_Composers – Gershwin

Gershwin / Concerto in F – String Tone Is Key

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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, 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 goof for testing string tone and texture.


HOT STAMPERS

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection (more…)

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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  • You’ll find superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this exceptionally well-recorded album – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • 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…”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

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 / Rhapsody In Blue – We Changed Our Minds Again

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of George Gershwin

More Spectacular Orchestral Recordings

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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

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  • No other copy could touch this original Black Label Stereo Mercury pressing for warmth, richness, and, most especially, in-the-room presence and intimacy
  • If all you know are Heavy Vinyl reissues of The Divine One’s album, our Shootout Winner here should be a sonic treat the likes of which you may never have experienced before
  • An original Mercury pressing that has no audible marks and plays as quietly as this one does is a rare find indeed – it seems to be the quietest copy from our shootout, and even better, no other copy earned higher grades
  • 4 stars: “Since these 15 selections are fairly concise, the emphasis is on the melody and the original lyrics… Vaughan, who had a wondrous voice, is in excellent form on the superior material.

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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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…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy and Bess

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More Louis Armstrong

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  • STUNNING sound throughout this Ella & Louis classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on three sides matched with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on the fourth
  • Spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with Ella and Louis front and center, this is the sound you want for their brilliant collaboration from 1958
  • Two vocal giants came together to perform Gershwin’s timeless opera, revered by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What’s really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both.”

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Gershwin – Rhapsody In Blue / An American In Paris – Bernstein

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More Spectacular Orchestral Recordings

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  • This outstanding 6 Eye pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Here is sound that is both tubey and real, with much more space and a much bigger and more realistic presentation of the hall than most of the other copies we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Paired with his buoyant 1958 performance of An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein’s rendition of Rhapsody is lively, flashy, bluesy, and intensely romantic in feeling, and these positive characteristics no doubt contributed to keeping this album in print for many years as one of Columbia’s great successes.”

*NOTE On side one, a mark makes 6 moderately-loud pops about two and one-half inches into Rhapsody In Blue.

Here is the sound we’ve been searching for – rich, tubey and real, with nicely textured strings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and percussive — there is hardly any Old School smear to be heard, always important to proper piano reproduction. (more…)

Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing

More on the UHQR

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Near Mint 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, basically 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 a few years back, along with some flamenco fevers and a box full of unplayed for dukes. That was a good day for better records!

Anyway, obviously the price you see reflects the collectability of such a unique pressing, not necessarily the musical or sonic qualities it may possess. If you want to be not just the first but the only person to own such a pressing, this is your opportunity to do so. (more…)

Shelly Manne – Manne – That’s Gershwin!

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with each side earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade for its Shootout Winning sound, or one very close to it 
  • “The Gershwin program includes some of the typical familiar standards but also versions of the lesser-known “By Strauss,” “The Real American Folk Song,” “Prelude #2” and “Theme from Concert in F… this music generally swings, leaves space for concise solos and is fairly fresh.” – All Music

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Gershwin / Rhapsody In Blue / Thomas

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  • Gershwin’s rendition of his stunning Masterpiece makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this copy sounds
  • Using the piano roll capturing the performance of the composer himself, Gershwin’s take on the Rhapsody is spirited and jazzy, performed at a thrilling pace
  • This performance and arrangement is sure to give its audience a new perspective on what Gershwin was trying to accomplish with his “experiment for piano and jazz band.”

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