_Composers – Strauss II, Johann

Offenbach & Strauss – A Waste of Money on the Mercury Original

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More of the music of Johann Strauss (1804-1849)

This lovely Mercury boasts one of the greatest performances of the piece ever recorded. 

Dorati is surely The Man when it comes to energy, drive and dynamic excitement with this venerable warhorse. He and his Minneapolis Symphony play the hell out of this boisterous music, and luckily for us audiophiles, the Mercury engineers give us Demonstration Quality Sound to go with it.

But not on the original pressing.

The original Mercury release of this record (90016) is a shrill piece of trash, as is the Mercury Wing pressing. So many of the early Mercurys were poorly mastered it seems.

We used to really like the Golden Import reissue, but that was years ago. Not sure how we would feel about it now.

Our current favorite performance of The Gay Parisian is this one on, gulp, Readers Digest.


Many original Mercury records simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of SR90016, and we’ve played plenty of them over the more than three decades we’ve been in the business of selling Golden Age Classical records.

The originals that we’ve run into have all had shrill sound, and that sound is just not going to be acceptable on today’s highly-tweaked stereos.

Some of the early Mercs seem better suited to the Old School Audio Systems of the ’60s and ’70s than the modern systems of today. Some of these records used to sound good on those older systems, and I should know. I had an Old School stereo and some of the records I used to think sounded good back in the day don’t sound too good to me anymore. For a more complete list of those records, click here.

Aren’t the Original Pressings the Best?

No. The idea that the original is the best sounding version of any album is a myth, and an easily debunked one.

To make the case, here is just a small sampling of records with the potential to sound better on specific reissue pressings when compared head to head against the best originals. We also have some amazing sounding reissues available should you wish to purchase pressings that beat the originals — any originals — and we back up that claim with a money back guarantee.

How Did We Figure All of This Out?

There are more than 2000 Hot Stamper reviews on this blog. Do you know how we learned so much about so many records?

Simple. We ran thousands and thousands of record experiments under carefully controlled conditions, and we continue to run scores of them week in and week out to this very day.

If you want to learn about records, we recommend you do the same. You won’t be able to do more than one or two a week, but one or two a week is better than none, which is how many the average audiophile seems to want to do, based on my reading of the sites that they hang out on.

When it comes to finding the best sounding records ever made, our advice is simple. Play them the right way and pay attention to what they are trying to teach you. You will learn more with this approach than with any other.

Have You Noticed…

If you’re a fan of Mercury Living Presence records — and what right-thinking audiophile wouldn’t be? — have you noticed that many of them, this one for example, don’t sound very good?

If you’re an audiophile with good equipment, you should have.

But did you? Or did you buy into the hype surrounding these rare pressings and just ignore the problems with the sound?

There is plenty of hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and most of them are downright awful.

It seems as if the audiophile public has bought completely into the hype for these modern Heavy Vinyl pressings. Audiophiles have too often made the mistake of approaching these records without the slightest trace of skepticism. How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how bad these records sound.

I would say Mercury’s track record during the ’50s and ’60s is a pretty good one, offering (potentially) excellent sound for roughly one out of every three titles or so.

But that means that odds are there would be a lot of dogs in their catalog. This is definitely one of them.

To see the 50+ Living Presence classical titles we’ve reviewed to date, click here.

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Rachmaninoff and Liszt / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario on Capitol

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

We found White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording.

It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers.

Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less).

Side One

Graded Super Hot for the huge, solid-sounding piano, played with such verve and skill. The musical power on this side is stupendous. 

Side Two

Even better! No smear, with incredible clarity, and no sacrifice in weight or richness.

All of which adds up to a top quality piano recording in every way.

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Strauss / New Year’s Concert / Boskovsky

More of the music of Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • New Year’s Concert makes its Hot Stamper debut with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout this original unboxed Decca pressing
  • Tons of musical energy, loads of rich detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you

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Strauss / Schubert – Dances of Old Vienna / Boskovsky

More of the music of Johann Strauss (1804-1849)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An original UK Decca pressing of this wonderful sounding record boasting STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from first note to last
  • Tonally correct from top to bottom and full of Tubey Magic, it’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional, with depth to rival any recording you may own
  • The violin (played by Boskovsky himself) is immediate, real and lively here – there is a transparency and ease to the sound that is not often heard in recordings from any era, making this a very special record indeed
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • Gordon Parry and James Lock handled the engineering duties for Decca and their work here is hard to fault

Wow, what a find! This is a WONDERFUL sounding record with vintage Decca/London sound. There is not a trace of hyped-up sound to be found on this record.

