Month: February 2020

Johnny Mathis – Open Fire, Two Guitars

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  • Mathis’ superb 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • The All Tube recording chain at Columbia’s 30th Street studios allowed their engineers to make recordings practically unequaled in the decades since
  • An outrageous claim? Not really, because this very pressing backs up every thing we say
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On this album, Johnny Mathis creates an atmosphere of fireside intimacy by dispensing with his usual orchestral accompaniment so that the purity of his voice entices the listener’s full attention… The enduring popularity of Open Fire, Two Guitars is attributable in part to its hypnotic aura of closeness and confidentiality…”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes a mostly light sandpapery sound for 1-2 seconds, then, at the end of track 1, An Open Fire, there are 2 moderate pops.
  • On side two, a mark makes 6 light ticks one-quarter inch from the end of track 1, When I Fall In Love.

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 60 years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is nearly impossible, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard-pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year. These days it’s taking three to five years to bring any of the classic Johnny Mathis albums to market. There are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day, and their owners.

Which is why we are so pleased to present one of Johnny’s most beloved albums, and one that is quite a bit more musically involving than most. If you like Dream With Dean, and who doesn’t?, this Mathis album should be right up your alley.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Tom Waits

TWO GREAT SIDES on this wonderful album — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! Both sides have a wonderful bottom end — check out all the WEIGHT to that rich, meaty bass. Many copies we played had a tendency to sound somewhat dull, but this one has all the extension up top you need. The overall sound is rich, full, sweet and warm. The strings have texture, the voice has lots of breath, and I just don’t think you could find a better sounding copy.

Drop the needle on Romeo Is Bleeding for some of the best music on here. When you’ve got the kind of bass definition that this copy offers, the sound for that song can be killer, as it is here. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – Golden Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

 

This is Sarah in her prime – the recordings date from 1954-58. A good overview of her Mercury recordings.

We’ve been fortunate to have a number of excellent sounding Sarah Vaughan records hit our turntable over the course of the last few years, but this is officially our first Sarah Vaughan shootout title to make it to the site.

Most of the reason for this unfortunate fact can be attributed to the lack of clean copies of her prime albums for Mercury sitting in our local record store bins. Her best albums are either missing or scratched. (Plenty of Pablos and Mainstreams, sure, but we have never been all that impressed with either label’s recordings of vocalists.)

This Greatest Hits album apparently stayed in print long enough to produce the supply necessary for one of our shootouts, and the result is we now have some wonderful Sarah Vaughan performances with superb sound to share with our customers. (more…)

Mercury Stereo Sampler Vol. 1 (SRD-1) – Reviewed in 2012

This Mercury Sampler has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, or better — who knows if this isn’t as good as it gets? We can’t find enough clean copies to test so we’re sticking with A++ or better just to be safe. Either way, this is the BIG, BOLD classic Mercury sound. Let’s Dance – David Carroll – from Let’s Dance (SR-60001) has the sweet Tubey Magic of the best Living Stereos and the percussion excitement of Bang Baa-room and Harp!

Not every song on side one is a knockout but some of them certainly are, making this a top quality Variety Demo Disc. (more…)

Jerry Jeff Walker – Driftin’ Way of Life

 

This copy, which has a variation of the maroon early Vanguard label, not sure exactly when it was pressed, or where, was the best copy we played in our shootout. So tubey and natural, why don’t more records sound like this? The recording itself is superb, with audiophile quality sound all the way. And the music is just as good, fully deserving the 4 1/2 Stars All Music Guide gave it.

Over the last few years you’ve seen rave reviews for many Vanguard recordings – Joan Baez, The Weavers, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, etc.

You can confidently add Jerry Jeff Walker’s Driftin’ Way of Life to that list. (more…)

Andre Previn & His Pals – West Side Story

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

  • Previn’s stellar piano trio returns to the site with jazzy interpretations of the best songs from West Side Story, in stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound
  • You win shootouts with this kind of All Tube Analog sound – warm, natural, lively and clear, with solid support down low, a nicely extended top and a huge three-dimensional soundfield 
  • Andre Previn and his friends take eight classic tunes from West Side Story – it would be hard to imagine having better material to work with in a jazz setting
  • 4 stars: “The last of a series of showtune albums recorded by the trio finds the all-star group focusing on the music of West Side Story… As usual, the melodies are treated respectfully yet swingingly, and Andre Previn in particular excels in this setting. Recommended.”

