Chet Atkins – Chet Atkins in Hollywood

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  • A vintage RCA pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or very close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, with no marks that play or issues with the inner grooves
  • This is the superior sounding re-recording from 1961, produced this time by Dick Peirce
  • Chet took the orchestra tapes back to his home studio in 1961 and re-recorded his parts over them, and he managed to do a much better job the second time around
  • This TAS List recording will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.
  • Some of our notes about this very copy: “Awesome detail and space,” “So rich and full bodied,” “Guitar 3-D and rich,” “Big bottom / weight here,” and on and on we went…
  • 4 1/2 stars: “If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense.”

DEMO DISC SOUND! Fairly quiet and unusually clean for a record of its age. TAS List of course, and full of Living Stereo Magic. You can feel the cool air of the studio the minute the needle hits the groove!

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this copy is very special indeed.

But I would bet a very large amount of money that the pressing that Harry liked and recommended on his list is the inferior original recording, the one with the guitar superimposed over the cityscape.

Leave it to us, the guys who actually play lots of records and listen to them critically, to recognize how much better the 1961 version is compared to the original from 1959.

This vintage RCA 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 Chet Atkins In Hollywood 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 1961
  • 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. 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 Chet Atkins In Hollywood

  • 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.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. Chet’s guitar isn’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. It’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put it.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Size and 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 the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean vintage copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different — and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Armen’s Theme
Let It Be Me
Theme From “Picnic”
Theme From “A Dream”
Estrellita
Jitterbug Waltz

Side Two

Little Old Lady
Limelight
The Three Bells
Santa Lucia
Greensleeves
Meet Mr. Callaghan

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense. Yet this is not an album of film music (though a handful of film themes turn up). Rather, it is exactly what the title indicates: Chet Atkins recording an album in a Hollywood studio, as opposed to the familiar haunts of Nashville. Here, he places his often affectingly lovely guitar licks in front of full, lush, sometimes inspired string arrangements by Dennis Farnon. Sometimes, Atkins appears all by himself, caressing “Estrellita” before the strings kick in, and his fingerpicking technique appears on a piquant treatment of “Armen’s Theme” (originally a pre-Chipmunks hit for Ross Bagdasarian aka David Seville). Farnon is particularly good when he hooks onto a lush string motif and repeats it seductively on the “Theme From Picnic” or follows Atkins’s guitar in a broad, surpassingly lovely treatment of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” — the two most gorgeous tracks on the record. For some, this record might fall under the category of guilty pleasures, but a pleasure it is, one of the great make-out records of its time.