_Composers – Gershwin

Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess on the 360 Label

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

More Miles Davis

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage Columbia 360 Stereo pressing
  • The 360 label pressings don’t win shootouts, but they can sound very good, and are guaranteed to beat anything you have ever heard — from any era — at any price
  • Both sides are full of that old-school 30th Street Studio Tubey Magic – the brass is full-bodied and airy, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
  • The music is a classic example of the brilliant partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a Must Own for serious jazz fans
  • 5 stars: “It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively
  • If you’re a fan of the collaborations of Davis and Evans circa 1959, this album belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing

More on the UHQR

Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

This is a UHQR JVC Test Record in a white generic jacket.

The RAREST of the RARE! I’ve never even seen one offered for sale!

For those of you who do not know the complete story, the UHQR — the ultra high quality record — was invented by JVC as a test to see how good the ultimate vinyl pressing could sound. It was thicker, had a longer pressing cycle, and other technological improvements, all with the goal of making the ultimate lp.

Mobile Fidelity produced limited editions of eight titles on UHQR, and both Reference and Telarc produced one each.

Apparently tests were done by others as well, because here we have some M&K recordings on UHQR. I believe they are not known to exist — until now. I bought them from M&K myself many years ago, along with some Flamenco Fevers and a box full of unplayed For Dukes. That was a good day for Better Records! (more…)

Gershwin / All the Works for Orchestra – This Set Was on the TAS List?

More of the Music of George Gershwin

Hall of Shame 3 Record set that had us asking: Why would anyone want to own these awful records? Isn’t the music of George Gershwin better than this?

TAS List or no TAS List, the performances of the works listed below are much too slow to be taken seriously.

This is one of those records that make you wonder what the hell some audiophile reviewers, including Harry Pearson himself, must have been smoking back in the day.

I get that The TAS Super Disc List is about sound, not music, but the sound is not that great here either, and the bargain vinyl is the typical gritty, grainy, noisy crap that VOX records tend to be made with.

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of George Gershwin

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records, Like This One, That Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

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Gershwin – Concerto In F / Cuban Overture / Fiedler

More of the music of George Gershwin (1898-1937)

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this original RCA Victor Shaded Dog pressing with glorious Living Stereo sound from 1962
  • If you love the sound of a big bass drum, the Concerto in F is the work for you, and the engineers know how to capture both the bass and the space surrounding it
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern records
  • Everything that is wrong with the low-res Classic reissue – boosted mids, strings lacking in texture and sheen, etc., is nowhere to be found on these incredible sides

We reviewed the Classic Records pressing and had a few thoughts about string tone and texture we wanted to discuss:

I must admit Classic Records did a passable job with this one. The two things that separate the good originals from the reissue are in some ways related. Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on every Classic Record I play. (This commentary has more on the subject.)

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying authentic RCA pressings — and get quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

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Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess on the Six Eye Label

More Vintage Columbia Pressings

More Miles Davis / More Gil Evans

  • Insanely good sound on both sides of this original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both sides are full of that old-school Columbia jazz tubey magic – the brass is full-bodied with lots of air, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
  • The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans
  • “It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.” 5 Stars
  • If you’re a fan of the collaborations of Davis and Evans circa 1959, this album belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – A Copy This Good Deserves to Be on the TAS List

More Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”
  • If you’re a fan of The Great American Songbook, this is a killer recording from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience on this copy. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate.

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection. (more…)

Gershwin / Concerto in F – String Tone Is Key

More of the Music of George Gershwin

More Orchestral Spectaculars with Hot Stampers

Sonic Grade: C-

I must admit Classic Records did a passable job with this one. The two things that separate the good originals from the reissue are in some ways related. Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grittier, and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on every Classic Record I play. (This commentary has more on the subject.)

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying authentic RCA pressings — and get quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.


HOT STAMPERS

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

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Gershwin / Rhapsody In Blue – We Changed Our Minds Again

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of George Gershwin

More Spectacular Orchestral Recordings

I’ve always loved these performances, but the crude, smeary and painfully-shrill-at-louder-levels Columbia sound quality had always been a powerful barrier to my enjoyment of them.

So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and blary brass. I had come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than “The Sound of Columbia Classical.” As a consequence we rarely put much effort into cleaning and testing their vintage pressings; the good ones were just too hard to find.

I won’t say all that’s changed; it really hasn’t. The vast majority of Columbia classical pressings are still going to sound more or less as awful as they have in the past.

However, there are properly mastered pressings of this album that display little of the “Columbia sound” we describe above. They would obviously be the ones that would do well in our shootouts, as long as they are not too thin, bright and modern sounding.

There was a time when we thought the Red Label Seventies pressings were the best way to hear these performances. This time around that was not the case, as none of them had the heft and Tubey Magical strings and brass of our best early pressings.

Nothing could touch this amazing sounding Six Eye pressing.

Nothing could touch the Six Eye pressing of the Bernstein recording we played either, for what that’s worth.

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Sarah Vaughan – Sings George Gershwin, Volume One

More Sarah Vaughan

  • No other copy could touch this original Black Label Stereo Mercury pressing for warmth, richness, and, most especially, in-the-room presence and intimacy
  • Hard to imagine we would ever run into a quieter copy than this one – Mint Minus Minus with no marks that play and no groove damage makes this a very special copy indeed
  • Hal Mooney brilliantly handles the arrangements, letting Sarah stretch and bend Gershwin’s notes to her heart’s content
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A lush and opulent effort… [Vaughan’s] embellishments accentuate the romantic lyrics on these classics…”

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – Resolution and Warmth Are Key to the Best Pressings

This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978

Warmth and Resolution

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate. 

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection.

Awareness

Many copies of this album suffer from an phony hi-fi-ish quality (which is probably the reason why Stardust made the TAS List in the first place). You’ve got to play a big stack of copies to come up with a pressing that offers this kind of relaxed, natural sound. That’s our job here at Better Records — playing bad records so you don’t have to.

More Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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