Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on side one! Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this side one was a THRILL for us and will no doubt be as big a thrill for you too.   

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. 

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days. We rarely even pick up most Verves, having been burned so many times we just can’t face another badly mastered noisy LP.

Side One

A+++ As Good As It Gets Sound! So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar! On the Cisco it just isn’t there.

This was the most musical side out of all the sides we played in our shootout.

Side Two

A+ to A++, pretty darn good, especially considering how mediocre most pressings are. A bit flat with some smear compared to side one, but lively and musical, still recommended.

Listen to the horns on the first track of side two. They’re the best sounding instrument on the whole track!

Verve Problems

Even though we have a bad case of Verve fatigue here at Better Records, this album is so special that we took a chance on an open copy at a local store recently, and I’m sure glad we did. It is KILLER. Everything that’s good about this era of RVG, Wes and those glorious Don Sebesky arrangements is here. For my part let me just say that this is the best sounding Wes Montgomery record I have ever played.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

California Dreamin’ 
Sun Down 
Oh You Crazy Moon
More, More Amor 
Without You

Side Two

Winds of Barcelona 
Sunny 
Green Peppers 
Mr. Walker 
South of the Border

CD Universe Review

As Wes Montgomery sailed into ever-poppier waters towards the end of his career, two things remained constant: he kept writing and including original tunes on his albums, and he kept playing and including the blues in one shade or another. Thus, on CALIFORNIA DREAMING, another big band-orchestrated Verve album, we get “Sun Down,” a six-minute original blues, cut for the most part with just the first-call rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Richard Davis, Grady Tate and Ray Baretto. The other original, “Mr. Walker,” is just as cooking, and dates from Montgomery’s second Riverside album, the aptly titled INCREDIBLE JAZZ GUITAR OF WES MONTGOMERY.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING, unlike BUMPIN’, emphasizes groove tunes over ballads, and keeps the pop challenges to a minimum. It’s not the relentless cooking of SMOKIN’ AT THE HALF NOTE, or the aforementioned INCREDIBLE JAZZ GUITAR, but it’s solid Montgomery nonetheless.

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jeresy on Sepetmber 14-16, 1966.

Personnel includes: Wes Montgomery (guitar); Don Sebesky (arranger, conductor); Jack Jennings (vibraphone, percussion); Herbie Hancock (piano); Al Casamenti, Buck Pizzarelli (guitar); Richard Davis (bass); Grady Tate (drums); Ray Baretto (percussion).