Peggy Lee – Big Spender

More Peggy Lee

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • Big Spender makes its Hot Stamper Debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • In-the-room presence, preternaturally breathy vocals, and boatloads of wonderful Tubey Magic
  • Everything sounds immediate and unprocessed, the hallmarks of analog – no other copy in our shootout put a living, breathing Peggy Lee right between our speakers the way this one did
  • There are a lot of bad sounding albums in Miss Lee’s catalog, but this one from Capitol in 1966 on the early stereo label showed us that there are some real winners too

John Krauss engineered brilliantly. You know him from many of Julie London‘s best recordings, albums such as Julie Is Her Name, Calendar Girl, Julie… At Home and Around Midnight

This is some awful good company if you ask me!

This vintage Capitol LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Peggy Lee singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 56 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What the Best Sides of Big Spender 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 1966
  • 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.

What We’re Listening For on Big Spender

  • 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.


Side One

Come Back To Me
You’ve Got Possibilities
It’s A Wonderful World
I’ll Only Miss Him When I Think Of Him
Big Spender
I Must Know

Side Two

Alright, Okay, You Win
Watch What Happens
You Don’t Know
Let’s Fall In Love
Gotta Travel On

Album Background

The album Big Spender is an unusual combination of songs from Broadway and songs that are the blues or have their roots in blues. Although “show tunes” were becoming less popular in the mid-1960s as pop music became more heavily dominated by Top 40 and hard rock, Broadway continued to have a strong presence in “adult pop.” The copyright laws permitted the songwriters of Broadway shows to prohibit anyone from releasing a recording of a song written for a new show until the Original Cast Album (or other lawful recording) was sold to the public, and most producers forbid the release of records of show songs until the cast album was made. In this environment, Peggy made special arrangements to record “Big Spender.” It was from the major Broadway hit Sweet Charity, words by Dorothy Fields and music by Cy Coleman. Peggy’s version was recorded at Capitol on October 27, 1965 and released upon the opening of the show in January of 1966. It was an immediate hit, and spent twelve weeks on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts. Its no wonder Capitol decided to put together an album by the same name.

“You’ve Got Possibilities” is from the Broadway musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, which closed after a mere 129 performances. Peggy’s recording of this gem is widely considered the best and it spent four weeks on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts in mid-1966. From the more successful On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (280 performances) came Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s “Come Back to Me.” The tender “I’ll Only Miss Him When I Think of Him” by James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn is from Skyscraper, which starred Julie Harris. The show was one of the few times Cahn and Van Heusen wrote for Broadway.

Peggy had previously recorded three of the songs on the album for Capitol in the late 1950s: “It’s a Wonderful World,” “Alright, Okay, You Win,” and “You Don’t Know.” These were not re-releases, but newly recorded versions with different arrangements. “Alright, Okay, You Win” was recorded for this album as Peggy performed it in live appearances at the time. “You Don’t Know” was another effort to make a hit of the Leadbelly favorite that should have been a hit the first time out, when Peggy’s 1958 recording of it was the “B” side of the 45 single “Fever.”


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