- An excellent A&M pressing of this incredibly well-recorded and criminally-overlooked LP with Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them throughout
- Both sides of this copy are in correct polarity, so no need to worry about switching the polarity, as we must do with many of the copies – just drop the needle and enjoy!
- The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that will absolutely blow you away (assuming you have big speakers and like to turn them up good and loud)
- Wonderfully present and breathy vocals from the lovely ladies in Sergio’s band – they provide most of the audiophile appeal (and all of the sex appeal), and we know of nothing else like them on record
- A permanent member of our Top 100 and Demo Disc par excellence
- 4 stars: “Stillness is a concept album — the title tune opens and closes it in moody stillness — and a transition piece all at once…. Overlooked in its day, Stillness is the great sleeper album of Sergio Mendes’ first A&M period.”
- This is a Must Own album from 1970, which just happens to be a great year for Rock and Pop Music, maybe the greatest of them all
We figure we’re about due for a thank you note from Mr. Mendes, because we’ve turned a huge number of audiophiles into die-hard fans of this album. It’s easy to see why when you play a copy that sounds like this. All of the qualities we look for on this album are right here.
If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.
If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, “For What It’s Worth” on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are. This one being from 1970 fits the bill nicely.
Side two of this album can be one of THE MOST MAGICAL sides of ANY record — when you’ve got a killer copy. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s an excellent test disc as well. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test.
To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound. There is still plenty to discover locked in these grooves, and all of us here at Better Records enthusiastically accept the challenge to find all the sounds that Sergio created in the studio, locked away in the 50+ year old vinyl.
This vintage A&M 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 Stillness 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 1970
- 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.
What We’re Listening For On Stillness
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Larry Levine in this case — would put them.
- 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.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
A True Desert Island Disc
Stillness is one of my favorite records of all-time. The material here is some of the best that Sergio and his crew ever recorded. The sound is AMAZING. The average copy of this is no great shakes. Copies like this are MAGIC. It’s a Desert Island Disc for me. I discovered this record one day by accident and now all my friends are constantly on the lookout for copies, it’s that good.
Clean Copies Are Hard To Find
It’s unusual to find this record in anything but beat up condition. If you don’t believe me, buy one off Ebay and find out for yourself. It goes for good money because people steal the “breaks and beats” off of it. I can’t blame them, since the Brazilian rhythms on this record are half the fun of listening to it.
It’s almost impossible to find this record with a first track that opens quietly, on either side. Surface noise is always going to be a problem on the first track, but it usually goes away soon enough.
Out of Polarity?
If you already have a copy of this album, it’s likely that your copy is out of absolute polarity on side two. With the help of our EAR 324 Phono Stage, we were able to easily confirm which stampers are in correct polarity and which are not.
Those out-of-polarity copies can sound quite good either way, but really only sound their best if you reverse your absolute phase. Way back in the mid-2000s we used to do it the old-school way, by switching the positive and negative leads at the headshell.
These days we simply press a button on the 324, a feature which comes in particularly handy on a record like Stillness, where some stampers are reversed polarity while others are not.
Feel free to drop us a note with your stamper numbers and we’ll let you know if your copy has correct phase or not.
A Demo Disc Quality Pop Record
This is my favorite song on side one. Sergio Mendes magic at its best, with Demo quality sound.
The real test for side one. Without a doubt it’s the hardest song to get to sound right on the entire album. Only certain stampers have the potential and not all of them have the kind of balanced, natural sound that allows the song to work. There’s a certain hardness to the piano on most copies that just doesn’t sit right. On the best pressings the piano sounds correct and natural, no doubt the way it was recorded. Why the piano on this track is so difficult to reproduce is beyond me.
Cancao Do Nosso Amor
This track features a room full of Latin percussionists with some of the sweetest female vocals ever recorded layered on top of them. Another Demo Disc quality track.
Lost In Paradise
This is a very difficult track. I never really appreciated how wonderfully different it is from most of Sergio Mendes’ music. I’ve grown to love it. The original version by Brazilian great Caetano Veloso is excellent as well and worth seeking out.
For What It”s Worth
Demo Disc quality sound. This is the track that blows everybody’s mind. The percussion alone is worth the price of admission. Sergio and his merry band take this music in a completely fresh direction, making a version that holds its own against the classic original by Buffalo Springfield. And that’s saying something.
Sometimes In Winter
Another case where Sergio completely reinvents a familiar song, previously done superbly by another band. Who does it better? He’s practically unique in his ability to improve upon a song that was wonderful to start with.
Celebration of the Sunrise
AMG 4 Star Review
Stillness is a concept album — the title tune opens and closes it in moody stillness — and a transition piece all at once, for Sergio Mendes seemed to be searching for a viable way out of the Brasil ’66 formula. Indeed, “Righteous Life,” using a different L.A. rhythm section, is really a folk-rock record, a good one, and a far cry from the bossa-propelled ’60s. So is the funky voodoo cover of Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” in its own way, though the old Brasil ’66 sound does come in very handy in a superb treatment of another folk-rock song, Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning.” Yet Mendes also experiments with different, more authentically Brazilian rhythm patterns in a brilliantly propulsive rendition of Gilberto Gil’s “Viramundo” and a lovely Oscar Castro-Neves/Sebastiao Neto tone poem, “Celebration of the Sunrise.” This would also be Lani Hall’s farewell to Sergio Mendes, leaving the band in mid-album on the way to becoming Mrs. Herb Alpert and starting a solo career, to be replaced by the Brazilian Gracinha Leporace, who is now Mrs. Sergio Mendes. Overlooked in its day, Stillness is the great sleeper album of Sergio Mendes’ first A&M period.
A radical departure from anything that had gone before, Stillness remains the one album that Brasil ’66 fans either love or hate. Most complaints about it center on the fact that the familiar bossa sound of the earlier records was now mostly gone.
Nonetheless, Stillness is arguably one of the most fluid albums of Mendes’ career. It takes its cue from the work of many of the singer/songwriters of the day (Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc.), with thoughtful lyrics and often delicate arrangements. It is a almost a concept album, with the theme expressed in the title song — the words of which are even printed on the front cover — and an outdoorsy, peaceful feeling running through many of the other lyrics. (This feeling is also reflected in the cover photos, which were shot in a rural setting.)
Stillness is also Lani Hall’s final album with Mendes; she left the group during these sessions and was replaced by Gracinha Leporace, who does lead vocals on several songs. Standout tracks include “Chelsea Morning” and “Viramundo,” both of which contain traces of the earlier Brasil ’66 sound; “Righteous Life” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” both of which reflect the mood of late ’60s America through their lyrics; and the very pretty “Sometimes in Winter,” featuring an elegant orchestral arrangement by Dick Hazard.
Stillness checks off a few of our favorite boxes: