This is our first Hot Stamper listing for the album, and believe me, it’s not for want of trying. The best sounding original copies I had picked up over the years were far too noisy and scratched to be acceptable to audiophiles, not to mention the fact that the originals were (and are) replete with mastering issues that often exacerbate problems in the recording itself.
Having said all that, every Hot Stamper copy we found had its own mastering strengths and weaknesses — the tubey magic and fullness in the best originals isn’t really heard on the later pressings, but the later pressings have a clarity and freedom from obvious compressor and cutter-head distortion that makes them appealing in their own right, not to mention much better brass sound: more dynamic and less smeared.
Rudy, Nice Piano For a Change!
One surprising finding was how good the piano sounds on the better copies. It has good weight, real solidity, and lacks that irritating “boxy” hard sound that you find on so many RVG recordings.
Pinched horns and boxy pianos are the hallmarks of most Van Gelder recordings; how on earth this guy is considered one of the greats is beyond me [now of course we know better].
We did this shootout after having played a few Contemporaries the day before, and the difference in the quality of the sound is nothing less than shocking. The Contemporary sound is so relaxed and musical, the RVG Blue Note sound so forced and artificial.
But Contemporary never had the likes of Horace Silver in their stable of artists, and we love this music, so there was no alternative, we just had to dive in and hope for the best. And the best was pretty good.
The Best Ever
Unlike so many of the later pressings, this one has real weight, richness and fullness to the sound, with super-tight, note-like bass, and it does it without sacrificing clarity in the mids and highs. The leading edge transients on the horns were excellent, with the pinched quality of their sound you hear on some tracks kept at a minimum, and the whole of the ensemble was transparently clear. This copy was obviously cut with super-low distortion mastering equipment, and boy did it help the sound. Side two was the best side of this album we have ever played.
Side one was nearly as good at Two Pluses. We didn’t know it could get any better, and then we turned it over and went wow!
Both sides had a wonderful quality to the drums: they actually sound like hollowed out, three dimensional objects that are being made to resonate — which is kind of what they are — the opposite of the cardboard drums you hear on bad rock records, the ones that sound like somebody is slapping an old packing box.