Month: June 2022

Kenny Burrell – Great Arrangements by Don Sebesky

More of the Music of Kenny Burrell

Don Sebesky, A Top Arranger

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture 

This is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others off the top of my head would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

On a killer copy like this the sound is out of this world. Rich and full, open and transparent, this one defeated all comers in our shootout, taking the Top Prize for sound and earning all Three Pluses.

What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the orchestra’s string sections are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.

Both sides blew us away with a deep, wide soundstage and full extension on both the top and the bottom.

The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are Right On The Money. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.

This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it!

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Mozart / Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Mozart (1756-1791)

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out back in 1994. We wrote at the time:

Probably the best sound and performance of the Eine Kleine available — highly recommended!  

We haven’t played a copy in years, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.

Our Hot Stamper Classical Pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records (more…)

Cowboy Junkies – Whites Off Earth Now!!

More Cowboy Junkies

More Debut Albums of Interest

  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as an open and spacious soundfield
  • “Whites Off Earth Now!! establishes the spare country blues sound that took the band to international fame with their next album.” – Wikipedia
  • “… it’s fascinating to hear their signature country-on-valium sound develop. Margo Timmins sings beautifully.”

This vintage Latent Recordings 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. (more…)

Love / Self-Titled – Killer Sound from Bruce Botnick

More Love

More Psych Rock

  • An original Gold Label stereo pressing of Love’s debut album with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl doesn’t begin to do this one justice – I simply cannot remember a time that a copy with sound this good played this quietly, and we have been doing shootouts for Love for 15 years or more
  • A classic from 1966, a combination of proto-punk and psychedelia featuring “My Little Red Book,” “Hey Joe” and more
  • The first Love album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recording in the Love catalog
  • Engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick, here is the kind of massive bottom end weight and energy that we like to call WHOMP
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Love’s debut is both their hardest-rocking early album and their most Byrds-influenced…”

Some of you may not know this music, but it’s a true Must Own Psychedelic Gem from the ’60s, a record no rock collection should be without, along with other groundbreaking albums from the ’60s such as Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors’ debut, the first Spirit album and too many others to list.

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Joe Jackson – Get Rid of Grit and Grain The Right Way

More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

More Records that Are Difficult to Reproduce

Jumpin’ Jive is one of the clearest examples of an album where it is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to make sure your stereo is running on good electricity before you make any attempt to play it. This is the kind of recording — bright, full of energy — that will bring most stereo systems to their knees. Of course, when you play a good copy and it really sounds good, it’s a record that rewards all the time and effort you’ve put into your system.

So much of the aggressiveness, grit and grain that we hear in immediate, high-energy recordings such as this are really the fault of the electricity feeding the stereo, not the fault primarily of the record or even the equipment used to play it.

Now it should be noted that this recording has a ton of high frequency information that will be difficult to reproduce on most systems. If you leave a lot of appliances and electronic devices plugged in around the house when you listen to your stereo, you can forget ever hearing this record right. The grit and grunge caused by polluted electricity will make this record practically unlistenable, at the levels we listen at anyway. (At lower levels most of the garbage is masked, one reason no doubt that audiophiles rarely turn their stereos up to anything approaching live levels.) 

So do as we do: unplug everything you can get your hands on before you sit down to listen. Make sure your tubes (if you have tube equipment) are nice and warm too.

Power Conditioning

We are not big fans of power conditioners for the most part. We think most of them do more harm than good. Loss of energy and dynamics are the key shortcomings of practically all of the units we’ve tested. If you have not tested your conditioners lately, try playing some lively, large-scale music without them in the system. You may notice quite a difference.

Or you may not — perhaps yours work right. Nobody can make that judgment but you, so it’s important to test these things regularly and carefully and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t buy into the hype; test and retest for yourself.

Our philosophy: Better to unplug devices and prevent their bad effects in advance rather than try to filter them out of the electrical system after the damage has been done.


Nat King Cole / This Is Nat “King” Cole

More of the Music of Nat “King” Cole

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Nat “King” Cole

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

Here it is – only the second Hot Stamper copy of Nat’s classic 1957 release to ever hit the site, and what a pressing it is! It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

Our Overview

We’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.

