Astrud Gilberto & Walter Wanderley – A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb collaboration with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical with wonderfully breathy vocals, excellent clarity and solid down low
  • “Wanderley’s organ playing is as enthusiastic and fluffy as ever, while Gilberto’s singing (in both English and Portuguese) remains smile-inducing. Both manage to create an incredibly warm sound, and when Wanderley plays some piano (as on the beautiful “A Certain Sadness”), you can sense a spark between the two.” 

This vintage Verve pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness 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 1966
  • 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 studio space

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.

What We Listen For on A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • 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 attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Astrud Gilberto – vocals
Walter Wanderley – organ
José Marino – bass
Claudio Slon – drums
Bobby Rosengarden – percussion

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Certain Smile
A Certain Sadness
Nega
So Nice (Summer Samba)
Vocé Ja Foi Bahia
Portugese Washerwoman

Side Two

Goodbye Sadness (Tristeza)
Call Me
Here’s That Rainy Day
Tu Me Delirio
It’s A Lovely Day Today

AMG  Review

In 1966, the bossa nova craze was at a peak, and A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness marked a collaboration between two of its biggest stars — vocalist Astrud Gilberto, brought to fame by her classic rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema,” and organist Walter Wanderley.

Wanderley’s organ playing is as enthusiastic and fluffy as ever, while Gilberto’s singing (in both English and Portuguese) remains smile-inducing. Both manage to create an incredibly warm sound, and when Wanderley plays some piano (as on the beautiful “A Certain Sadness”), you can sense a spark between the two. So, while A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness might not be the most successful album of all time, it is still a nice record that fans of either Gilberto or Wanderley will want to have. And — even though one tends to use the word “cocktail lounge music” — their rendition of “Tristeza” is simply irresistible, easy listening or not.