More of the Music of Harry Belafonte
We’ve long known that some copies of the album are mastered with the polarity reversed. This is one of those copies.
But the crazy news we have today is that this copy of the album sound just fine without adjusting the system polarity, better than any other copy we played.
It sounds a bit better with your polarity reversed, but it is still our Shootout Winner even with the polarity wrong.
I would never have believed that to be the case in the past, but my theory is that the new studio we built has reduced distortions and problems to such a degree that polarity issues are less of a problem now than they might have been in the past.
As I say, it’s just a theory, and as time goes on we will revisit this idea with other recordings that we know to have polarity issues, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we find.
The best sounding versions we played are cut super-clean; the brass and strings have dead-on correct textures and timbres.
As good as some pressings are, the best pressings are clearly a step up in class. The brass has more weight and body and richness. Same with the strings. The voice gets fuller and sweeter and less sibilant, while still maintaining every nuance of detail. The presence is startling; Belafonte is absolutely in the room with you.
An Amazing Recording
A long time ago in an audiophile world far, far away, Harry Pearson brought this record to the attention of audiophiles with his TAS list, and rightfully so: it’s an amazing recording.
We happen to love the music too, which makes it one of the most recommendable records we offer. If you can find a better combination of demo disc sound, with music worth the hassle and expense of reproducing it properly, more power to you. We sure can’t.
Because this is a live recording, because it has lots of natural instruments as well as a vocal, because it was recorded in the Golden Age by one of the greatest labels of all time, RCA, by Bob Simpson no less — for this and many other reasons, it has to be considered one of the most amazing recordings in the history of the world.
That said, it is our contention (and the basis of our business model) that the brilliant quality of the recording can only be appreciated if you have the pressing that captured the sound that the engineers recorded. In other words, a Hot Stamper.
From an audiophile point of view, you get to hear live musicians and all the energy they bring to this music, all on the stage at the same time: strings, brass, percussionists and Harry Belafonte front and center. Tube mics (and not too many of them), a tube tape recorder, RCA’s superb engineering and all-tube mastering chain ensure that the “breath of life” is captured intact. I know of no better live popular vocal recording on the planet.
A Live Orchestra 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 plenty of room for all of the players. These copies are 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.
A Must Own Pop Record
We consider this Harry Belafonte album his Masterpiece. It’s a recording that should be part of any serious popular Music Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.