- With outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
- Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
- Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
- Allmusic 5 Stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”
The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed.
What To Listen For (WTLF)
We’ve discovered that the key to the hottest sounding pressings is a fairly simple one: the copies with high frequency extension and the tremendous rhythmic energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding.
You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason, Columbia, seemingly more than any other label, had a bad habit of making slightly dull records. Slightly dull does not work for this album.
My notes on Palladium in the Track Listing sum it up: when the highs on the record are right, it almost always comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it of course: some copies lack bass, some sound a bit grainy and gritty — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.
But when you have good highs, you are way more than halfway hom; you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Just fill in the last few details (bass, dynamics, etc.) and the sound will more than likely blow your mind.
What the best sides of this 1977 release 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 1977
- 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, of course, the only way to hear all of the above
So much for sonics. Musically there are only a handful of jazz-rock fusion albums that I can still listen to: Return to Forever’s Romantic Warrior, John McLaughlin’s Birds of Fire, Caldera’s Sky Islands, Weather Report’s Sweetnighter, and this Weather Report LP. Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, and Joe Zawinul are at the top of their game on this album. Since they are some of the most talented jazz musicians to have come up in the last 40 years, that’s saying something.
I consider this album nothing less than a work of GENIUS. It’s completely original. There’s not another record I can think of that sounds anything like it.
The Track Listing tab above will take you to an extensive song by song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.
Birdland Track Commentary
Not an easy track to get right; there’s so much upper midrange and high frequency information to deal with. If the synthesizers and horns are too much, the effect is exciting but won’t wear well. Too much 6k is the problem on most copies, along with not enough above 10. That is a deadly combination.
A Remark You Made Track Commentary
Such an original composition. This is the band at their non-commercial best.
Rumba Mama Track Commentary
A Key Track for side two — the drumming and the yelling should sound really alive and powerful, almost shocking. Also, as this is a live performance, the applause is rich and tonally correct on the best pressings, bright, edgy and gritty on lesser ones.
Palladium Track Commentary
The heart of side two is right here. This track has deep synthesizer bass, lots of airy percussion, with Shorter’s saxophone solidly planted in the mix, all surrounded by tons of ambience. When I listen to a track like this, I picture myself at the mixing console, trying to decide whether all the elements are in balance. That’s the ultimate test — does everything sound balanced and correct. Is everything working together? Or do some instruments or elements of the recording call attention to themselves unnaturally?
The best copies are balanced; all the elements of the recording work together, just as all the members of the band work together. With a balanced copy you find yourself enjoying the music, not listening to the sound.
Now it should be noted that on the best copies — the copies with the most extended top end — there will be places on this song that may sound bright. Shorter’s sax can be a bit much in places as well. But there is no alternative, no cure, because the copies with less top end cause the percussion to sound muted, and the quality of the percussion on this album is critical to both the music and the sound. In other words, the music doesn’t work without the percussion, and the sound doesn’t work unless you can hear the percussion properly.
The Juggler Track Commentary
Pretty much the same story applies. This song lives and dies by its driving percussion. Also, the cymbals have a lovely shimmer on the best copies. Most of the time they sound dull and smeary, and that ruins everything.
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Weather Report’s biggest-selling album is that ideal thing, a popular and artistic success — and for the same reasons. For one thing, Joe Zawinul revealed an unexpectedly potent commercial streak for the first time since his Cannonball Adderley days, contributing what has become a perennial hit, “Birdland.” Indeed, “Birdland” is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.
The other factor is the full emergence of Jaco Pastorius as a co-leader; his dancing, staccato bass lifting itself out of the bass range as a third melodic voice, completely dominating his own ingenious “Teen Town” (where he also plays drums!). By now, Zawinul has become WR’s de facto commander in the studio; his colorful synthesizers dictate the textures, his conceptions are carefully planned, with little of the freewheeling improvisation of only five years before. Wayne Shorter’s saxophones are now reticent, if always eloquent, beams of light in Zawinul’s general scheme while Alex Acuña shifts ably over to the drums and Manolo Badrena handles the percussion. Released just as the jazz-rock movement began to run out of steam, this landmark album proved that there was plenty of creative life left in the idiom.