Month: February 2022

Liszt / The Music of Franz Liszt / Fiedler

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

  • Classic superb Living Stereo Sound on both sides – big and open with an especially clean and extended top end (great fun on those huge cymbal crashes Liszt favors)
  • Powerful, rich, dynamic and life-like orchestral reproduction, set in a huge hall
  • “The Hungarian-born composer and pianist Franz Liszt was strongly influenced by the music heard in his youth, particularly Hungarian folk music, with its unique gypsy scale, rhythmic spontaneity and direct, seductive expression.”
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this Living Stereo from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is, in our opinion, one of the most underrated Living Stereo treasures in the Golden Age canon — but not by this critic (here reviewing the CD):

In the early days of stereo, RCA released an all-Liszt LP by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops that has remained in my memory as one of the finest things the popular maestro ever committed to disc…

Two works, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and the high energy Rákoczy March, have been out for some time, coupled with “Hi-Fi Fiedler”. Now RCA has added to this current disc the two main pieces, Mazeppa and Les Preludes, from the original collection. They are as wonderful as ever – among the best, if not the best, performances of this music. Fiedler doesn’t dawdle or toy around with the melodies; he lets Liszt’s Romantic vision speak for itself, helping it along with brisk tempos and incisive phrasing. Seldom have the fanfares in Les Préludes had such bite and majesty.

ClassicsToday

 

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Art Garfunkel / Breakaway – Generally Grainy, Harsh and Shrill

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is, to some degree, grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule.

Listen to the song ‘Disney Girls’ on side one. If you own the average pressing – odds are your copy is in fact quite average unless you went through a pile of copies and played them in order to find a good one – parts of that song will sound painfully hard and shrill, assuming your playing the record at the kinds of levels we do.

Which is the main reason I’ve never understand what qualified this record to be on the TAS Super Disc list. Now, having heard the best of the best copies sounding so big, rich and tubey, I can certainly say I hear what impressed HP (he likes that sound, as do we). It may indeed be a very well recorded album, but we feel it falls a bit short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. (To be fair, as you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here.)

The Best Songs

The late Harry Pearson knew little about popular music and may have been more impressed by this album than those of us who play pop and rock albums by the boatload.

Most of the pop albums on his Super Disc TAS list are a joke. Only the people who listen almost exclusively to classical or jazz seem to take them seriously, in my experience anyway. (Check out the 12″ pop singles for a good laugh.)

That said, there are some wonderful songs on this album. Check out Break Away or 99 Miles From L.A. for some very good sounding, very well produced adult pop music. The version of Jobim’s Waters of March here is another high point.


WHAT TO LISTEN FOR

Choruses that Are Big, Clear and Lively

Grit and Grain

Midrange (Upper) – Shrillness

Yes – The Yes Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

  • You haven’t begun to hear the weight, energy and space of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our Hot Stamper copies
  • On the right system, at the right volume (very loud), this very record is an immersive experience like practically no other – I’ve Seen All Good People here will surely blow your mind
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”
  • A permanent resident of our Top 100 Rock and Pop List — no other album by the band is as well recorded
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)

Britten / The Suites for Cello / Rostropovich – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

This solo Cello recording on London from 1970 has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides, with a cello that might not be realistically portrayed, but is certainly portrayed POWERFULLY.

Honestly, we kid you not, the cello occupies all the space between the speakers, which, being about seven feet apart, makes for a cello that’s seven feet wide!

Now if you turn down the volume, you of course get a smaller cello, but the real fun of this recording is to hear the instrument in your room, front and center, with every nuance of its sound reproduced clearly. So we left the volume up.

The cello sound is full, rich and harmonically natural, with only the slightest trace of smear. In other words, it’s correct in every way but its size.

The longer and more intently one listens, the easier it becomes to accept the size of the cello as presented here. It stops being an issue. One finds oneself lost in the music, amazed at the preternatural skill of this, the most famous and renowned cellist of the late 20th century, a man for whom the work was written no less. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – The Many Moods of Belafonte

More Harry Belafonte

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Lively, balanced and vibrant, with a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical Living Stereo full-bodied sound these recordings need to work their magic – qualities which are rarely evident on the modern reissues made from whatever tapes they are using
  • Several crowd-pleasers were introduced on this album for the first time: the calypso “Zombie Jamboree,” which soon replaced “Matilda” as Belafonte’s epic audience participation song; and the showtune “Try to Remember,” from the off-Broadway show The Fantasticks.
  • If you’re a fan of Harry’s, this vintage record from 1962 belongs in your collection.
  • To see Living Stereo titles with Hot Stampers, click here.
  • To see the 200+ Living Stereo titles we’ve reviewed, click here.

