Count Basie & Joe Williams – Memories Ad-Lib

More Count Basie 

More Memories Ad-Lib

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  • A vintage stereo pressing of Joe Williams right at his peak in 1959, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl 
  • This is one of the few Joe Williams records we’ve been able to find with audiophile sound and surfaces – it’s taken us years to get even one shootout going, but it produced this great copy, so we think it was worth it!
  • “Williams’ vocals seem effortless throughout the date… highlights include the easygoing swinger “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)” and a foot-tapping “Honeysuckle Rose.”

This vintage LP has 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 Joe Williams 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 59 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 the best sides of this Classic Jazz Vocal Album have to offer is clear for all to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied double bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitar and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

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 every 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.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Ain’t Misbehavin’
I’ll Always Be In Love With You
Sweet Sue, Just You
If I Could Be With You
Dinah
Sometimes I’m Happy

Side Two

Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
Call Me Darling
The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else
Memories Of You
Honeysuckle Rose
All Of Me

AMG Review

This unusual session appeared on LP in 1958, featuring Count Basie exclusively on organ accompanying Joe Williams’ vocals over a dozen numbers, mostly standards. Although Basie’s recordings on the instrument were sporadic, his style was not at all different from the one he utilized at the piano, filling in the holes and providing just enough backing for his very fine singer. Williams’ vocals seem effortless throughout the date, though excessive reverb is frequently added.

The unidentified rhythm section is anchored by longtime Basie guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Eddie Jones, and drummer Sonny Payne (who sticks mostly to brushes); what’s rather unusual about the date is that Green actually takes several brief solos on his unamplified instrument! A muted trumpet also appears on the lush “If I Could Be with You,” with the frequently omitted verse added. Other highlights include the easygoing swinger “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)” and a foot-tapping “Honeysuckle Rose.”