Genre – Exotica & Easy Listening

Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular – Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only — the Bob and Ray Test. 

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is The Song of the Volga Boatman on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult record we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last year or two.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection you need to find one.

It will be invaluable in the long run. The copy we have is so good (White Hot, the best we have ever played), and so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test

One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through The Song of the Volga Boatman. I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better. (more…)

Perez Prado – Prez

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  • A superb copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – this bad boy is a BIG step up from any Perez Prado record you have ever heard, guaranteed
  • With Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation like you will not believe – this copy is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience
  • The driving, syncopated, heavily percussive arrangements add immensely to the fun, with the timbre of every scratcher and drum rendered in glorious Technicolor sound 
  • This is Vintage All Tube Analog at its best – the magic hidden in the grooves of the record really comes through on this pressing.

This SUPERB sounding copy of Prez has a lot in common with the other Living Stereo / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Henry Mancini, Esquivel, Arthur Lyman, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Ted Heath, Martin Denny and a handful of others. Talk about making your speakers disappear, these records will do it! (more…)

Henry Mancini – Mr. Lucky Goes Latin

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This very nice looking RCA Living Stereo Popular White Dog LP is a superb example of Living Stereo tubey magic at its best. Ideal for your bachelor pad! Skip track one on side one and go straight to Slow Hot Wind to hear some Mancini magic.

Dick Schory – Music To Break Any Mood – Reviewed in 2009

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

This is the successor to Bang Baaroom, and as you can imagine it’s music in the same percussive style, the major difference here being the addition of a giant gong which the producers justifiably take great pride in. This title is also at least 5 times as rare as LSP 1866; I haven’t seen one of these in years! (more…)

Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra – Viva Cugat

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

This crazy Cugat record (is there any other kind?) is a BALL and has absolutely amazing Demo Disc quality sound on side two, better than Super Hot Stamper quality. 

It sounds like Henry Mancini on speed, and the recording quality puts most of Mancini’s records to shame to boot. This is Bachelor Pad music for those who like their Bachelor Pad to be FUN!

Side Two

With A++ to A+++ sound this side is pretty much doing it all. So spacious! And such tremendous low and high frequency extension, the kind that vintage records usually have trouble with. Not this copy. The strings and horns can get slightly aggressive

Make sure you have your VTA set dead right or this record will be a mess. Careful adjustment is critical to reproduce this kind of complex and lively sound. (more…)

Dick Schory – The Happy Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Side One – A++. This side is full and rich yet clear. Listen to that crazy banjo on track two; that’s not an easy instrument to get to sound right, but the RCA engineers pull it off. The brass is a bit “hot” at times so we took off one plus. For all we know this is as good as it gets. 

Side Two – A++, not quite as warm as side one, but more lively and really jumpin’. The last track is truly Demo Disc quality. The bottom and top are extended and the sound is rich in the best possible sense of the word. Superb sound and plenty of fun, wacky music!

  • Super Hot on both sides on this rare title – the sound is killer on most tracks
  • Side one is rich and tubey yet clear, our favorite combination
  • Side two has the best sounding track on the album – Demo Disc quality
  • Quiet vinyl, with sound that’s more lively and energetic than most Schory discs

As is usually the case with these vintage Living Stereo pressings, the vinyl may not be dead quiet but it’s certainly quiet enough for any problems to stay hidden well underneath the music.  (more…)

Perez Prado (and Better Records) Implore You to Turn Up the Volume

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Another in the long list of recordings that sounds its best when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right from top to bottom.

If you like the sound of percussion instruments of every possible flavor, including some you have never tasted before, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of them than this. (more…)

Sons of the Pioneers – Cool Water

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • These sides have a richness and sweetness that’s disappeared entirely from modern recordings yet they’re still incredibly clean, clear and spacious
  • If you want to know why people love Living Stereo records, playing either side of this record should be more than sufficient
  • “The original release, issued at the height of the stereophile boom of the late 1950s, was a vivid display of close, intimate presence and discreet channel separation.” – All Music

This original RCA Black Label Living Stereo LP has two AMAZING sides, making this without a doubt the best sounding pressing we have ever had the distinct pleasure to play! We were as shocked to hear this copy as you will no doubt be (if you end up with it of course; there’s only one like this to go around.) (more…)

Perez Prado – Pops and Prado

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  • Outstanding sound for this Living Stereo pressing with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades and playing about as quietly as any RCA from 1959 ever does
  • These sides are unbelievably Tubey Magical, dynamic and spacious – this is vintage Analog Exotica at its best
  • Credit for the Demo Disc sound of this one must go to one of our favorite engineers, Bob Simpson, here working with the glorious acoustics of Webster Hall
  • “… the use of two organs, or double the signature sound of the next phase of Prado, is significant and very effective. This is more fun than any of his previous attempts at safe commercialism.”

Bob Simpson won the Grammy for engineering Belafonte at Carnegie Hall you may recall. (more…)

Gary McFarland – Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon?

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Look at the track listing — these are pop tunes by The Beatles and The Beach Boys set to jazzy arrangements, perfect for your bachelor pad. Enjoy this one for what it is — enchanting pop tunes without the vocals, superbly well recorded and well played by jazz guys who know how to have fun with these kinds of songs. 

DCC did this title on CD and if you want one just drop us a note and we will include one with your order gratis.

This copy is dramatically more open and spacious than any of the other copies we’ve heard. The organ and bass are especially well recorded.

Drop the needle on God Only Knows to get a taste of how good side one sounds. (more…)