Month: April 2019

Art Pepper – Today – Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

More Art Pepper

More Today

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn’s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies. When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second. Of all the people who should know better…

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Miss Who” (Art Pepper) — 4:42
Mambo Koyama” (Art Pepper) — 6:40
“Lover Come Back To Me” (Sigmund Romberg; Oscar Hammerstein II) — 6:51

Side Two

“Patricia” (Art Pepper) — 10:24
“These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)” (Harry Link; Jack Strachey; Holt Marvell) — 5:44
“Chris’s Blues” (Art Pepper) — 3:50

AMG 4 Star Rave Review!

Altoist Art Pepper, in the midst of a successful comeback, recorded this excellent set (also included in full in his massive Galaxy box set) for Galaxy. With pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Haynes, Pepper performs a definitive version of his intense ballad “Patricia”; other highlights include “Miss Who,” “Lover Come Back to Me” and “Chris’ Blues.”

Letter of the Week – Clear Spot and Candy-O

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I went to a ‘listening party” at a local high end audio retailer. People were invited to bring a record, have it professionally cleaned, and played back on as many as three different systems ranging from about $3,000 to over six figures for the complete system.

I brought my Hot Stamper of Clear Spot by Captain Beefheart that I got from you.

I know. That’s like cheating, right?

As usual, the record blew all listeners away.

I had one person tell me that, while the style of music wasn’t his cup of tea, it sounded so compelling he wanted more.

So I put on my Nautilus SuperDiscs (Listen To The Difference) pressing of The Cars Candy-O.

Sounds okay. But this is supposed to be a “SuperDisc”. Okay does not cut it.

So I put on my Better Records A+++ copy of the same title. Voila! The sound became magical. (more…)

Dean Martin – This Time I’m Swingin’

More Dean Martin

This Time I’m Swingin’

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  • A wonderful copy that lets this music swing the way it’s supposed to! Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Classic Capitol big, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound — Deano’s vocals are present and natural in the best tradition of rat-mate Frank Sinatra in the early ’60s
  • With Nelson Riddle arranging, you can be sure the album has plenty of swing all right — and the brass sounds amazing here
  • 4 1/2 Stars in the All Music Guide: “…an easy swinging collection…”

If you’re a fan of the Capitol Sinatra sound you’ll love this record. It’s an exceptionally difficult title to find in anything but trashed condition. I’ve been a fan of this record for many years but this is the first copy we’ve been able to find that’s clean enough to go up on the site with White Hot Stamper grades.  (more…)

Phil Collins – Face Value – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

More Phil Collins and Genesis

Face Value

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

This Minty British LP has two AMAZING SIDES! Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record. The sound on these Hot Stampers is VIBRANT! Side one has SUPERB extention on the top, PUNCHY BASS and excellent texture on the drums and percussion. Side two has BIG SOUND with really spacious strings and vocals. (more…)

Dexter Gordon – One Flight Up – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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One Flight Up

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Blue Note LP is without a doubt ONE OF THE BEST SOUNDING JAZZ RECORDS WE’VE EVER HEARD! We were auditioning a bunch of jazz records today (4/25/07), and when the needle hit the grooves on this one we were ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY!

I can’t think of one jazz record we’ve ever played here at Better Records with this kind of WHOMP! Everything here is so rich and full — nothing like a typical Blue Note album. (more…)

British Band Classics Vol. 2 – The First Classical Record I Bought as an Audiophile

More the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More British Band Classics Vol. 2

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British Band Classics Volume Two was the first Mercury classical LP I ever bought. After hearing it at an audiophile friend’s house I went down to Tower Records and found one in the bin. I think the price was $3.99 for the Golden Import pressing, which of course was the only one available. That was what I had heard, so I had no idea that the original even existed, let alone sounded better and would one day sell for many hundreds of dollars. This was the ’70s, when you could walk into a record store and buy new records, and long before HP created a feeding frenzy for vintage Mercs.

As I’m writing this, I can picture myself in the store. I can still remember that the clerk who helped me find the record commented that I should have come in the week before when the record was on sale for $1 off. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth that day. This album went on to become one of my personal treasures. I used to marvel at the way the wind instruments actually sounded like the pipes of an organ. (I wasn’t really sure at first that there wasn’t an organ playing somewhere on the record. I didn’t know much about classical music then. ) (more…)

Bruch / Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz

More of the music of Max Bruch 

More Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

WHITE HOT Stamper sound for the Bruch side of this original RCA Shaded Dog, one of the best Heifetz concerto titles of all time. (I’m trying to think of a Heifetz title that sounds better and coming up blank.)

This was our shootout winner on side two, beating all comers, earning our highest grade, the full Three Pluses (our blue ribbon, gold medal, and best in show all wrapped into one). The sound is nothing short of DEMO DISC QUALITY.

If you want to demonstrate the magic of Living Stereo recordings, jump right to the second movement of the Bruch. The sonority of the massed strings is to die for. When Heifetz enters, the immediacy of his violin further adds to the transcendental quality of the experience. Sonically and musically it doesn’t get much better than this, on Living Stereo or anywhere else. (more…)

Letter of the Week – The Pretender

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

After years of buying the latest reissue lps at premium pricing and being frustrated with the sound quality. I bought a copy of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender” from you and was floored by the sound quality and dynamics and realized that your company takes all the BS out of the Audiophile shopping experience. Since then I’ve used your store a bunch.

Rob R.

The Pretende

Music Of Berlioz / Martinon

More of the music of Hector Berlioz 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This English Stereo Treasury pressing (on an odd lookinig Orange label, with handwritten stampers I have never seen before) has a SUPERB side two and side one is almost as good! The original release is London CS 6101 and I doubt most copies of it would sound this good.

This is Classic Old School Decca sound, rich and smooth with an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage. All the instruments are clear and have good texture, which is what one rarely hears on the most early pressings, which tend to be thick and dark. A little more top and this side two would have earned the full Three Pluses. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Sings Hymns and Spirituals

More Nat “King” Cole

More Sings Hymns and Spirituals

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

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there give you the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing, particularly on side one.

We want to give a special shoutout here to conductor/arranger Gordon Jenkins, who also handled the same duties on Nilsson’s Must Own classic A Little Touch Of Schmillson in The Night.

Jenkins worked with Nat King Cole on four albums for Capitol: Love Is the Thing (1957), The Very Thought of You (1958), Every Time I Feel the Spirit (1959) and Where Did Everyone Go? (1963). (more…)