Harry Belafonte – Sings The Blues – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

More Harry Belafonte

More Sings The Blues

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

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.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Harry Belafonte record. He should sound rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper the pressings we offer must be highly resolving, not crude and ambience-challenged the way so many modern LPs seem to be. You should be able to hear every element of the recording, with the voice and instruments surrounded by the natural space of the studios in which the recording was made.

This Copy

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.

The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

Truly a Spectacular Demo Disc in its own right.

Mono

Small, recessed and crude, the one mono pressing we played was enough to make us never want to buy another.

Remastered

There are at least two Heavy Vinyl remasterings of this album still floating around the world of audio: Classic Records’ from the late ’90s, which as I recall was nothing special, and Cisco’s current 2 LP 45 RPM version, which I have never played. Neither will be competitive in the least with the Hot Stamper pressing we are offering here.

Surfaces

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet a copy as you are ever likely to find. Most of the copies in our shootout were noisier, and finding any copy without scratches or groove damage is no easy task.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Fool For You 
Losing Hand 
One For My Baby 
In The Evening Mama 
Hallelujah I love Her 
The Way That I Feel

Side Two

Cotton Fields 
God Bless’ The Child 
Mary Ann 
Sinner’s Prayer 
Fare Thee Well

AMG Review

This 1958 release was Belafonte’s first stereo release and 1958 was the dawn of the RCA Living Stereo sound. It featured a great example of well done stereo, and Belafonte’s later Carnegie Hall albums became audiophile standards.

Sing the Blues has often been compared unfavorably to his other work as understated, but given the range of expression Belafonte brings to these tunes, I don’t consider that a negative. He sings three Ray Charles tunes, a Billie Holiday standard (“God Bless the Child”), and a couple of Charles Carter tunes that were Belafonte staples. Belafonte nails every song on the album, with the exception of the Johnny Mercer tune “One for My Baby”. I just don’t see Belafonte drunk at the bar spilling his heart out to a bartender. But his version of “Cotton Fields” is as good as there is and his “God Bless the Child” is outstanding.

Dennis Davis, HIFI+

After flirting with traditional African-American material in his previous albums, Belafonte, for the first time, devotes an entire album to the blues. However, of the eleven songs, only two could be classified as traditional blues: “In the Evenin’ Mama” and “Cotton Fields,” the latter given a five minute treatment. Belafonte would take this song on the road as part of his live act for the next decade.

Of the other songs, three were covers of Ray Charles standards (“A Fool For You,” “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” “Mary Ann”). Another highlight is Belafonte’s rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” With few exceptions, the entire album is understated and not as exciting or riveting as other Belafonte records.

Still, it’s solid listening, and taken track by track, thoughtful performances.

Footnote: this was the first Belafonte album recorded in stereo. Some releases feature a thick, dark blue spine.