Louie Bellson / Ray Brown / Paul Smith – Intensive Care

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

More Jazz Piano Recordings

  • Stunning sound on both sides of this incredible Discwasher Direct-to-Disc Japanese import pressing
  • One of our all time favorite Direct-to-Discs — Piano Trio doesn’t get much better than this
  • Paul Smith is an underrated jazz player – most of his albums as a leader are forgettable (we should know, we’ve played a bunch of them), but on this album he swings and really makes music with his two bandmates
  • The playing is extremely energetic and involving, the sound is some of the best we’ve heard, and the engineering is by Phil Schier, who also recorded another favorite direct disc of ours, Friendship, and we recommend both albums highly
  • If you want a good jazz Direct-to-Disc, you would be hard pressed to find one better than this
  • If you’re a fan of Live Jazz Piano Trio recordings, recorded direct to disc or otherwise, this is a killer record from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This record probably doesn’t have the reputation it deserves because it came out on the Discwasher label, which to my knowledge, only made one good record, this one. The same metalwork would have been used to make the version Pausa released, and that fairly common pressing may be virtually identical to this Discwasher pressing.

This vintage Discwasher pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 Intensive Care 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 1978
  • 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.

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 Intensive Care

  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Lady Is A Tramp
Yesterdays
Everything Happens To Me
On A Clear Day

Side Two

Surrey With The Fringe On Top
My Heart Stood Still
Chicago
Lover

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