Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!

  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
  • The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
  • Side one of this copy is OUT of polarity, one of the few we found that way, and not a copy you should be if you can’t switch
  • “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”

We are on record as being big fans of this album. Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, Discovered Again actually contains real music worth listening to. During our all-day shootout, the more we played the record, the more we appreciated it. These are top quality players totally in the groove on this material. When it’s played well, and the sound is as good as it is here, there’s nothing dated about this kind of jazz. Hey, what can we say — it works.

What the best sides of Discovered Again! 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 1976
  • 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.

Reversed Polarity, Or Is It?

Many years ago we had discussed the polarity issues associated with this record, to wit:

According to the liner notes, this album has its polarity reversed. They tell you straight out to reverse the positive and negative at the speaker terminals for the best “transient response and spatial clarity.”

That out of phase quality is as plain as the nose on your face when you know what to listen for. There’s an unpleasant hardness and hollowness to the midrange, a lack of depth, and an off-putting opaque quality to the sound. The top gets dull and the bass gets weird and wonky.

With our EAR 324p phono stage, the click of a button reverses the polarity. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have such a tool at your disposal. Checking the polarity for Discovered Again couldn’t have been easier.

But get this: most side ones are NOT out of polarity. How about them apples! We could not have been more shocked. Here is the most famous wrong polarity audiophile recording in the history of the world, and it turns out most copies are not wrong on side one at all.

Latest Findings

I did not do the shootout for the album, but I wanted to check on the polarity just to hear it for myself. I must admit I had to go back and forth a number of times, using my favorite song on the album and an old Demo track from back in my earliest days in audio, the mid- to late-’70s: Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow.

Harvey Mason’s super punchy drum playing catches your attention right off the back. A tambourine comes along in the left channel at some point. Lots of bass. Rit’s guitar in the right channel and Grusin’s keyboards in the center fill out the soundstage. The ensemble is on fire.

Evaluating the sonic differences of the individual instruments in and out of polarity had me confused. A typical conundrum: Should the tambourine be smoother with more body, or brighter with more harmonic overtones? Which is right? Who can say definitively?

It was only after about fifteen minutes of playing the album, switching the polarity back and forth, that the penny dropped and the skies opened up.

Focussed on an individual instrument, I could hear it just fine both ways. But then I noticed that with the polarity reversed the group got vague. The images seemed blurrier, less defined. If I relaxed and just stared into the middle distance and let the music flow, the band seemed to be more jumbled up and messy.

That was the key. The obvious change when the polarity was wrong was a loss of image specificity. Flipping the record over to side two and using my new “lens” to hear the difference with the polarity changed, it was obvious when the polarity was right or wrong.

I have experimented with polarity on scores of records. Certain effects on certain records are unmistakable. But these effects seem to vary a great deal from title to title. Grusin’s brilliant direct to disc recording initially had me at a loss. With a little experimentation, the improvement in the sound with the correct polarity became evident over time, as it always seems to do. Thanks god I didn’t have to change speaker leads the way I used to in the old days.

What We’re Listening For on Discovered Again!

  • 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.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Listen to the harmonics around the cymbals and bells on Git Along Little Dogies — you can really hear the transients of the cymbals and percussion, so important to the sound of those instruments. The stand-up acoustic bass is amazingly well recorded on this album; it’s so rich and full-bodied. You will have a hard time finding a string bass that sounds better.

The typical direct to disc pressing of Discovered Again leaves much to be desired. Two areas are especially lacking as a rule: the top end tends to be rolled off, and there is a noticeable lack of presence, which can easily be heard in the drum sound: the snare sounds like it’s covered with a towel on many copies of this album. Wha’ happen?

Who knows? Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which no doubt affect the sound. The album is cut on two different lathes — M (Master) and S (Slave), and pressed in two different countries: Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the acetate and many, many stampers made from those mothers. (I saw one marked stamper number 15!)

Bottom line? You got to play ’em, just like any other pressing. If no two records sound the same, it follows that no two audiophile records sound the same, a fact that became clear early on in the listening. Of course, not many audiophiles are in a position to shootout six copies of Discovered Again, and I’m not sure most people would want to. Here at Better Records, we have a whole system set up to do exactly that, so we waited until we had a pile of them, got them all cleaned up, and off to the races we went.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

The Players

Dave Grusin – piano, electric piano
Lee Ritenour – guitar
Ron Carter – bass
Harvey Mason – drums
Larry Bunker – percussion


Side One

A Child Is Born
Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow (Theme from Baretta)
Sun Song
Captain Bacardi

Side Two

Three Cowboy Songs
Adeus A Papai

Amazon 5 Star Rave Reviews

I know I am not the only person in the world who possesses two copies of this in its original LP format – one to play frequently and a ‘special’ mint copy to play on my birthday and on Christmas Day. Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself. I know one should rate the music rather than the technical competence of the sound engineers behind the recording, but with these recordings Sheffield Lab almost certainly set a standard that has never been bettered.

-Oldromola, November 3, 2012

I have two copies of this LP and take them out on special occasions so they will last the rest of my life… This is perhaps THE LP that started the move to top quality sound and sound systems- at least it was for me. The Direct-to-Disc recording process used here eliminated most of the hiss, distortion, and general decay associated with the multi-step analogue processes for making LPs in use at the time. Straight from the microphones to the master cutting machine! No remix – each side of the album was recorded straight through with no time outs.

Beyond that, though, the life-like quality of the piano, percussion (especially the triangle on Sun Song), the vibrato of the vibraphone, makes you feel like you’re getting a private performance in your living room. If you have the right equipment, there is nothing that equals this (and I mean including the fanciest digital stuff).

Grusin wrote most of the pieces here and they highlight his style – thoughtful jazz, glistening notes (he also wrote the theme music for On Golden Pond), leaning toward the minimalist rather than showing off. He lets the rest of the group have their turn, too. His group is also tops – Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason, Ron Carter and Larry Bunker. Hard to beat.

If you like the later Grusin stuff (I have all his records), you’ll love experiencing his roots in this album. And with the quality of recording approaching perfection, this record will be the gold standard forever (or close to it).

-J.C. Ryan, August 13, 2008

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