Notice that, at least for most of the material, and perhaps all of it, Sinatra does not seem to be stuck in a vocal booth. He sounds like he is actually standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band.
Whether this is a recording trick — he’s in a booth but the engineer did a great job creating a sound for the booth that matched the ambience and space of the studio — or whether he is standing front and center with the band, the illusion is convincing and adds greatly to the “reality” of the performance..
Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.
What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are two qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and lack of smear. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for.
(Note that most Heavy Vinyl pressings being produced these days seem to be quite Transparency Challenged. Lots of important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply not to be found. That audiophiles as a whole — including those passing themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press — fail to notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.)
Richness and Lack of Smear
Lack of smear is also important, especially on a recording with this many horns, where the reproduction of leading-edge transients is critical to their sound. If the sharply different characters of the various horns (trumpet, trombone, and various saxes) smear together into an amorphous blob, as if the sound were being fed through ’50s vintage tube amps (for those of you who know that sound), half the fun goes right out of the music.
Richness is important — horns need to be full-bodied if they are to sound like the real thing — but so are speed and clarity, two qualities that ensure that all the horns have the proper bite and timbre.
This Record Is Helpful for Testing These Two Qualities:
Especially on the horns.
So you can hear clearly whether Sinatra sounds like he is in a booth or not. You will need carefully tweaked, highly resolving stereo equipment in a good room to hear it.
We are in the process of making some lists (more lists!) for records we’ve found to be good for testing, tweaking and tuning your system, your room and your front end setup, among other things. You may want to check them out.
- Favorite Jazz Test Discs
- Favorite Orchestral Test Discs
- Favorite Rock and Pop Test Discs
- More of Our Favorite Test Discs
These are the records that challenged me and helped me to achieve more progress in audio. If you want to improve your stereo, these are some of the best records we know of to help you get to the next level.