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

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  • 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.”

This vintage Riverside 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 Amazing Sides Such as These 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 1963
  • 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.

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 In The Wee Small Hours

  • 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 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

All The Way
Pretty Blue
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
Prelude To A Kiss
The Girl Next Door

Side Two

My Romance
God Bless The Child
Tune Up
Somewhere
Baubles, Bangles And Beads

AMG 4 Star Review

Although most Wes Montgomery fans associate his playing with strings with his later A&M and Verve recordings, the influential guitarist actually fronted a string section for the first time on this Riverside date from 1963, which had the ironic name of Fusion. 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.

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