Side two earned a grade of A+++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! The top end is fully extended here in a way the average copy barely hints at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion is lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined.
The energy is excellent, with only very slight smear. Smear kills what’s good about this record — the percussion transients lose their snap and the harmonics get lost — so being less smeary lets this side really work its funky magic. This side is also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days.
The bass is superb as well, which means that this copy was pretty much doing everything right!
Since side one has the best track on the album, Boogie Woogie Waltz (which isn’t even a waltz!), that makes this a VERY special copy indeed. You could easily play twenty and not find one that sounds like this on side one. And finding twenty clean copies of the album even here in Los Angeles, the record capitol of the world, might take you a decade or more. Here’s a killer copy ripe for the taking to save you all that work.
Better Than Heavy Weather?
This is our favorite Weather Report album here at Better Records. Heavy Weather is arguably a more ambitious and more accomplished piece of work. But Sweetnighter is so original and rhythmically compelling that we find ourselves enjoying it more. I don’t know of any other album on the planet like it. We only know of two Must-Own Weather Report albums, this one and Heavy Weather. They both belong in your collection if you’re a fan of jazz fusion.
Had Us a Real Good Time
We really had a great time listening to this album for our shootout. Weather Report has always been one of our favorite fusion groups, mostly because of the diversity of each of their albums within the confines (context?) of the genre. If you were comparing Sweetnighter to Heavy Weather, could you even be sure it was the same band?
Sweetnighter is completely and unapologetically groove-oriented, putting heavy emphasis on the rhythm section (here made up of some of the jazz world’s most innovative and talented players.) Which means, dear reader, if your copy doesn’t have punchy deep bass and plenty of whomp, man, you are really missing the boat on this album.
Not to worry — here at Better Records we know a thing or two about whomp. You might go so far as to say we LIVE for it. It’s the one area of the sound that, more than any other, really brings music in the home to LIFE. Those of you with big dynamic speakers and the power to drive them know what I’m talkin’ about.
Sour Midrange — Ugh
What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played for this shootout was how wrong most copies of this album sound. They’re SOUR in the midrange. On this kind of music, a sour midrange is the kiss of death. Those copies that aren’t sour are frequently just plain dull. On a recording like this, so full of percussion — which to be honest LIVES OR DIES on the quality of its percussion — dullness is devastating.
And so is SLOWNESS. If you have old school tube equipment — great for old RVG recordings but way too slow to keep up with this fast paced and percussion-heavy music — this record is not going to do what it desperately wants to do: get your foot tappin’.
Click on the AMG Review tab above to read their insightful and enthusiastic commentary.
Boogie Woogie Waltz
125th Street Congress
Right from the start, a vastly different Weather Report emerges here, one that reflects co-leader Joe Zawinul’s developing obsession with the groove. It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the “Boogie Woogie Waltz” and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers. It is a record of discovery for Zawinul, who augments his Rhodes electric piano with a funky wah-wah pedal, unveils the ARP synthesizer as a melodic instrument and sound-effects device, and often coasts along on one chord.
… The wane of freewheeling ensemble interplay is more than offset by the big increase in rhythmic push; bassist Miroslav Vitous, drummer Eric Gravatt, and percussionist Dom Um Romao are now cogs in one of jazz’s great swinging machines.