- An outstanding pressing of Look Around, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and the layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, as well as the piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself
- “The Look of Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are the epitome of Bossa Nova Magic on this exceptional pressing
- 4 1/2 stars: “Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form.”
As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the girls’ breathy multi-tracked vocals and the layers and layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the crucially important, always tasteful keyboards and arrangements of Sergio himself.
Most copies of Look Around are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled, smeary and full of compressor distortion in the loud parts. Clearly, this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure. Our Hot Stamper pressings are the ones that are as far from that kind of sound as we can find them. We’re looking for the records that have none of those bad qualities. I’m happy to report that we have managed to find some awfully good sounding copies for our 2017 Hot Stamper customers.
What the best sides of Look Around 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 1967
- 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.
If you have a high-rez stereo/room and want to have some fun, play the second track on side one, Roda. In the left channel, there is some double-tracked clapping (or two people, how could you tell the difference?) in a HUGE room. Actually, although it sounds like a huge room it’s probably a normal sized room with lots of reverb added. Either way, it sounds awesome!
These handclaps drive the energy and rhythm of the song, and they are so well recorded you will think the back wall of your listening room just collapsed behind the left speaker. On the truly transparent copies, the echo goes WAY back. (Note that it can also be heard in the center of the sound field and off to the right as well, but, of course, those effects can only be heard on the best copies, on the best equipment, in the best rooms.)
Without a doubt, it was the most fun sound we heard in a full day of shootouts.
The typical copy of the album won’t show you that room. The long out of print Speakers Corner heavy vinyl pressing won’t either. Their version is okay, not bad, but by no stretch of the imagination can it compete with any Hot Stamper pressing.
What We’re Listening For on Look Around
- 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.
Audiophile Sound to Die For
Brasil ’66, Equinox, and Stillness are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, but we enjoy the hell out of their other albums as well. Their music never sounds dated to us. We love the albums of Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as those by Joao and Astrud Gilberto from the period. Albums which no doubt served as templates for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble. Still, Brazil 66 is clearly a step up for this style of music in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.
With a Little Help from My Friends
Like a Lover
Tristeza (Goodbye Sadness)
The Look of Love
Pardizer Adeus (To Say Goodbye)
Batucada (The Beat)
So Many Stars
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form.
Here Mendes released himself from any reliance upon Antonio Carlos Jobim and rounded up a wealth of truly great material from Brazilian fellow travelers: Gilberto Gil’s jet-propelled “Roda” and Joao Donato’s clever “The Frog,” Dori Caymmi’s stunningly beautiful “Like a Lover,” Harold Lobo’s carnivalesque “Tristeza,” and Mendes himself (the haunting “So Many Stars” and the title track).
Mendes was also hip enough to include “With a Little Help From My Friends” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper LP. As things evolved, though, the one track that this album would be remembered for is the only other non-Brazilian tune, Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love,” in an inventive, grandiose arrangement with a simplified bossa beat.
The tune just laid there on the album until Mendes and company performed it on the Academy Awards telecast in 1968. The performance was a sonic disaster, but no matter; the public response was huge, a single was released, and it became a monster, number four on the pop charts.
So much for the reported demise of bossa nova; in Sergio Mendes’ assimilating, reshaping hands, allied with Herb Alpert’s flawless production, it was still a gold mine.