Month: December 2019

Gabor Szabo – Gabor Szabo 1969 – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Superb choice of material, with a heavy emphasis on Beatles tunes. Now how can you go wrong with Beatles tunes? Those four Beatles tunes are the highlights of this album: “Dear Prudence”, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “In My Life” and “You Won’t See Me”, as well as two folkie tracks by Joni Mitchell: “Both Sides Now” and “Michael From Mountains”. A heartfelt ballad is handled with quiet and warm intimacy: Buffy Saint-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go”. More uptempo pop classics like Bobby Hyland’s “Sealed With A Kiss”, The Classics IV’s “Stormy” and The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” round out the best of the rest.

That’s an awful lot of good material to work with! This is not Jazz Jazz, this is Pop Jazz: pop tunes played in a jazzy style. I love the stuff.

Sonny Stitt – Plays Arrangements From the Pen Of Quincy Jones – Reviewed in 2004

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

Outstanding mainstream jazz at its best! Stitt is absolutely phenomenal on this album. His solo work on My Funny Valentine alone is worth the price of the album! The real jazz guys know that his lines are completely fresh and unique. This record is all the proof you need to know what a giant of jazz Sonny Stitt was. He’s also joined by great players such as Hank Jones, Freddy Green, Oscar Pettiford and Philly Joe Jones.

There is a larger group that joins him on some numbers, but the real star of this album is Stitt when he is soloing. Very good sound as well.

Barney Kessel – Some Like It Hot – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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More Some Like It Hot

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

Original Contemporary Black Label Stereo LP from 1959 with DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! (The picture is not correct as you may have noticed.)

For those of you who appreciate the sound that Roy DuNann and, in this case, Howard Holzer, were able to achieve in the ’50s at Contemporary Records, this LP will be a Must-Own unless you already have it. Their stuff just doesn’t get any better than this. Tubey magic, richness, sweetness, dead on timbres from top to bottom — this is a textbook example of their sound at its best. (more…)

Al Green – Greatest Hits – Reviewed in 2006

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Greatest Hits

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

This Hi LP sounds JUST RIGHT to me. There aren’t enough copies floating around for me to shootout. I no longer have the DCC LP; I sold my test pressing long ago. I remember it sounded a bit thick, but that was on a very different stereo than the one I own today. It has been my experience that when I hear a really dead-on early pressing of a record like this, the 180g version will tend to come up short. If you own the DCC pressing, I guarantee this copy is better or your money back.   (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Sorcerer

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

STUNNING, TOP QUALITY SOUND on this A+++ side two! We played a bunch of these recently and didn’t hear any other side twos quite like this one! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than we heard anywhere else. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — bigger, wider, and deeper than on any other copy we played. Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

Side one is nice but not amazing. The bass is a bit bloated and the soundfield doesn’t fully open up. Play the sides against each other to understand what A+++ White Hot Stampers give you that A+ Hot Stampers don’t. This side is also very ticky, so we’ve based the price solely on the killer side two. (Thankfully the A+++ side is quiet.) (more…)

Sonny Stitt & Paul Gonsalves – Salt and Pepper

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish on this excellent pressing
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • Van Gelder was masterful at the kind of spacious, dynamic, energetic sound found on this vintage pressing
  • “[Stitt’s] beautiful playing behind Gonsalves’ warm melody statement raises the session to the classic level.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An exciting match-up of tenors Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves… Highly recommended to bebop and straight-ahead jazz fans.”

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Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live Alive

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Live Alive

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

We just finished a big shootout for this bluesy live album, and this was one of just a handful of copies that impressed us from start to finish. Most copies we played were thick, murky, overly smooth and/or veiled, but this one almost never suffers in any of those areas. The sound is clean, clear, transparent and lively throughout.

This is one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s better albums. We’ve heard reissues on both heavy and regular vinyl, but I guarantee this will KILL them all or your money back. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Flag

Flag

One of our good customers had something to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased a very long time ago. [I know it was a long time ago because our customers seem to have lost interest in James Taylor in general and Flag in particular, so no further shootouts are likely to be done in the near to medium term, which is a pity because we quite like the album.]

Hey Tom,   

Ordered J. Taylor “Flag”, arrived in perfect condition, outstanding packaging. Thanks! My first Hot Stamper—admittedly a little skeptical. Have two copies of this (one of my favorite JT albums, if not the favorite). One from the initial release and one from a few years later (a near mint copy). Had some fun listening to the Hot Stamper vs. these two pressings. Also invited my amigo, Joe, a trusted friend and music lover. Well, what can I say— we both agreed, a truly and unanimous ‘Better Record’ —-Surprise— Nice work! You have our upmost respect for your time and energy put into this endeavor, wish we could indulge ourselves more of your recommendations. Will do what we can. Thanks for the experience, a real joy and education.

Rick K.

 

Chet Atkins – Class Guitar

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

This RCA original pressing from Nashville, circa 1967, has DEMO DISC quality sound from start to finish, first note to last. Class Guitar is more or less a solo session from 1967, concentrating mostly on classical guitar pieces, with a few pop and jazz hits of the day thrown in for the sake of variety. Chet’s good buddy and main man Jerry Reed joins him on rhythm guitar on some tracks.

Both sides have plenty to offer the discriminating audiophile, with the spaciousness, clarity, tonality and freedom from artificiality that are the hallmark of the best Living Stereo recordings.

Truth be told, technically this is not a real Living Stereo record. It’s an RCA Stereo record. It has the Bill Porter Tubey Magic of the Chet Atkins albums we all know and love, the bulk of which we’re familiar with through our critical listening shootouts. (We’d love to do more but where are the clean stereo copies?)

In fact, not only is this record not a Living Stereo, it’s — gasp — a Dynagroove pressing. And it’s not even Bill Porter at the board, it’s his successor, Jim Malloy.

No matter. Bill may have left in 1964. but he left behind an amazing studio that he practically single-handedly turned into one of the best sounding recording venues in the world. This record may say Dynagroove, but it sure doesn’t sound Dynagroove. And Bill Porter may have left, but his signature sound is all over this record. As we noted in a previous listing: (more…)