One of the best sounding records we have ever played, the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band.
Both sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard. Three elements create the magic here: Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.
Years ago we wrote in another listing “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album like no copy we have ever played.
DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.
Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes.
Our Hot Stamper Commentary
This copy of Shall We Dance has a lot in common with the other Decca and Living Stereo titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Henry Mancini, Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Prez Prado and a handful of others. Talk about making your speakers disappear, these records will do it!
An album like this is all about Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation. For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1959 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy is the record that can do it.
This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.
This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. Someday there may well be a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.
What You Want on Shall We Dance
Sound that is smooth, dynamic, open and clear. The kind of richness and weight that allows the music to get bigger and even more energetic without ever getting harsh or strained. The sound is really jumpin’ on this copy but never hurt your ears.
The brass should never be “blary” the way it can be on so many Big Band or Dance Band records from the ’50s and ’60s. (Basie’s Roulette records tend to have a bad case of blary brass as a rule.)
Add in sharp transients and correct tonality and timbres and you have yourself one helluva White Hot Stamper pressing.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
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 pressings from the late ’50s and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. (Full sound is especially critical to the the horns; any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.)
Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.
The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).
Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right from top to bottom.
A Big Band Giant
Ted Heath was a giant in the world of Big Band and everybody who was anybody knew it.
You’ve got a band… Ted Heath… He scares me to death… When they sent those first Heath records over to the States they really knocked everybody out… For me I think Ted is the best precision band and so very entertaining…I mean so far as I’m concerned I think Ted is the most.
Your music has become such an institution it seems that we have always had it… I do know that without you, big band music and jazz would not be as it is today… Your taste and integrity in guiding your arrangers, composers and musicians has always been of the highest order… You’ve done more than your share in exposing the best grade of music to those hungry for it all over the world…
I saw the band and was incredibly impressed……one of the cleanest and swingiest of the big bands of the era… Always rated at the top of the list… You would hear more Ted Heath records than ours, Basie or Ellington…