We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.
The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.
This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazilian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival.
If you happen to have a friend with that title in his collection, ask to take a peek at it. I’ll bet it’s pristine. Bad records don’t get played much. Some audiophiles have complained that we spend too much time bashing Heavy Vinyl, but if ever a record deserved it, it’s that one. It’s a failure as a remastering and an insult to the analog buying audiophile public at large. Searching the web I am glad to see that no one seems to have anything nice to say about it as of this writing. No one should, but that has not deterred the reviewers and forum posters in the past.
What to Listen for
The arrangement of the players is straightforward, with the bass hard left, drums hard right (with leakage well to the left on the cymbals, but that’s another story), and Guaraldi on piano in the center. (The first track of side two reverses this arrangement; why I have no idea.)
Here’s the crazy thing about this recording: The best copies really connects up — ties together — the space each of the players is in. I heard it during the shootout, and I can’t recall if it actually happened more than once or twice, but I know I heard it. They are all live, they are all on the same soundstage, but on most copies you would never know it. They sound like they are playing in booths, the ambience never extending very far in any direction.
The best copies have so much ambience that one player’s space extends all the way to the edge of the other player’s space. The effect, though rare, is nothing less than magical.
The early colored vinyl mono pressing we played was awful in every way. Steer clear at anything more than a buck.
As we mentioned earlier, we flushed good money down the drain in order to suffer through the 45 Analogue Productions cutting of the album. What a mess. Ridiculously bloated overblown bass is its major shortcoming, but compression and an overall lifeless quality are obvious problems that made us give up on it pretty quickly.
This is the kind of sound that audiophiles want? I find that hard to believe. It’s what they’re stuck with because the good early pressings are just too hard to find and too noisy and groove damaged when you do find them.
Most pressings of this album, the OJC and the later reissues especially, are just plain awful, so for the typical audiophile record collector the 45 might actually be a step up over those pressings. Like so much of the heavy vinyl we have played in the last few years, we did not find the sound enjoyable or compelling. I would venture a guess that the DCC gold CD is clearly better overall.
We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.
You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad. These are also records you may safely avoid.)
Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.
When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.