Advice – What to Listen For – Smear

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

With a sonic grade of A+++ this White Hot Stamper original CTI pressing has a side two that won Top Honors in our recent shootout. It’s CLEARLY the best sounding side we have ever offered of this funky jazz classic, but it has serious condition issues, including a mark that plays at the end of track one all the way into track two. If you can live with that mark you will hear some amazing sound and music on side two. And if you buy this copy and realize you can’t, feel free to send it back for a full refund.

We ran into lots of condition problems with this album; perhaps your experience has been the same. Not many played anything close to Mint Minus, including this one. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Reach Out

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard on Reach Out
  • This copy was super full-bodied and dynamic with real weight down low, nice bite to the brass, tons of energy and a lot of Tubey Magic. 
  • Tons of hits – The Look Of Love, Message To Michael, Alfie, What The World Needs Now, I Say A Little Prayer and more
  • Engineering by Phil Ramone (Casino Royale) and Henry Lewy (Sergio Mendes, Joni Mitchell) each doing their own tracks – compare and contrast for yourself
  • “[Reach Out] present[s] Bacharach’s vision of his work at its most straightforward, and it is enjoyable on its own terms, as a snapshot of his own sensibilities at that time.”

We were surprised at how lively and dynamic the best pressings of Reach Out can be. (more…)

Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

Violin Concerto / Grumiaux 

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

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary. The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — this copy takes the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible from Philips.

As we listened, we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Hub-Tones – Reviewed in 2007

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

This Blue Note reissue LP has SUPERB SOUND AND QUIET VINYL! Freddie’s trumpet sounds Right On The Money — breathy and full-bodied with clearly audible leading edge transients. The overall sound is tonally correct with extended highs and super low distortion. It’s open and spacious and wonderfully dynamic. I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this music to make it sound much better than this!

The reason this copy has such transparency and such an extended top end compared with other copies is due, to some degree, to better cutting equipment. I’ve never heard an original with this kind of resolution, these leading edge transients, this kind of bass definition, and on and on. Collectors pay big bucks for original copies that don’t sound nearly as good as this one. 

AMG Review

“Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard teams up on record with James Spaulding (who doubles on alto and flute) for the first time on this excellent set, with the assistance of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Clifford Jarvis. The quintet performs four of the trumpeter’s originals (including “Lament for Booker” and the title cut) plus an advanced version of the standard “You’re My Everything.” John Coltrane’s modal music was starting to influence Hubbard’s conception and his own playing was pushing the modern mainstream ahead without really entering the avant-garde.”

Terry, Hubbard, Gillespie, & Peterson – The Alternate Blues – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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The Alternate Blues

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

With Hot Stamper sound on both sides, this Pablo disc shows you what three of the greatest trumpeters of the last fifty years can do given the opportunity, nay, the encouragement, to let loose on a handful of classic slow blues jams. Many of the tracks here run in excess of eight minutes, giving the players plenty of space to explore, yet practically all of them are taken at a fairly slow pace, what used to be called a “slow drag”, making them that much more involving and emotional. These are not your classic “blowing sessions” where the players try to outdo each other. No, this is something quite different.

Norman Granz revered the classic “jam session”, of which this is a prime example; he produced dozens for the various labels he owned over the years. Playing this album we can see why. The heart of the blues is here in every measure.

Clark Terry is joined here by Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, with strong support from Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Joe Pass and Bobby Durham on drums.

The album was recorded in 1980 by Dennis Sands, one of my favorite Pablo recording engineers, the man behind the brilliant Farmer’s Market Barbecue and many others. (Soon enough he crossed over to films and has done the sound for more than 250 to date. He must be pretty good to get that much work, and you can be sure he makes a lot more money for his film work than he would for recording jazz dates.) (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Whomp Factor on “Why”

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor. (This is the frequency area that screens and small dynamic drivers have the most trouble with. You need to be able to move lots of air under, say, 200 cycles to give the music a sense of real power down below. Few systems I’ve run into over the last thirty years can really pull it off.) 

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor.

“Why”

Speaking of the song “Why,” I have to confess that it’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (“Need Your Love So Bad” off Pious Bird is right up there with it.) (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Our Shootout Winner in 2016

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

The first White Hot copy to hit the site in nearly EIGHT years! Both sides were stunning, knocking us out and earning our top Triple Plus (A+++) grade.

When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the sound is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) Tons of ambience, tubey magic all over the place; let’s face it, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back then. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

Harry Pearson added this record to his TAS List of Super Discs a few years back, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording?

Of course you can be quite sure that he would have been listening exclusively to the earliest pressings on the Six Eye label. Which simply means that he probably never heard a copy with the clarity, transparency and freedom from distortion that these later label pressings offer.

The Six Eyes are full of Tubey Magic, don’t get me wrong; Davis’s trumpet can be and usually is wonderful sounding. It’s everything else that tends to suffer, especially the strings, which are shrill and smeary on most copies: Six Eyes, 360s and Red Labels included. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Goin’ Up – Reviewed in 2011

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

Good sound and some straight ahead Blue Note jazz. The second track on side one, ’The Changing Scene,’ is a wonderful ballad reminiscent of ’Round Midnight. It’s the best material on the album in my opinion. 

AMG Review

For his second recording as a leader, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (22-years-old at the time) performs two compositions apiece by Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley, the obscure “I Wished I Knew” and his own “Blues for Brenda.”

Hubbard (featured in a quintet with tenor-saxophonist Mobley, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones) takes quite a few outstanding solos, playing lyrically on the ballads and building his own sound out of the Clifford Brown/Lee Morgan tradition. Goin’ Up is an excellent set of advanced hard bop…

Freddie Hubbard – First Light (2011)

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

This Super Hot Stamper original CTI pressing has a truly SUPERB side two that just put to shame most of what we played. Smeary blurred trumpet blasts? Not here. Nope, the transient bite and energy of the trumpet is as REAL as it gets. 

Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and this pressing was one of the few in our shootout with the kind of high quality mastering that can do justice to his uniquely energetic, lightning fast jazz style.

This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. It features an outstanding lineup including Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Here it is, folks — the best sounding copy of Mystery To Me to ever hit our site. This copy positively DOES IT ALL — it’s super open and spacious with tons of energy and incredible presence. The bottom end is just KILLER and there’s dramatically more richness and fullness than you get on most copies out there. 

It’s beyond difficult to find great sounding copies of this album, which is why it’s been about four years since we last had these on the site.

Mystery To Me is my All Time Favorite Fleetwood Mac album, and this White Hot Stamper copy has the sound that I always DREAMED this album could have, but didn’t — until now. This is just the second Hot Stamper shootout that we’ve been able to do, since clean copies with the right stampers are ridiculously hard to come by. I’m not kidding. I have spent the last ten years and more trying to find the right stampers for this record. I can tell you I was dead wrong so many times in the past that I had almost given up. Time and time again, just when I thought I had it figured out, I would go back and play my so-called “hot” copy, to find myself miserably disappointed all over again. (more…)