TAS Super Disc List

Bernard Herrmann – Listening in Depth to The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Recordings We’ve Reviewed

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Music like this taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some. (You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Journey to the Center of the Earth

All those lovely harps! You can practically feel the cool air of the cave as you descend into the blackness.

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Jason and the Argonauts, including the fight with the skeletons that we all remember from our Saturday matinee movie days. Who else could have orchestrated such a film?

Side Two

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Astonishingly powerful deep bass and drum sounds!

Fahrenheit 451

One of our key tests for side two is the string tone on the Fire Engine sequence here. The best copies had wonderfully textured and tonally correct strings, with just the right amount of sheen — not glossy, not gritty, not blurry, but just right.

Any orchestral recording without good string tone is a lost cause. (Almost all Classic Records fail miserably in this regard. They may be on the TAS List but that sure doesn’t mean they sound any good!)

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Rodgers / Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – How is this title not on the TAS List?

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

This copy was so good on side two it almost left me speechless. How is this title not on the TAS List?

Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. Until a month ago [now years ago] I surely had no idea how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on. Who today is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio? Looking around I find very few prospects. None in fact. But then again, I’m not looking very hard. I could care less what any of these people have to say about the sound quality of the records they play. They all seem to like records that don’t sound very good to us, so why put any faith in their reviews for other records?

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

But I digress. (more…)

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Our Favorite for Performance and Sound

More music conducted by Fritz Reiner

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing was showing us a lot of the RCA Living Stereo sound we were looking for on this famous record
  • This Shaded Dog pressing of Reiner’s superb 1960 recording for RCA has glorious Living Stereo sound on both sides and plays reasonably quietly for such a vintage pressing
  • There were only three performances with truly audiophile quality sound, and the Shaded Dog pressing not only had the best performances, but the sound that the team of Mohr/Layton managed to record was second to none
  • If you know anything about these works, you know that have tons of top and bottom end, and it is the rare pressing that can capture both
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the Living Stereo strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Reiner and the CSO brought to these difficult and demanding works 60 years ago

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Classic Records Stops Making Bad Records But Acoustic Sounds Picks Up Where They Left Off

classicclaritybox

DATELINE 8/29/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who care to read about such things.

The last review we wrote for them, for their remastered Scheherazade, is one in which we awarded the Classic a sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues. Every Hot Stamper commentary is fundamentally about the specific attributes that make one copy of a given album better than another, and how much of them you’re getting for your money with the unique pressing on offer.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile as you’ve no doubt read by now. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With Old School equipment you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it. (more…)

Rodrigo / Guitar Concerto / Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre / Argenta / de Burgos

More of the music of Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

More Classical and Orchestral Music

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Rodrigo - Concierto De Aranjuez / Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre / Argenta / de Burgos - Super Hot Stamper

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful classical guitar masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound here is glorious, brimming with the wonderful qualities that make listening to classical music in analog on top quality equipment so involving and pleasurable
  • The sound of the orchestra is as rich and sweet as would be expected from the Decca engineers, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed at the center of the ensemble surrounding it

If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, the Concierto De Aranjuez would probably be the one to own. You will recognize the main theme instantly; it’s the one Miles Davis appropriated for the astonishingly innovative Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans.

The second picture in this listing is the original London, CS 6046, from which the piece is taken. It is a longtime member of the TAS List, and deservedly so. (more…)

Mussorgsky-Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition / Reiner

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This TAS List Super Hot stamper side one has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the Shaded Dog Reiner/CSO Pictures, and side two, although it starts out a little weak, gets going soon enough and earns a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade as well.

Side one is open and natural in the best Living Stereo tradition, with rich lower strings that have virtually no Golden Age smear. Turn it up and listen for the big cymbal crashes — that’s the sound we love. It’s so good it even allows me to enjoy Reiner’s performance, never one of my favorites.

Side One

A++, transparent and free from smear, not many copies are going to beat this one! A little more top would have been nice.

Listen to: Samuel Goldenburg und Schmuyle

Superb sound! The brass and strings on this part of the work are as good as it gets. No smearing of the brass — it’s clean and clear like it is in the concert hall. We’re so used to hearing it wrong that it takes a record like this to remind us how good a full brass choir can really sound. (more…)

Phase IV and the TAS List – Three-Dimensional Depth, Transparency and Space

Hot Stamper Phase 4 Recordings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Phase 4 Recordings

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This TAS List Super Hot Stamper pressing of one of the greatest and most famous Orchestral Blockbuster Soundtracks ever recorded more than lives up to our expectations for Decca Phase 4. This is Phase 4 done RIGHT.

As with all the best Herrmann releases, the huge size and scope you hear is the sound of orchestral music recorded in glorious ANALOG!

The sound is so clear, spacious and three-dimensional that you will feel as if your speakers have disappeared before your very eyes.

The layering of depth is really something to hear on this copy, with choirs of brass instruments located precisely in space, some further back, some off to the side of the soundstage. And what a soundstage it is, so wide and deep. Transparency – a quality you find on both sides of this copy — is what makes this all sound so REAL.

Opacity Vs. Transparency

Note that we have been especially anti-heavy vinyl in our recent commentaries for their consistently opaque character, the opposite of what is necessary in order to hear into the music, deep into the soundstage, to see and hear ALL the instruments, even the ones at the back.

Try that with any Classic Record or Speakers Corner pressing. It’s records like this that show you precisely what you have been missing all these years if you have been collecting and playing releases from those labels and the others like them. (more…)

Harry Belafonte / Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Wrong About Harry Again?

More Harry Belafonte

Live and Learn, Right?

  • This early Black Label RCA pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
  • A very large group of musicians will transport themselves directly into your listening room, Harry included, all backing him live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • The palpable presence and performance energy of the man himself are really something to hear, and a copy this good lets you REALLY hear it
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

NEWSFLASH:

We’ve long known that some copies of the album are mastered with the polarity reversed. This is one of those copies.

But the crazy news we have today is that this copy of the records sound just fine without adjusting the system polarity, better than any other copy we played.

It sounds a bit better with your polarity reversed, but it is still our Shootout Winner even with the polarity wrong.

I would never have believed that to be the case in the past, but my theory is that the new studio we built has reduced distortions and problems to such a degree that polarity issues are less of a problem now than they might have been in the past.

As I say, it’s just a theory, and as time goes on we will revisit this idea with other recordings that we know to have polarity issues, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we find. (more…)

Sullivan-Mackerras / Pineapple Poll Ballet / Mackerras

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More TAS List Super Discs

  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, this wonderful recording of the Pineapple Poll ballet has superb sound that will be very hard to beat
  • In the best tradition of vintage All Tube analog from 1962, these sides are both rich and clear, with rhythmic drive and energy that keeps the festivities briskly humming along, just as they would in one of the composer’s famous operettas
  • Remarkably colorful orchestration – the brilliant music of Sir Arthur Sullivan shines on this famous TAS List Super Disc
  • “As a score, [Pineapple Poll] quite simply sparkles like freshly popped champagne. … In fact, this is a comic masterpiece. Any viewer will be impressed with the vivacious dancing and the ‘built in’ humour which pervades the work…”

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Ry Cooder / Jazz

More Ry Cooder

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear
  • “The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.” — Allmusic

We’re big fans of Ry Cooder here at Better Records, and it’s always fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you have a great sounding pressing like this one that lets you hear what the musicians were up to. (more…)