Genre – Jazz – Guitar

Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate – MoFi Debunked

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

This is a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played an early Riverside LP I can see how their mastering approach was — as is so often the case — misguided to say the least.

First off, the guitar and the drums on the original are tonally right on the money. They sound like bass and drums should. They sound, in a word, correct. Mobile Fidelity felt it necessary to brighten up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and phony sounding drums, with tizzy cymbals thrown in for good measure.

(The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one. We’ve had Hot Stamper copies of the originals so we know they can sound superb, some of RVG’s best work.)

The old Mobile Fidelity — the pre-RTI Mobile Fidelity — rarely met a master tape they didn’t think needed a healthy dose of top end boost. They also never understood what an acoustic guitar sounds like. They blew it on every last one of the Cat Stevens albums, brightening up the guitars, which, as we all know from playing with the treble controls on our receivers way back when, emphasizes the “picking” of the strings at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics. What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record, for audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. (Chesky anyone?)

Another reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect. Bad guitars, bad drums and bad bass — that pretty much covers everybody in the trio. Resulting score: 0 for 3.

AMG Review

This is a listening pleasure to the first degree. Unlike any other, Charlie Byrd sincerely knows how to make his instrument speak, sending graceful chords and melodies to this attentive audience… Cheers to the Charlie Byrd Trio for a dynamic effort during this May 1963 gig. Applause, applause.

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on side one! Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this side one was a THRILL for us and will no doubt be as big a thrill for you too.   

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. 

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days. We rarely even pick up most Verves, having been burned so many times we just can’t face another badly mastered noisy LP. (more…)

George Benson – Other Side of Abbey Road

More George Benson

More Other Side of Abbey Road

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

An A++ side one backed with an A+++ side two! We just shot out a bunch of these and this copy finished way ahead of the pack. George Benson and a top-notch backing crew (Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Ray Baretto, Freddie Hubbard and many more) knock these jazzy Abbey Road covers out of the park, and Rudy Van Gelder did a great job putting it to tape. Of course not every pressing sounds good, but the best copies like this one are killer!  (more…)

Barney Kessel – Barney Kessel Plays Carmen (Stereo) – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

More Barney Kessel

More Barney Kessel Plays Carmen (Stereo)

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This original Black Label Contemporary stereo LP has a STUNNING side two! Barney Kessel Plays Carmen is one of our favorite jazz guitar recordings of all time, and on a copy like this the sound is absolutely KILLER. 

As you can see from looking at the condition notes, this copy is quieter than any other we have listed to from our recent shootout. Fifties jazz doesn’t play much better than this copy right here. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – Bumpin’ – Reviewed in 2009

More Wes Montgomery

More Bumpin’

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Minty looking Verve LP really sounds GOOD! It’s transparent, as well as tonally correct from top to bottom. This is THE copy to have — we guarantee it will CRUSH the MoFi pressing. 

Wes Montgomery – A Day In The Life – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Wes Montgomery

More A Day In The Life

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE EVER HEARD on quiet vinyl nonetheless, giving you White Hot A+++ sound for Montgomery’s great cover of A Day In The Life! This was the only copy that absolutely nailed it for that tough track — top end extension, tons of tubey magic, loads of energy, huge three-dimensional sound and more. The big orchestral ending, where most copies fall apart, sounds EXCELLENT here. The brass and winds sound KILLER. 

We listened to a bunch of different copies in our recent shootout and this one had a side two that could not be beat. It’s damn near impossible to find decent sounding early A&M pressings, but the sound here is gorgeous. Almost every copy we listened to was dull, lifeless, and overly compressed. This becomes especially offensive when the strings come in, most notably in the climatic middle section of “A Day In The Life”. It’s abrasive, nondescript junk! Fortunately, this Hot Stamper lets you enjoy this great music with warm, rich sound that won’t make your ears bleed.

Side two is MAGICAL on this copy. There’s tons of tubey magic to go along with excellent clarity, strong presence and a wonderfully punchy bottom end. The percussion sounds incredible and the guitar is Right On The Money. You get the top end extension that’s sorely lacking from most pressings, and the transparency is to die for! A+++ all the way.

Side one is very good but lacks a slight degree of extension up top. Other than that, the sound is hard to fault. The big orchestral ending to the title track actually works well on this copy. Most copies aren’t nearly this warm, rich or full-bodied. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Carmen – Transparency Is Key

More Barney Kessel

More Carmen

xxxxx

The best Hot Stamper Original Yellow Label Mono pressings have the Tubey Magic we’ve come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that most engineers can’t begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that the original pressings rarely do. 

There’s a room around this drum kit. So many copies don’t show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does. (It’s amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is leaned out! If you like that sound buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these wonderful originals to those of us who know the sound we’re after.)

I had the OJC pressing of this record years ago and couldn’t get in to the music. The OJC’s tend to be a bit on the thin side and it killed my enjoyment of this album. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – Goin’ Out of My Head

More Wes Montgomery

Goin’ Out of My Head

xxxxx

  • Incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this early stereo copy blew the competition away with its size, Tubey Magical richness and vibrant jazz energy 
  • Once again Oliver Nelson’s Big Band arrangements take the music to another level – the guy’s a genius
  • “…it’s a classic big-band album, with smart charts by Nelson and stolen moments of Montgomery’s guitar grandeur and romantic truth scattered throughout.”

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on both sides. Since this is one of Wes’s better albums, hearing these sides was a THRILL for us and we’re hoping it will be as big a thrill for you too.

Everything that’s good about this era of RVG’s recordings, Wes’s music and those glorious Oliver Nelson arrangements is here. For my part let me just say that this is clearly the best sound I have ever heard for Goin’ Out of My Head. (more…)

George Benson – Breezin’ – Hot Stamper MoFi Reviewed

More George Benson

More Breezin’

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi reviewed, and surprisingly this one isn’t awful.

It has an excellent side two backed with a pretty good side one. Side two has excellent bass — for a MoFi — and lots of energy — for a MoFi. It’s slightly smooth but overall it’s very musical. The best domestic copies are going to eat its lunch, but try to find one that sounds good. Most of them are awful. 

This MoFi copy, though lacking in many ways, is MUCH BETTER sounding than the other MoFi copies we played it against, which were muddy and compressed.

Side one of this copy has some of that sound. Side one lacks the transients we found on other copies and it’s a tad recessed and compressed. However, it does have relatively good bass definition and the strings are nicely textured. (more…)

Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue

More Kenny Burrell

Midnight Blue

xxxxx

  • An outstanding copy of this amazing RVG recording with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • One of our All Time Favorite Blue Note albums for music and sound – is there a better bluesy Jazz Guitar album?
  • Both sides are rich, full and Tubey Magical with excellent clarity and a lovely bottom end
  • AMG 5 Stars – if there were a Top 100 Jazz List on our site, Midnight Blue would be right up at the top of it
  • Jazz Improv Magazine puts the album among its Top Five recommended recordings for Burrell, indicating that “[i]f you need to know ‘the Blue Note sound’, here it is.”

Midnight Blue is our favorite Kenny Burrell album of all time, at least in part because it’s one of the All Time best sounding Blue Notes. 

If you already own a copy of Midnight Blue and you don’t consider it one of the best sounding jazz guitar records in your collection, then you don’t have a copy that sounds the way this one does! In other words, you don’t know what you’re missing. (And if you own the Classic Records release, or any other Heavy Vinyl pressing from the modern era, then you really don’t know what you are missing.) (more…)