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Kind of Blue on Six-Eye, 360 Black Print, 360 White Print, ’70s Red Label – Which Is the Best?

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

Is the ’50s original always better, is the ’70s reissue always better, is the ’60s 360 pressing always better?

The answer is “no” to all three.

Why? Because no pressing is always better. All pressings are unique and should only be judged on their merits, and you do that by playing them, not by looking at their labels. For us this truth is practically axiomatic. It is in fact the premise of our entire business. Over the course of the 28 years we have been selling records we have never found any compelling evidence to invalidate it.

The day that someone can accurately predict the sound quality of a specific record by looking at the label or cover is a day I do not expect to come, ever.

A Larger Point

But there is a larger point to be made. Let’s assume that the best original Six Eye Columbia pressings can be the best — the most Tubey Magical, the most involving, the most real. You just happen to have a clean pressing, and you absolutely love it.

But is it the best? How could you possibly know that?

Unless you have done a comparison with many copies under controlled conditions, you simply cannot know where on the sonic curve your copy should be placed.

Perhaps you have a mediocre original. Or a mediocre 360 Label copy. Since you haven’t done a massive shootout you simply have no way of knowing just how good sounding the album can be.

If that’s the case, even stipulating that the best early pressings are potentially the best sounding, that lowly ’70s Red Label copy that got tossed back into the record pond could very well have turned out to be the best sounding pressing you ever heard.

But Bad Audiophile Record Collector Thinking prevents the very possibility of such an outcome. A record never auditioned cannot win a shootout, even a simple head to head competition against the copy you already have in your collection. The result? Your Kind of Blue never gets any better. You’re stuck, at what level nobody knows, especially you.

Our advice is to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, letting your ears, not your eyes, become your one and only trusted guide to the best sounding pressings.

And please consider us a trustworthy second in line, a source for the best sounding titles that you do not have time to shoot out for yourself.

In 1959 Columbia Let Leonard Bernstein Record an Awful Version of Scheherazade

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade

Even worse, they released it!

Bernstein’s performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously. This is a record you can find in the bins for five bucks, and for five bucks it’s worth picking up just to hear how awful it is.

Vintage Columbia Pressings with Hot Stampers

Albums We’ve Reviewed on Columbia and Epic

Outstanding Hot Stamper pressings of recordings from 1959 can be found here.

The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Michael McDonald – One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records

Let us not forget that this is also one of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records. His work here is pure genius. Play this album next to Katy Lied: I think you will find the comparison instructive. If That’s What It Takes and Katy Lied are the pinnacle of achievement for Jeff on the drums.

I’m proud to count Michael McDonald among my favorite recording artists. He made this Desert Island Disc and single-handedly turned the Doobie Brothers into a band I could enjoy and even respect.

This is a Must Own if you like the later Doobies and the kind of highly-polished but heartfelt and intelligent pop records that band excelled at in the ’70s.

More Michael McDonald

More Blue Eyed Soul

More of The Doobie Brothers

Desert Island Discs Available Now

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Alison Krauss & Union Station ‎/ So Long So Wrong – Still Wrong in the Vocal Department

We audiophiles have a soft spot for female vocals. It’s a sound that a high end stereo — practically any high end stereo — reproduces well.

But why do some audiophiles listen to poorly recorded junk like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall? Their recordings are DRENCHED in digital reverb. Who is his right mind wants to hear the sound of digital reverb?

Rickie Lee Jones may not be my favorite female vocal of all time, but at least you can make the case for it as a Well Recorded Vocal Album. It’s worlds better than anything either of the above-mentioned artists have ever done.

The MoFi pressing of Alison Krauss (5276) is a disaster in the vocal department too.

Audiophiles for some reason never seem to notice how bad she sounds on that record. Can’t make sense of it. Any of the good Sergio Mendes records will show you female vocals that practically have no equal. Our best Hot Stampers bring the exquisite vocal harmonies of Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert) and Janis Hansen (and others) right into your living room.

Why bother with trash like this Mobile Fidelity?

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Doc Watson – Home Again

More Doc Watson

More Folk Revival Music

Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Here is the in-the-room performance intimacy that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

This vintage Vanguard stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). (more…)