_Composers – Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky / Capriccio Italien / Ormandy – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Capriccio Italien / Ormandy

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a CBS White Arrows “360 Sound” LP with DEMO DISC sound and the BEST performance we have ever heard. In our experience there is no combination of sound and performance that can beat Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra captured on this Columbia record. Ormandy is on fire here! As good as the famous Kondrashin on RCA is (LSC 2323), the sound on both the Shaded Dog copies we had on hand and the Classic Records reissue (which is very good by the way) could not begin to match this wonderful pressing.

We’ve had copies of the album in the past, but they sure never sounded like this! From both an audiophile and music lover’s perspective you would have a hard time finding a record that holds this much appeal to both groups. (more…)

TAS List Thoughts about Festival – Harry, This One Is Out of Phase, Man!

More orchestral music conducted by Fritz Reiner (1888-1963)

TAS List Thoughts about Festival

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Harry Pearson put this on his list of the best Classic Records RCAs.

If you can reverse your absolute phase this record actually sounds fairly decent. Do you think Harry knows to do that, or even how to do it? I have my doubts. [He’s gone now so the point is moot, but I maintain it’s the rare reviewer who grasps these kinds of issues with anything approaching the depth and understanding required to be informative and accurate.) 

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjeldstad – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a wonderful sounding London Stereo Treasury pressing featuring one of our favorite violinists, Ruggiero Ricci, performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. The tone of the violin on side one is just right — every nuance of Ricci’s bowing can clearly be heard!   

While the violin sounds amazing on side one, the orchestra lacks a bit of weight. This side is also not quite as tubey magical as it could be. In our opinion, however, the violin tone and the incredible dynamics are more than enough to award this an A++ grade.

Side two actually has a bit more fullness, but this also seems to rob the violin of some of its presence. We gave this side an A+.

Tchaikovsky / Concerto for Violin / Campoli / Argenta / LSO

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Concerto for Violin / Campoli / Argenta / LSO

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  • Another Blockbuster classical recording comes to the site – a rare and amazing Blueback pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades 
  • One of the best sounding copies of the work we have ever played – the orchestra is big, rich and tubey, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
  • The violin here is superb, as good as we’ve heard — rich, smooth, clear, resolving
  • What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound 

The violin here is superb, as good as we heard — rich, smooth, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound. The Tubey Magical richness is to die for. Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Practically zero smear, maximum resolution and transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — this pressing took the sound of this recording beyond what we thought was possible.

Quick Notes for Side One

Richer and smoother when loud. Tubey and sweet. Loud passages are huge, yet clear, with no smear. HTF (Hard To Fault).

Quick Notes for Side Two

Amazing rosiny violin. 100% transparent yet so rich and tubey. Performance is tops. Deep bass too. (more…)

Shorty Rogers – The Swingin’ Nutcracker

More Shorty Rogers

The Swingin’ Nutcracker

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  • Insanely good Living Stereo sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing reasonably quietly
  • Al Schmitt handled the engineering duties, brilliantly, with Shorty and dozens of his West Coast Pals contributing to the dates, the likes of Conte Candoli, Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Harold Land, Richie Kamuca and more
  • “The most remarkable aspect about the score is how boldly it re-imagines the original. The Swingin’ Nutcracker is contemporary from an American perspective without patronizing the European original.” – Marc Meyers, Jazz Wax

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.

Hi-Fidelity

What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are reproduced with remarkable fidelity. Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that too often passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. (For a taste of the ridiculously phony sound I’m talking about, click here.)

There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice). This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this one up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it. 

What amazing sides such as these 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 1960
  • 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 Listen For on The Swingin’ Nutcracker

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Al Schmitt 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.

The Players

Bass – Joe Mondragon 
Drums – Frank Capp, Mel Lewis 
Piano – Lou Levy, Pete Jolly 
Saxophone – Art Pepper, Bill Holman, Bill Hood, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Chuck Gentry, Harold Land, Richie Kamuca 
Trombone – Frank Rosolino, George Roberts, Harry Betts, Kenneth Shroyer 
Trumpet – Conte Candoli, Jimmy Zito*, Johnny Audino, Ray Triscari 

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of 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.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Like Nutty Overture (Finale)
A Nutty Marche (Marche)
Blue Reeds (Reed Flute Blues) 
The Swingin’ Plum Fairy (Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy)
Snowball (Waltz Of The Snowflakes)

Side Two

Six Pak (Trépak)
Flowers Of The Cats (Waltz Of The Flowers)
Dance Expresso (Coffee)
Pass The Duke (Pas De Deux)
China Where? (Tea Dance)
Overture For Shorty (Overture In Miniature)

Borodin / Sym. No. 2 / Tchaikovsky / Francesca Da Rimini / Varviso – Reviewed in 2012

More Borodin 

More Sym. No. 2 / Tchaikovsky / Francesca Da Rimini / Varviso 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Whiteback pressing (CS 6578) has SHOCKINGLY GOOD sound; in many ways it deserves to be called a Demo Disc. It has at least one quality that one virtually never hears on an audiophile reissue: a smooth, natural top end. This record only sounds correct and “real” at louder volumes, in the same way that a live orchestra often sounds a bit lifeless in the quiet passages, only to get exciting, big and powerful when the score calls for it. For this to happen on record you need real dynamics and tonal neutrality. (more…)

Music of Old Russia / Milstein / Irving – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Tchaikovsky 

Milstein / Irving 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This rare, hard to find original Blue Angel stereo pressing has exquisite sound. As we noted in our listing for Milstein’s Saint-Saens Third, it is the rare Heifetz album on Shaded Dog (or any other label) that could hope to compete with it.

We would rank this Angel recording/pressing with the best of Rabin and Milstein on Capitol, as well as the wonderful Ricci and Campoli discs on London/Decca. (more…)

Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1 – “I’m Surprised You Parted With This One”

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Piano Concerto No. 1

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Phil is a long time customer who shares my love for this powerful performance. He knows full well how bad most copies sound — he has a few of his own to prove it. When he saw this beauty in the mailer he did what any self-respecting record lover would do: he jumped on it. Even at $500 he feels he got his money’s worth, and that’s a lot of money for a Deutsche Grammophon record, the kind that no record store in the world would charge more than ten or twenty dollars for. If only we could find more like it… (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphonies 4-5-6 / Mravinsky (4 LPs) – Reviewed in 2009

More Tchaikovsky

More Symphonies 4-5-6 / Mravinsky

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Sonic Grade: C  

This is a Deutsche Grammophon 4 LP Box Set. I used to really like the sound of this set back in the day, as you will see from the rave review below from 2009.

It’s been a while since I found the sound to be worthy of a Hot Stamper shootout, and now, in 2017, having just played some of the discs against some very good German and British reissues, I now realize the records in the set are clearly made from dub tapes. They badly lack presence, space, transparency and clarity, all hallmarks of sub-generation master tapes.  (more…)

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More Clair de Lune / Agoult 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, if what you’re demonstrating is not a Hi-Fi spectacular, but rather a sublime presentation of a truly sweet and natural string section of an orchestra, presented here on analog disc created more than fifty years ago.  

I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the programme and the sound. This record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers were able to capture on tape, and the RCA mastering engineers were able to master from tape. (more…)