- This vintage pressing of First Light has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Features an outstanding lineup including Herbie Hancock on keys, Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums.
- 4 1/2 stars: “The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard’s most exciting playing ever. While Red Clay [a Better Records favorite] and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels — and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.”
This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and this pressing was one of the few in our shootout with the kind of high quality mastering that can do justice to his uniquely energetic, lightning fast jazz style.
This vintage CTI pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 the best sides of First Light 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 1971
- 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 space of the studio
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 First Light
- 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 common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt –– Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Digging Creed Taylor Inc.
We’ve been really digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now. On the better albums such as this one, the players tend to sound carefree and loose — you can tell they’re enjoying the hell out of these songs. Don’t get me wrong — we still love the Blue Note and Contemporary label stuff for our more “hard core” jazz needs, but it’s a kick to hear top jazz musicians laying down these grooves and not taking themselves so seriously… especially when it sounds as good as this copy does.
Uncle Albert – Admiral Halsey
Moment to Moment
Lonely Town (From “On the Town”)
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Never one to take lyricism for granted, trumpeter and composer Freddie Hubbard entered Creed Taylor’s studio for the third time in 1971 with the express purpose of making a record radically different from anything he’d cut before; he was looking for it to use electricity and to be out of the soul-jazz mold, but was also more ambitious and wanted to push that envelope and himself.
Taylor and Hubbard assembled a band that included Herbie Hancock on Rhodes, guitarists Eric Gale and George Benson, bassist Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Airto Moreira on percussion, and Richard Wyands on acoustic piano to back him. The band was also supported by the truly ethereal and adventurous string arrangements of Don Sebesky (a first for Hubbard). The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard’s most exciting playing ever.
The title track and Hubbard’s ingenious read of Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/ Admiral Halsey,” as well as Leonard Bernstein’s “Lonely Town,” are so in the pocket that they bleed soul. Benson’s uncharacteristically edgy guitar playing juxtaposed against Hubbard’s warm tone, and Hancock’s beautifully modal Rhodes lines that are drenched with big, open, minor chord voicings, are simply made more illustrious and graceful by Sebesky’s strings.
While Red Clay and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels — and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.