- Washington’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
- There’s so much life in these grooves – the sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap
- Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering this album so well, and to Bob James for his brilliant big group arrangements
- We cannot recommend this album highly enough – if you have the big speakers a big group of musicians need to perform live in your listening room, his record is going to be nothing less than a thrill
- 4 stars: “. . . this set has assumed its proper place in Washington’s catalog: as one of his more ambitious and expertly performed sessions.”
Both sides of this original Kudu pressing are OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!
It’s spacious and full of life with virtually no distortion. Of special note, this copy has amazingly articulate bass which brings out the undeniable funkiness of the music in a way that no other copy did.
The early ’70s were a good time for Rudy Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for a large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.
But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing.
What the Best Sides of All The King’s Horses 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 1972
- 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.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on All The King’s Horses
- 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.
Yer Average Copy
The sound we most often find on original pressings (the only ones that ever sound any good; the later pressings are awful) is full of compression, and suffers as well from the kind of high-frequency restriction that prevents the top end from extending in a harmonically correct way. The result: Grover’s horn often will take on a somewhat sour quality. Our better Hot Stampers are both uncompressed and open up top.
I’m a Big Fan
I’ve been a big fan of this record since I first heard it all the way back in High School. I only found out later that this is not what most people would consider “real” jazz — it’s CTI jazz, more in the pop jazz or soul jazz vein. But I love the music more with each passing year and would not hesitate for a moment to recommend it to any jazz lover or audiophile. If the first track doesn’t knock you out, this album may not be for you. Without a doubt, in my book it’s the best thing Grover Washington ever did.
The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.
A Must Own Soul Jazz Record
We consider this Grover Washington, Jr. album his Masterpiece.
It’s a recording that should be part of any serious Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
No Tears, In The End
All The King’s Horses
Where Is The Love
Body And Soul (Montage)
Lean On Me
Love Song 1700
AMG 4 Star Review
Grover Washington, Jr.’s sophomore date for Creed Taylor’s Kud imprint was released in late 1972. Like its predecessor Inner City Blues, this session was produced by the label boss himself and was arranged and conducted by Bob James. Assembled for the date were large horn and string sections. The former contained stalwart talents like Detroit’s Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, and trumpeters Marvin Stamm and Ernie Royal. Other players on the session included what would become the heart of the CTI session crew: guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale, bassists Ron Carter and Gordon Edwards (who only appears on the opening cut), drummer Idris Muhammad (though Billy Cobham is also here), and percussionists like Airto Moreira and Ralph MacDonald. The real star of course is the soloist.
Washington’s debut, Inner City Blues, had done surprisingly well — especially since it was a date originally intended for Hank Crawford who couldn’t make the scene. This time out, both Taylor and James played to Washington’s tremendous strengths as an emotional player whose melodic improvising referenced everything from Motown to Stax and Volt, from Ray Charles to early James Brown and the Fabulous Flames, to Donny Hathaway, who had an uncanny knack with current pop hits. James too was discovering his own strengths in this field as a pianist and really shines behind Washington on tracks like “Where Is the Love,” (written by MacDonald, actually), and Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
Washington was equally versed on both tenor and alto, and possesses two very different tones on the horns. This gave James the opportunity to color the tunes with a rather startling array of colors, shades, and textures, making the two a wonderful team. Along with the aforementioned winners are the title track by Aretha Franklin with the slow, deep blue saxophone lines accompanied by hand percussion, a tight snare and hi-hat kit rhythm, and James ghostly chords on the Fender Rhodes. But the large backdrop of horns lends so much weight to the tune it almost breaks wide open.
Then there’s the gorgeous — and radical-re-envisioning of “Body and Soul,” as a montage illustrated wonderfully by James impressionistic strings and woodwinds underneath Washington’s bluesy take on the melody. The standard “Lover Man” is reintroduced here and includes a new interlude written by James. Washington’s playing on the tune is actually reminiscent of Crawford’s in feel (during his time with Ray Charles), but Washington also evokes Ben Webster in the chances he takes improvising on his solo. As if all this weren’t adventurous enough, the set closes with “Love Song 1700,” an adaptation from a song by classical composer Henry Purcell. Here is the genius of James at work. His love for Purcell and classical composition of this era shows up throughout his career, but the way he orchestrates strings and winds behind Washington — who could inject pure soul into even the dullest music of Lawrence Welk — is provocative, lovely, and haunting, even in its more overblown moments.
When All the King’s Horses was originally released, it wasn’t received as well as Inner City Blues had been the previous year. In retrospect, however, this set has assumed its proper place in Washington’s catalog: as one of his more ambitious and expertly performed sessions.