Month: November 2020

Vivaldi / Bach / Guitar Concertos / Yepes / Alonso

More of the Music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

xxxxx

  • This wonderful classical guitar recording makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple plus (A+++) sound or close to it – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound here is glorious, brimming with the wonderful qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving
  • The orchestra sounds rich and sweet, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed relative to the surrounding ensemble
  • As is to be expected from the Decca engineers in 1959, the sound is so relaxed and correct that you immediately find yourself simply enjoying the performances of these two well-known pieces, which is entirely the point, although we sometimes forget the purpose of all our audiophile rigmarole

(more…)

Mussorgsky & Ravel – Pictures at an Exhibition

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Reviews and Commentaries for Mussorgsky’s Music

  • An outstanding pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Our favorite performance by far, with BIG, BOLD and POWERFUL sonics like no other recording we know
  • The brass clarity, the dynamics, the deep bass and the sheer power of the orchestra are almost hard to believe
  • No vintage recording of these works compares with Muti’s – and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite is an extra special added bonus on side two

This EMI pressing gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition with a TOP PERFORMANCE and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last.

As this is my All Time Favorite performance of Pictures, this record naturally comes very highly recommended. Pictures is a piece of music that has been recorded countless times, and I’ve played scores of different recordings, but the only one that truly satisfies is this one, Muti’s 1979 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Much like Previn and the LSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else seems to. (more…)

Rodrigo – Boieldieu / Harp Concertos – Reviewed in 2011

This White Hot Stamper pressing of DG’s recording of Rodrigo’s famous concerto for harp has amazing DEMO DISC SOUND, but only on side two. The harp is clear, with no smear whatsoever, but what’s really shocking is how huge the soundstage is, and how much depth it has. While playing this side the speakers just disappeared and a huge concert hall appeared in their place! The harmonics of the harp are rendered superbly well. It’s hard to imagine one could record a harp concerto better than this. It is superb in every way.

Heavy Vinyl

About ten years ago a Heavy Vinyl version of this album was remastered and pressed by Speakers Corner, part of their disastrous foray into the DG catalog. This title was decent, the Beethoven Violin Concerto was okay, as was one of the Tchaikovsky Symphonies with Mravinsky (#5), but the rest were just plain awful, with disgracefully bad sound.

Funny, I don’t recall reading any bad reviews of these albums at the time. Oh, that’s right, these Heavy Vinyl records never get bad reviews, no matter how lifeless, opaque and shrill they might sound. Except from us of course. We were writing about them back in the day and trying to sell just the better ones. (We have since given up in that effort as so few are really very good when you get right down to it.) (more…)

Wes Montgomery – In The Wee Small Hours (aka Fusion! Wes Montgomery with Strings)

More Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

xxxxx

  • Montgomery’s wonderful 1963 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied, this reissue pressing had better sound than any original
  • As you can imagine, harmonically rich, clear, clean strings (or the lack of them) separated the winners from the losers pretty quickly
  • 4 stars: “As with his later albums, Montgomery’s guitar solos here are brief and melodic but the jazz content is fairly high even if the emphasis is (with the exception of “Tune Up”) on ballads.”

(more…)

What We Think We Know about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)

More of the Music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

We have a section of classical recordings that we nominate for The Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this record is of course one of its founding members.

The best pressings from Readers Digest set with Leibowitz conducting were very good but no match for Ansermet and the legendary Orchestre De La Suisse Romande and the lovely Victoria Hall in which they recorded.

We have liked Monteux on RCA for the 6th in the past. We do not believe the best pressings are competitive with this London.

The ’60 Decca/London cycle with Schmidt-Isserstedt and the Vienna Phil has always sounded flat and modern to us on every pressing we’ve played.


Notes on Beethoven’s 6th Symphony

(more…)

Rodrigo and Falla – Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra / Argenta

  • The sound here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving
  • The presentation is shockingly three-dimensional, with an exceptionally wide and deep stage
  • The sound of the orchestra is as rich and sweet as would be expected from the Decca engineers, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed relative to the ensemble around it
  • Managing to balance, so effortlessly it seems, these two dissimilar elements, in 1959 no less, requires an enormous amount of skill and effort
  • Fifty-odd years later, those of us with good turntables are profoundly thankful for their achievement, with respect to both performance and sound

(more…)

Bob Dylan – At Budokan

More Bob Dylan

  • KILLER sound throughout with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on sides one, three and four, and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second side – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound here is huge, full-bodied, punchy and relatively smooth throughout, with real space and ambience around the vocals and instruments
  • “The fire and brimstone are behind Dylan, [but] this hardly means the fight has gone out of him: Bob Dylan at Budokan is a very contentious effort—and, for the most part, a victorious one.” Rolling Stone

(more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Swing With Me!

