note that we did not say “original,” and there’s a good reason for that — our earliest original pressing was awful sounding, by far the worst in the shootout. It went right into the trade bin.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack the full complement of harmonic information.

In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids. This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk. (Painstaking VTA adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.)

Tube smear is common to most pressings from the ’50s and ’60s. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have little or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns; any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.

Personnel

Producer – Creed Taylor
Engineer – Rudy Van Gelder
Director Of Engineering – Val Valentin

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Slaughter On Tenth Avenue 
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Part 1) 
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Part 2)

Side Two

John Brown’s Body 
Wives And Lovers 
Women Of The World 
Bluesette

AMG Review

Of the more substantive material, Smith leads on the breezy waltz “Wives & Lovers,” and thankfully gets to strut his stuff for “John Brown’s Body,” with the big band in the background. The very best is left for last on a classic take of “Bluesette,” another waltz where the horns accent and chatter, flutes soar, and Smith flies.

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