A List of Good Sounding Live Albums

Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner Corner of the World, Vol. 2

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The presence is superb — turn it up good and loud and you’ll be right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys, circa 1960  
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)

Jimmy Reed – Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall

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  • Jimmy Reed makes his debut on this site with this stunning copy of Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall
  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR sides of this killer album
  • A surprisingly good recording – this early stereo pressing is wonderfully big and rich, with natural tonality and more three-dimensional space than any other copy we played
  • It took us years to find enough early Vee-Jay stereo (and mono) pressings that played quietly in order to do this shootout, and here is the winner in all its glory!
  • 5 stars: “… In some ways, it almost does make for a greatest-hits compilation, as it contains most of Reed’s most popular tunes… it was highly popular and influential, making the Top 50 at a time when few blues LPs charted.”

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Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people, front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — performing with one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals that are at the same time not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts. (more…)

Milt Jackson Quintet – That’s The Way It Is

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides of this is a killer live jazz album from Shelly’s Manne-Hole
  • Big, rich and real, with the kind of relaxed Tubey Magical sound that not many live albums achieve
  • Wally Heider engineered and he knocked it out of the park – You Are There, and even better, it’s 1969
  • “This is not experimental jazz. It’s beyond that, or as they say in New York, outside that. This is solid, rooted, sweet-smelling earth of an enduring style, as played by masters.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of this record last year and could hardly believe how good it sounded. So rich, so tubey, so big and clear – this is one of the best Impulse records we have played in a very long time. It’s clearly another “sleeper” discovered by your friends here at Better Records. Who else is finding vintage albums with this kind of sound and music? (more…)

Odetta – At Town Hall in Mono

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this mono original pressing of At Town Hall, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

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Odetta – At Town Hall in Stereo

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  • Here is an outstanding early stereo pressing of Odetta performing live – it boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout and plays as quietly as these Vanguard LPs ever do
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

This vintage Vanguard pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Odetta singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)

King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree – Blues at Montreux

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this original Atlantic LP with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades  
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “… Curtis and Dupree find a great deal of common musical ground. Dupree has quite a few witty vocals (particularly the near-classic “Junker’s Blues”) while taking choruses of irregular length that keep his sidemen continually guessing. Curtis’ distinctive tenor is also heard from, making one truly regret that this was his final recording.”

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Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, making this one of the more enjoyable copies we’ve heard in quite a while
  • It’s not easy to find copies that get both the quieter, acoustic material and the big, rockin’ Crazy Horse stuff right, but this one did
  • With some fairly quiet passages of music, both sides play about as well as the record ever does – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • 5 stars: “His strongest collection since Tonight’s the Night, its obvious antecedent was Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, and, as Dylan did, Young divided his record into acoustic and electric sides while filling his songs with wildly imaginative imagery.”

This copy has some of the best Rust Never Sleeps sound we have ever had the privilege of playing. The acoustic guitars are full-bodied and sweet, with lovely, delicate harmonics. The vocals had a natural quality that we didn’t hear on some copies, with no trace of thinness or edginess, yet still present and clear. If you are looking for a copy that gets the folkie stuff right, this is the one.

Play track three, Ride My Llama, to hear the kind of rich, sweet, Tubey Magic to be found on this side. Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — this copy proves it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

Side two is where the harder-rockin’ electric material can be found, including two of the best songs on the album: Powderfinger and Sedan Delivery. The sound is full and smooth and lively – this side was rockin’ like no other. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Newport Jazz Festival 1958 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

If you are a fan, this record will be a thrill. If you’re unfamiliar with the Duke’s music, I can’t imagine a better introduction than this.

This LP also includes Gerry Mulligan’s only performance with the Ellington band. Paul Gonsalves’s saxophone performance is superb and worth the price of the album alone. The clarinet parts on Princess Blue are out of this world — Ellington at his best!

Joni Mitchell – Shadows and Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

FOUR INCREDIBLE SIDES! We had a huge shootout for this famous double album and this copy blew our minds with a pair each of White Hot and Super Hot sides and quiet vinyl throughout. In the high-stakes game of Better Records Double Album Poker, that’s a full house, my man! Sides one and three earned the A+++ grades while sides two and four were close behind at A++. This one gives you the kind of YOU ARE THERE immediacy and transparency that put you front and center for a late ’70s jazzy Joni Mitchell show. Not too many copies will do that!

If you’re a fan of Joni’s more experimental work from the mid to late ’70s, this album is a must-own. She takes a top-notch crew of musicians including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and Michael Brecker through a set including many of her best album tracks from the era.

Sides one and three were absolutely top-notch, earning the top grade of A+++. The sound is full-bodied, lively and very DYNAMIC. On so many copies the sax sounds thin and hard, but on a Hot Stamper like this one you get fuller, smoother sound for the instrument. Joni’s voice is breathy and present with real texture, and the three-dimensional imaging gives the music a real sense of SPACE — just like you’d get at a concert. This helps convey the intimacy of the songs and the performances, and isn’t that what we audiophiles got in this crazy hobby for in the first place? (more…)