One of Previn’s best piano trio records, this album was recorded in 1959 by Roy DuNann while at the height of his engineering powers.

The two Must Owns from his many sessions at Contemporary are this album and Bells Are Ringing. We are not aware of any of his jazz piano albums on other labels being much better than passable and most are not worth picking up at any price. Believe me, we’ve tried. The one exception I can think of is Four to Go on Columbia. It’s pretty good. Not in the same league as his Contemporary recordings by a long shot, but better than most of his output from the ’60s.

For both the albums mentioned above the Black Label originals in stereo are the best way to go, but finding them in clean audiophile playing condition is no walk in the park, which is the main reason it’s been four years since we did either title, and I think we have not been able to find a single copy of Bells worth buying since then. Some records show up on the site and are never seen again. That may be one of them. Time will tell. (more…)

Arthur Lyman – Bwana A – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

White Hot Stamper sound, with a big stage, Tubey Magic and correct tonality from top to bottom. There’s plenty going on at the extreme top – the rare copy that has it all!

Everywhere else the sound is tonally and timbrally Right On The Money. It’s very lively, with tight, clear bass. Listen to how open the sound is. That sound is just not to be found on popular albums anymore.

This Superb sounding stereo (we don’t bother with mono) copy of Bwana A has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Martin Denny and others too numerous (or obscure) to name.

But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly captivating). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint. (more…)

Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, et al. – Greatest C&W Hits Vol 4 – Reviewed in 2012

More Marty Robbins

More Country and Country Rock

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WOW! (Or should that be OMG?) This Columbia 360 original pressing has AMAZING DEMO DISC sound on many of its twelve tracks, tracks by some of the biggest names in country at the time. To hear Jimmy Dean sing Big Bad John or Marty Robbins’ do Devil Woman with this kind of Tubey Magical, tonally correct, rich, sweet, spacious sound is nothing less than a THRILL. The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against! Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

The sound on both sides is White Hot, practically faultless I might even go so far as to say.

The first three tracks on side one are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets! After that I stopped playing side one; the next three may be as good, may not be, but what I heard on those first three was clearly WHITE HOT STAMPER SOUND! (more…)

Miles Davis / Steamin’ – A Thousand Bucks and Worth Every Penny (When It Sounds Like This and Plays This Quietly)

More Miles Davis

  • Insanely good sound throughout for this extremely rare original Prestige Yellow and Black label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This early Mono pressing takes the sound of the recording to a place we never thought it could go – never have we heard an album from these famous sessions sound as good as this very LP
  • An original in pristine condition, with this kind of sound, is a record that is very unlikely to pass our way again
  • 5 stars: “The end results are consistently astonishing. At the center of Steamin’, as with most outings by this band, are the group improvisations which consist of solo upon solo of arguably the sweetest and otherwise most swinging interactions known to have existed between musicians.”

WOW — this Prestige Yellow Label Mono pressing has some of the most realistic, natural Miles Davis sound we’ve ever heard! Both sides earned A+++ grades and play Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, truly exceptional for a vintage pressing such as this one. You will have an incredibly difficult time finding a copy that can hold its own with this one. (more…)

East of Suez – Reviewed in 2012

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

Hot Stamper sound on this 101 Strings album, can you believe it? Then again, why shouldn’t it have amazing Golden Age Stereo sound? It’s recorded in the late ’50s, using all tube equipment and probably a minimum of mics — there’s no reason to assume the sound should be substandard just because the retail price of the record was only $1.98.

For a budget priced Whitehall record we recently put up, we had this to say, “This budget Whitehall pressing is one of the most incredible SLEEPERS in the entire classical catalog, with SUPERB sound as well as performances of the highest quality from the Vienna Festival Orchestra. The sound is big and bold, spacious, open and sweet in the best golden age tradition.”

And this album is full of real classical pieces, not Mantovani-style kitsch. (more…)