Lou Donaldson – Sophisticated Lou

xxxxx

  • Lou Donaldson’s 1973 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent – only the best Blue Note pressings let Donaldson’s soulful energy come through the way it did here
  • “Supported by a lush string section, Donaldson plays sensitive, pretty versions of such familiar items as ‘Stella By Starlight,’ ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,’ ‘Autumn in New York’ and ‘Time After Time,’ plus a new reading of his ‘Blues Walk’ and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life.’ … a nice change of pace after several albums of funky soul-jazz.”

This vintage Blue Note 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 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 Sophisticated Lou 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 1973
  • 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 Sophisticated Lou

  • 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 attack, 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 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

You’ve Changed
Stella By Starlight
What Are You Doing For The Res of Your Life?
The Long Goodbye

Side Two

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Autumn in New York
Blues Walk
Time After Time

AMG  Review

For the most part, Sophisticated Lou found Lou Donaldson returning to standards after spending several years cranking out commercially oriented soul-jazz. Supported by a lush string section, Donaldson plays sensitive, pretty versions of such familiar items as “Stella By Starlight,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” “Autumn in New York” and “Time After Time,” plus a new reading of his “Blues Walk” and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” Sophisticated Lou pales when compared to the great Lush Life, but it remains a fairly successful effort, and it’s a nice change of pace after several albums of funky soul-jazz.

Leave a Reply