This is the first time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re starting off with a bang — The Firebird Suite and La Mer are the two pieces on record 7 of the set, and both of them are knockouts. We have a devil of a time finding good recordings of either work, and to find SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) for both back to back on one disc is a surprise indeed.
You may remember that recordings from these sets were reissued by Chesky back in the ’90s, with mediocre sound of course, as all their reissues are mediocre at best. We never carried a single one of them, even when we were carrying reissues.
I remember the first time I heard some of the records from this Scheherazade set and was knocked out — here was Tubey Magical RCA Living Stereo sound at a fraction of the price the real RCAs were commanding, a price I could not begin to afford.
The problem — and it’s still a problem, though less so — is the vinyl. These sets were produced cheaply in order to be priced affordably (under $20 for 10 LPs in a box!), and that means the best vinyl was simply not part of the budget. To find pressings that play even Mint Minus Minus is not easy, even today. Back then, before the advent of modern enzyme-based cleaning fluids and expensive record cleaning vacuum machinery, there was no way to get most of the vinyl to play even that well.
As you can imagine we did not have dozens of these sets with which to shootout. We had three, and this copy is clearly the winner of the group by a substantial margin.
Side One – The Firebird Suite
A++ to A+++, better than Super Hot Stamper sound. This side was quite a bit richer and more Tubey Magical than the others we played, with solid body to the brass. We would have called it White Hot but we can imagine it would be possible to find a bit more clarity in the midrange. That said, with this kind of sound the music on this side works brilliantly. A top performance of the suite.
Side Two – La Mer
A++ to A+++, better than Super Hot Stamper sound again! Dynamic and lively sonics with a performance to match. More Tubey Magical richness coupled with transparency and plenty of top end, not something you hear often on vintage recordings.
This record will come in the original inner sleeve from the box set, and should probably be placed in a generic outer sleeve.
The Firebird Suite (Stravinsky)
La Mer (Debussy)