Helen Humes – Songs I Like to Sing – Our Black Label Shootout Winner

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More Songs I Like to Sing

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It has that classic tube-mastered sound — warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings with more breath of life.   

Overall the sound is well-balanced and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is rare for a black label Contemporary, as they are usually dull and bass-heavy.

I won’t buy them locally anymore unless they can be returned. I’ve got a box full of Contemporarys with bloated bass and no top end that I don’t know what to do with! Like most mediocre-to-bad sounding records around here, they just sit in a box taking up space. All our time and effort goes into putting good pressings on the site and in the emailings. It’s hard to get motivated to do anything with the leftovers. We paid plenty for them, so we don’t want to give them away. But they don’t sound good, so our customers won’t buy them. What to do, what to do? Ebay I guess, but that’s a long way down the road. It’s too more fun doing listings for good records these days to want to stop now. The average record is just average, and nothing is ever going to change that.

We shot this out against a variety of later pressings. The Black Label copies have a bit of echo added to the vocals and have the attributes listed above — warmth, sweetness, presence, and immediacy. The later pressings offer superior clarity and resolution. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better than the other; it’s really a matter of taste.

This is one of my all time favorite jazz albums. Marty Paitch did the arrangements for this group of top musicians, which include Art Pepper, Ben Webster, Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Jack Sheldon and Leroy Vinegar, just to name the ones whose work I know well. This is my favorite Big Band Vocal album ever. It belongs in any serious record collection.

After years of playing and enjoying various pressings of this album, I made quite an enlightening discovery — the OJC pressing of this record was never remastered by the OJC people, but instead was a real Contemporary label mastering job. Now I know why the OJC of this record sounds so good.

Sometimes the OJC versions of Contemporary Records are excellent. Those tend to be the ones we sell. But most of the time the pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid ’70s until they were bought by Fantasy are superior.

My understanding is that Bernie Grundman was cutting a lot of records for Contemporary in those days. If that’s true he was doing a great job because those are some wonderful sounding records.