More Frank Sinatra

  • This outstanding Capitol stereo pressing boasts incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • On this superb pressing you’ll hear Billy May’s arrangements – just brass, no strings or winds – blasting behind Sinatra like never before
  • This was Sinatra’s final swing session with Capitol and on a pressing as good as this one you can tell he and the band are having a blast
  • “…his intense, speedy energy gives the album an edge that distinguishes the record… it [has] enough genuine gems to make it necessary.”

We love doing the work that it takes to find Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun. This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find gems like this one. But hey, that’s what we do. We love it when a record with music this good can be found with sound like this.

Believe me, these Capitol pressings don’t usually sound like this. From the very first notes you hear Billy May’s colorful arrangments come to life in a way you are very unlikely to have heard before. (more…)

What We Think We Know about The Doors’ Soft Parade Album

This vintage Doors pressing (either on the Elektra Gold or Big Red E Label, nothing else will do) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely reproduce.

Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

This Is One of The Records That Did It For Me

Perhaps hearing Dark Side was what made you realize how good a record could sound. Looking back on it over the last thirty years, it’s clear to me now that this album, along with scores of others, is one of the surest reasons I became an audiophile in the first place, and stuck with it for so long. What could be better than hearing music you love sound so good?

It’s clearly an album we are obsessed with. We have written extensively about 50 of them to date. It is our contention that to be any good at this hobby, you have to become obsessed with well-recorded albums and work out the consequences of those obsessions for yourself. We wrote about it here. An excerpt:

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year.

As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some of them will no doubt become more apparent. For the most part, however, with continual refinements and improvements to your system and room, vintage pressings will continue to sound better the longer you stay active in the hobby.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

The Typical Soft Parade LP

The sound of most pressings of The Soft Parade is just plain terrible. The brass that opens side one is often so pinched, compressed, grainy and aggressive it will practically make your hair stand on end. Almost all the post-Big-Red-E reissue LPs sound like they are made from sub-generation EQ’d compressed tape copies, what are commonly called cutting masters. So many reissues have such a similar character that it’s hard to imagine they’re not all sourced from the same bad “master.”

Need I even mention how much better this copy sounds than the recent 180g version from the Rhino Box Set, digitally remastered by Bernie Grundman? That thing is just awful, possibly the worst sounding pressing I have ever heard. The Gold CD Hoffman did for Audio Fidelity would be night and day better. So much for the concept of vinyl superiority. Not with Bernie at the helm anyway.

Add to that the fact that almost every copy you pick up will have a pronounced HONK in the midrange, giving you that not-so-fondly remembered AM radio sound we’ve all gotten used to after hearing copy after incompetently-mastered, pressed-on-cardboard copy. (And the awful Bruce Botnick engineered CDs too; can’t forget those. If you can’t afford the DCC Gold discs for The Doors’ catalog, you are in for some shockingly mid-fi sound.)

(more…)

Little Feat – The Last Record Album

Yes, We Have No Hot Stampers of Little Feat’s Albums

Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or better on both sides – this is the best studio album the band ever recorded – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The drums are rich and fat and deliciously ANALOG, a perfect match for the sound of the album as a whole
  • Consistently strong songwriting with dramatically more emotionally powerful tracks than their other releases
  • Features great songs like All That You Dream, Long Distance Love, Mercenary Territory and more

The Last Record Album is one of our favorite Little Feat albums. The recording, by the estimable George Massenburg, has many outstanding qualities. Among them is amazing bass; the bass goes REALLY deep in places (Long Distance Love) and it’s big, punchy, rich and well up in the mix throughout the album.

What to Listen For

The problem has always been an overly smooth top end, combined with congestion, smear, and a serious lack of presence. The good news is that if you clean enough copies with the advanced cleaning techniques we’ve developed, and you make enough improvements to your stereo, room, etc., with the right copy you can actually get this album to sound clear AND rich. (more…)