John Coltrane – Plays For Lovers

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Plays For Lovers

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  • This superb compilation has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound for side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s rich, warm and natural, with loads of ambience and the Tubey Magic that was still on the tapes fifty years ago (and is surely long gone by now)
  • 4 stars: “… these half-dozen selections provide evidence of his tremendous facility and musical sensitivity… For anyone who is even nominally curious about Coltrane, or simply wants an excellent anthology of the man at his most alluring, John Coltrane Plays for Lovers pretty much says it all. Included are nearly 40 minutes of examples that acknowledge his remarkable capacity for naturally exquisite balladry.”  

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the remastering into stereo for this title from the mono tapes carried out in 1969 was done delicately, with an ear to keeping the tonal balance correct and the spread of stereo information to a minimum.

As proof, note that this pressing actually beat our true mono pressings on side one. If we had twenty mono copies no doubt one of them would have beaten even this side one. Getting five or six clean copies of this album, mono, stereo or otherwise, is hard enough these days. Twenty is out of the question.

Readers may wish to check out the especially insightful Allmusic review to gain a better understanding of this very special group of ballads.

True Vintage Vinyl Sound

This vintage Prestige pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Coltrane and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, 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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of John Coltrane Plays For Lovers have to offer is not hard 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 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • 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 qualities we discuss 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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top 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 air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings 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.

What We’re Listening For on John Coltrane Plays For Lovers

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would have put them.would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Violets For Your Furs 
I Love You 
Time After Time

Side Two

You Leave Me Breathless
On A Misty Night 
Like Someone In Love

AMG 4 Star Review

John Coltrane Plays for Lovers (1966) deserves to be considered apart from the reams of other Coltrane repackaged thematic compilations. Included are nearly 40 minutes of examples that acknowledge his remarkable capacity for naturally exquisite balladry.

Considering this disc was initially issued just prior to ‘Trane’s death — when the artist was primarily known for his leanings toward free jazz — these half-dozen selections provide evidence of his tremendous facility and musical sensitivity. The contents were cherry-picked out of several different Coltrane sessions circa the Prestige era ( 1956-1958). “On a Misty Night” is from a late November of 1956 confab consisting of Tadd Dameron (piano), John Simmons (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). The affable melody is nothing short of a dreamy invocation unto itself. Within the introduction Coltrane demonstrates a sweeter sound before Dameron’s Thelonious Monk-like interjections ante up, bobbing and weaving through a double-time pace.

Coltrane evolves into an earthier tonality as he goes through some sublimely tuneful improvising. “Violets for Your Furs” is the pinnacle of a May 1957 quartet also featuring Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Albert “Tootie” Heath (drums). The languid tempo allows the participants to infuse every measure with a refined sense of romanticism. Specifically worth noting is the delicate counterpoint between Garland and Coltrane and the reserved phrasing that helps Chambers unite the two. Both “Like Someone in Love” and “I Love You” hail from a mid-August of 1957 meeting with ‘Trane leading a trio of Earl May (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). The lack of keyboard support allowed Coltrane to unleash longer and more inclusive solos. Particularly enticing are the lusty syncopated rhythms on the latter. They similarly suit the three-piece lineup as they have the capacity to quickly fluctuate between a hypnotic Eastern flavor to straight-ahead bop.

On “You Leave Me Breathless” Coltrane is once again joined by Garland (piano), Chambers, and Taylor for one of ‘Trane’s signature Prestige sides. He oozes emotive warmth and Garland’s exceptional comprehension of Coltrane’s style results in a telepathic connection as the pianist is able to seamlessly interject himself into the proceedings. “Time After Time” was among the songs at Coltrane’s final Prestige outing on December 26, 1958 and is another Garland, Chambers, and Taylor backed gem.

Immediately evident is the increased fluidity in Coltrane’s contributions that go far beyond a rote recitation. One can practically hear the harmonic advancements in his singular, melody-driven playing. For anyone who is even nominally curious about Coltrane, or simply wants an excellent anthology of the man at his most alluring, John Coltrane Plays for Lovers pretty much says it all.