If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the ’60s. Many of Nat’s albums from that decade are over-produced, bright, thin and shrill.

We assume most audiophiles got turned on to his music from the records that Steve Hoffman remixed and remastered for DCC back in the mid-’90s, For those of you who were customers of ours back then, you know that I count myself among that group. I even went so far as to nominate the DCC of Nat’s Greatest Hits as the best album DCC ever made. I know now, as I expect you do, that that’s really not saying much, but at the time I thought it was a pretty bold statement.

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Buffalo Springfield – Again

  • Buffalo Springfield’s sophomore release is back on the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Tubey Magical Analog sound or close to it from from start to finish – unusually quiet vinyl for an ATCO original as well
  • Consistently brilliant songwriting and production: “Mr. Soul,” “A Child’s Claim To Fame,” “Expecting To Fly,” “Bluebird,” “Hung Upside Down,” “Rock & Roll Woman,” “Broken Arrow” and more!
  • These days it takes us years to find enough clean copies of an album like this with which to do a shootout – nice originals are thin on the ground and getting thinner by the day
  • A true Desert Island Disc – 5 stars: “…this record stands as their greatest triumph… its classic status cannot be denied.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Buffalo Springfield, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This band’s second and third albums are both good examples of records many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Listen to the vocal harmonies — you can separate out all the parts much more clearly on these Hot Stamper pressings. You can really hear precisely who’s in there and what part they are playing in the vocal arrangement. I can’t remember ever hearing it sound so clear. The best copies really let you hear into the music. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

More Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bayou Country

  • This outstanding pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “Proud Mary” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” are two of the better sounding tracks found on the album, and you can be sure this seriously good side two has them swamp rockin’ like crazy
  • Our pick for the best sounding CCR record – but only if you have a copy with sonics like these
  • 4 1/2 stars: “All the songs add up to a superb statement of purpose, a record that captures Creedence Clearwater Revival’s muscular, spare, deceptively simple sound as an evocative portrait of America.”

The sound is big and open with real weight to the bottom. The top end has a much more natural extension than most, and much less of the harshly brightened-up upper midrange you might be familiar with. On side two you can even pick out the piano in “Good Golly Miss Molly,” which is barely audible on most pressings.

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Hampton Hawes – All Night Session, Vol. 3

More Hampton Hawes

More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

  • Exceptional Demo Disc Sound on this STUNNING Contemporary Stereo LP boasting top grades on both sides
  • This is a textbook example of Contemporary sound at its best, with Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, dead-on timbres from top to bottom thanks to the engineering brilliance of Roy DuNann and producer Lester Keonig
  • The last of three albums of material recorded by Hawes, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer Eldridge “Bruz” Freeman on the night of November 12 and into the morning of November 13, 1956
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…contains three spontaneously improvised variations on the blues, one very cool extended rendition of Duke Ellington’s ‘Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear from Me’ and a strikingly handsome treatment of Harold Arlen’s ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.’ The briskly paced ‘Blues #4’ is especially progressive and exciting.”
  • “It’s hard to put into words how good it feels to play jazz when it’s really swinging…I’ve reached a point where the music fills you up so much emotionally that you feel like shouting hallelujah — like people do in church when they’re converted to God. That’s the way I was feeling the night we recorded All Night Session!” – Hampton Hawes

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Letter of the Week – “Oh my god can I hear what I am missing on all of the other nonsense.”

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently: 

Hey Tom,   

Well one thing I know for sure is the record matters A LOT. I have a handful of White Hots and oh my god can I hear what I am missing on all of the other nonsense. Even my Super Hots beat all of my other average stuff.

For example, my White Hot of Bella Donna is so far over the top of sounding like she is heard in the room that it’s scary. Same with my Bob Marley and Tom Petty. But in guessing they could be even better. I’m gonna update my cartridge and phono amp soon.

I noted:

The problem with audio systems is that you are always flying blind, never knowing what you are missing until you hear it. Again, more evidence to support the success of mediocre Heavy Vinyl.

TP

He added:

I relate to that. It’s like our race cars. It’s maddening to get into someone else’s race car…

I replied:

That analogy works better if the other race car in question has a flat tire or two and the owner of it cannot even tell that it does.

TP

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