So spacious! This is a fairly small ensemble, not a huge orchestra, playing in a lively hall, exactly the kind of hall in which this music was meant to be heard. The reason everything on this disc sounds right is that the venue, the sound and the music are authentic to these works in practically every detail.

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Everything But the Beer / Fiedler Conducts a Boston Pops Concert

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This VERY RARE 2 LP Shaded Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. Much of what’s good about Golden Age recordings is heard here, with side one for example having the sound of a HUGE hall and that Three-Dimensional quality that the best vintage recordings are able to convey so well.

We constantly knock Heavy Vinyl here at Better Records for the simple reason that we play vintage recordings such as this by the score every month and can hear what they do so well. Unfortunately the huge hall and the 3-D soundstaging they effortlessly reproduce cannot be found on any Heavy Vinyl pressing we know of.

Such qualities allow this record to sound — in some ways, to be sure not all — like live music. Heavy Vinyl just plain doesn’t. (more…)

Strauss / Waltzes / Reiner

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, but it’s the rare copy that deserves such an exclusive ranking.

This copy delivers the sonic goods on side one with Super Hot Stamper sound.

Side two is not quite up to the standards set by side one. It’s darker, not as open and lacks some of the richness of the first side. That said, it’s still better than the average copy we’ve played and worlds better than any reissue.

Both sides have some deep powerful bass and are fairly dynamic.

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Strauss / Tales of Old Vienna / Boskovsky

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

This BETTER than Super Hot Side one has shockingly good sound, some of the best we have ever heard for lovely marches, polkas and waltzes such as these (the Radetsky March being the most famous).

The hall is HUGE, the strings so rich, with the kind of wall to wall sound that makes the stereo and speakers utterly disappear. The sound of this London Whiteback pressing is just right for this music — so natural and real. Boskovsky of course was a master of these forms and displays consummate skill with each of the famous works here, bringing them to life as only he and the Vienna Phil. can.

If only side two were as good! But of course, when one side is killer, the chances that the second side will be as good or better are well below average.

Side One

Slight smear and slight edge keep this side from three pluses, but it’s close!

Side Two

Listen for the uncannily realistic whistle at the start of the first piece — it’s DEMO DISC material.

A step down to be sure but still big and rich, just the way we like our Londons.

Strauss et al. / Vienna Holiday / Knappertsbusch

More Johann Strauss

This is a super rare and quiet early UK Decca LP (SXL 2016) with two very good sounding sides!

Side one is spacious and transparent but could use a bit more extension on the top and bottom, rating an A+.

Side two is similar sounding, but has some added fullness that nets it an A+ to A++ grade.

Both sides play about Mint Minus with no inner groove distortion and only very light surface noise.

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Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – RCA Released This Living Stereo with Reiner in 1958

More of the Music of Johann Strauss

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

Some audiophiles buy albums based on their labels. For example, this Shaded Dog pressing from the Golden Age of RCA Living Stereo might appeal to a certain kind of audiophile who treasures LSC’s on the original label.

More than that, he might limit himself to 1S Indianapolis pressings.

Hooray! What could be better?

However, many records from this era simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of LSC 2112, and we’ve played plenty of them over the decades we’ve been in the business of selling Golden Age Classical records.

A copy came in just last week and I figured it was time to give it a spin and see if there was any reason to change my opinion. Hey, maybe this one had Hot Stampers! Can’t say it wouldn’t be possible. Unlikely, yes, impossible, no.

So here’s what I heard: A wide stage. A bit dry.

But then the trouble started: Shrill strings?! That’s all she wrote.

A Johann Strauss record with shrill strings is a non-starter. (more…)

Strauss – The Right Hall Creates the Right Sound

More of the Music of Johann Strauss

Hot Stamper Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Wow, what a find! Dances of Old Vienna is a WONDERFUL sounding record with vintage Decca / London sound. Even as late as 1968 Decca was still able to produce recordings that are tonally correct from top to bottom and full of Tubey Magic.

There is not a trace of hyped-up sound to be found on this record. It’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional, with depth to rival any recording you may own.

One reason the recording is as spacious as it is is that this is a fairly small ensemble, not a huge orchestra, playing in a lively hall, exactly the kind of hall in which this music was meant to be heard.

The reason everything on this disc sounds right is that both the sound and the music are authentic to these works in practically every detail.

And the performances are vivid and lively as well, with Boskovsky himself playing the violin as well as directing the other players. It should be noted that the solo violin parts are especially lovely sounding. There is a transparency and ease to the sound that is not often heard in vintage recordings, and that, coupled with the tubey magic, richness and sweetness found throughout, make this a very special record indeed. (more…)