- Boasting two outstanding Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this original Liberty Turquoise label MONO pressing was giving us the sound we were looking for on Julie London’s wonderful 1957 release
- Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like nothing you’ve ever heard (unless you have one of our other Hot Stamper Julie London records)
- Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
- Marks and problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- 4 stars: “About the Blues … may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths…”
Liberty and Ted Keep
Why does this 1957 recording sound so good?
Well, Liberty was a label that tended to produce very good sounding records. We’ve played scores of them, and we’ve done many shootouts for the ones that had music that could justify
our high prices the time and effort required to find the best sounding copies.
But the most obvious reason this record has such good sound is that Ted Keep recorded it.
You don’t have to, but if you want this kind of sound quality, it pays to go back to the All Tube Recording and Mastering Chains of the late ’50s and early ’60s. That is where you are most likely to find it.
If you know anything about vintage Julie London records from the ’50s, you know that having a few minor condition issues is practically unavoidable. Few copies are going to play this well, and the vast majority will be dramatically worse.
The sound here is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a Classic Fifties Female Vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo.
And you would surely be making someone a fan of Julie London’s early recordings. They are simply amazing on every level, or at least the best ones sure are. This title slotted in between 1956’s Calendar Girl (which is every bit as hard to find) and Make Love to Me, from later on in 1957. All three are wonderful.
What the Best Sides of About the Blues 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 1957
- 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 space of the studio
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.
Get the volume right and Julie will appear right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early pressing also has the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue might be available. This one is guaranteed to be dramatically more REAL sounding. It will give you the sense that Julie London is right in front of you.
She’s no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.
This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually is a CD of this album, and YouTube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable couldn’t care less.
What We’re Listening For on About The Blues
- 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 for the guitar, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The Players and Personnel
Julie London – vocals
Willie Smith – alto saxophone
Maynard Ferguson – trumpet
Barney Kessel – guitar
Shelly Manne – drums
Russ Garcia – arranger, conductor of those guys and the other 14 pieces in the band
You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on another landmark session from the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Basin Street Blues
I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
A Nightingale Can Sing The Blues
Get Set For The Blues
Invitation To The Blues
Bye, Bye Blues
Meaning Of The Blues
About The Blues
The Blues Is All I Ever Had
Blues In The Night
Bouquet Of Blues
AMG 4 Star Review
Julie London wasn’t really a jazz singer, but she possessed a definite jazz feeling and many of her finest albums (such as Julie Is Her Name and Julie…At Home) feature small-group jazz backings.
About the Blues was aimed at the 1950s pop market, but it may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths instead of against them. Likewise, Russ Garcia’s clever arrangements bleed jazz touches and short solos over the solitary strings and big-band charts.
Like June Christy, London usually included a couple of new songs in with a selection of standards, and her husband, Bobby Troup, wrote two excellent numbers for the album. One of them, the emotionally devastating “Meaning of the Blues,” is the album’s highlight, and was turned into a jazz standard after Miles Davis recorded it the same year for Miles Ahead.