Lena Horne & Harry Belafonte – Porgy and Bess

More Harry Belafonte / More Lena Horne

More Porgy and Bess

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound for both sides of this wonderful Living Stereo album – as you would expect, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
  • Both sides are big, lively and present with lovely breathy vocals from the two principals (who sing solo on all but two of the tracks)
  • A brilliant Living Stereo recording from 1959, which plays as quietly as we can find them – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “The first of Belafonte’s duet albums with female performers, this one paired two attractive black American singers at the peak of their respective talents.”

A Living Stereo knockout! We often forget to spend time with records like this when there are Zeppelin and Floyd records to play. We’ve always enjoyed Belafonte At Carnegie Hall, but when we’ve dug further into his catalog we’ve been left cold more often than not. However, when we finally got around to dropping the needle on a few of these we were very impressed by the music and BLOWN AWAY by the sound on the better pressings.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology. If you’re a Harry Belafonte fan, a Lena Horne fan, a Gershwin fan, or just somebody who enjoys classic material performed with gusto and soul, this is a record that belongs in your collection.

1959 Tubes?

You just can’t beat ’em.

Here you will find the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 58 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

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 ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from and any era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Woman is a Sometime Thing 
Summertime
Oh I Got Plenty of Nothing
I Wants You to Stay Here
Bess, You Is My Woman Now

Side Two

It Ain’t Necessarily So
Street Calls:
– Strawberry Woman
– The Honey Man
– Crab Man
My Man’s Gone Now
Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess
There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York

AMG Review

The first of Belafonte’s duet albums with female performers, this one paired two attractive black American singers at the peak of their respective talents. As with Belafonte’s later albums, the selections consist of individual performances as well as duets.

The subject matter is songs from George Gershwin’s operetta Porgy and Bess, capitalizing on the popularity of the Columbia film released that year, starring Belafonte’s best friend Sidney Poitier and his Carmen Jones co-star, Dorothy Dandridge. Belafonte and Horne only sing two songs together: “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York” and “Bess, You Is My Woman.”

The remaining selections feature Belafonte accompanied by Bob Corman’s orchestra or Horne singing with husband Lennie Hayton’s Orchestra.