Genre – Jazz – Trumpet / Trombone

Picture Of Heath – Pure Pleasure Reviewed and Found Wanting

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Sonic Grade: D

Remastered from the original analogue master tapes (or say they would have you believe) by that notorious hack Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios, this pressing is dramatically flatter and less musical than any original pressing (or Japanese pressing!) that we have ever played. The CD may very well be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Since we here at Better Records never tire of beating long-dead horses, let’s lay into a couple of our favorites: Heavy Vinyl reissues and CDs. When we play these “Shadows of the Real Thing”, so lacking in life and the analog magic of the best pressings, the one thing we can say about them consistently is that they’re a drag. They’re just no fun. They don’t give you the thrill this wonderful music is supposed to give you — can give you and does give you — if you have the right vinyl pressing. 

Miles Davis – Miles Ahead in Glorious 1957 Mono

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  • Miles Ahead finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally clean condition too
  • A nearly impossible record to find in this condition, it’s the quietest, best sounding copy by far we have ever played
  • This album forged the dynamic collaboration between Davis and Gil Evans that eventually led to Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain
  • 5 stars: ” Evans’ arrangements in particular are well-suited to the format, and he and Davis formed a deep and close partnership where ideas were swapped back and forth, nurtured, and developed long before they were expressed in the studio… an album that gave a hint of the greatness that would come as Evans and Davis fine-tuned their partnership over the course of the next several years.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Quick Notes for Side One

Track three is super dynamic, horns have bite and body, textured and lively, tons of space!

Quick Notes for Side Two

The first three tracks are big, solid and open, with great space, tubey and musical.

That’s hitting all the right notes in our book. (more…)

Jack Sheldon – Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band Comes with Many Covers

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If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red-blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any Big Band record you own right out of the water.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction. (more…)

Chet Baker – It Could Happen To You – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a very nice looking RARE original Riverside LP. Side one has good sound but side two really shows you how WONDERFUL this record is. The sound on side two is rich, full and transparent, with lots of tubey magic. Hard to imagine it could get much better. 

Chet Baker – She Was Too Good To Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

We guarantee you have never heard this album — or any later Chet Baker album — sound as good as this one does.

There’s so much life in these grooves. The sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap. This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1974 to find it!

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder, the engineer for these sessions. Grover Washington Jr.’s All the King’s Horses from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. We could easily name-check a dozen others on CTI recorded by RVG that we’ve done shootouts for. 

But any album only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that seems to have eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound but axiomatic (if not tautological) here at Better Records.

The extended song structures, ranging from four to seven minutes in length, leave plenty of room for the band to stretch out.

And of course Chet sings the title track beautifully. (more…)

Donald Byrd – Stepping Into Tomorrow

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  • Donald Byrd’s 1975 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom 
  • Byrd’s trumpet sounds wonderful here, with just the right amount of bite – credit must go to Val Garay and Dave Hassinger (among others), two of our favorite engineers working at The Sound Factory
  • 4 stars: “… maybe some of those who sniffed at the straightforward nature of some of the rhythms and riffing were won over by the supreme layering of the many components (the way in which “Think Twice” lurches forward, peels back, and gathers steam is nothing short of heavenly), not to mention some deeply evocative playing from Byrd himself.”

(more…)

Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 – Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4

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  • Dizzie Gillespie’s Big 4 makes its Hot Stamper debut here, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The size, clarity, presence and energy of this obviously live-in-the-studio recording are off the charts – plenty of Tubey Magic to boot
  • AMG 4 1/2 stars – on a copy this natural, clean and clear, the spontaneous interplay among these four jazz luminaries is laid out for all to hear
  • “…one of [Gillespie’s] best ensemble performances… his playing is superb and he is in command of the material… the musicians play off each other well and do a great job of supporting Gillespie. A big 4, indeed.”

(more…)

Joe Gordon – Lookin’ Good!

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This Super Hot Stamper pressing has the Contemporary Jazz Sound we LOVE here at Better Records. If you want to know what’s wrong with the sound of your Rudy Van Gelder Squakfest Records, play this LP and bathe in the kind of relaxed, NATURAL tonality that Roy DuNann is justly famous for.

We love the sound of Contemporary Records — it’s our favorite jazz label by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seemed to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drum sound; full-bodied, breathy horns; lots of top end extension; deep, note-like bass; weighty piano, studio ambience, three-dimensionality, and on and on.

The Key to the Sound of the Best Copies

During this shootout we discovered what really sets apart the best copies from the also-rans: listen for the piano in the background, behind the horns. On the best copies it is so clear you can practically “see” it back there.

The copies with a clear piano have TRANSPARENCY that makes all the difference in the world on EVERY instrument. Now everything is clear. As long as the tonal balance is correct, that transparent quality is precisely what will make the best copies much more musically involving.

Let’s face it: many reissues, such as this pressing, recorded in 1961 and pressed in the ’70s, have a veiled, dull quality. When they don’t, man, they can really beat the pants off even the best originals. (more…)

Miles Davis – Jazz Track

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  • Davis’ superb 1959 release arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Davis partners here with jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and others
  • “… it should become clear why ‘Jazz Track’ is a vital Miles album as well as a testimony to the importance of the movies to jazz–as a medium for improvised soundtracks and, more importantly, as a source of theme music potentially as rich as the music of Broadway…”
  • “It’s doubtful that “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Stella by Starlight” would have caught on without Bill [Evans’] artistry (which is not to take anything away from Red [Garland], whose ballads simply lacked the intricate, delicately shaded beauty of Bill’s pensive voicings on the slow ballads).”

We had a number of original pressings on hand, some costing a pretty penny, but this is the only one that did not have serious scratches or inner groove damage. The vinyl is not quiet, but the tics stay mainly underneath the music. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


The nine minute plus long Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price. With Stella by Starlight and Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 20 minutes of great sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup. (more…)

The Not-So-Magnificent Thad Jones – More Dreck on Heavy Vinyl

After discovering Hot Stampers and the mind-blowing sound they deliver, a new customer generously sent me a few of his favorite Heavy Vinyl pressings to audition, records that he considered the best of the modern reissues that he owns.  He admitted that most of what he has on Heavy Vinyl is not very good, and now that he can clearly hear what he has been missing, having played some of our best Hot Stamper jazz pressings, he is going to be putting them up on Ebay and selling them to anyone foolish enough to throw their money away on this kind of junk vinyl.

We say more power to him.  That money can be used to buy records that actually are good sounding, not just supposed to be good sounding because they were custom manufactured with the utmost care and marketed at high prices to soi-disant audiophiles.

Audiophile records are a scam. They always have been and always will be.

The three of us who do the critical listening here at Better Records dropped the needle on the first disc in this set and, once the VTA was properly adjusted, gave it a chance to show us just what expert remastering from vintage mono tapes, at 45 RPM, on two slabs of luscious, thick vinyl, could do for the sound of Thad Jones’s trumpet, circa 1956.

None of us had ever heard the album on any media, vinyl or otherwise, but we know a good sounding jazz record when we hear one, and we knew pretty early on in the session that this was not a good sounding jazz record.  Two minutes was all it took, but we wasted another ten making sure it was as bad as we thought.

For those of you who might have trouble reading my handwriting, my notes read:

CD sound.

To my ear this disc does not sound much like the wonderful vintage analog recordings we play every day.  It might make a passable CD, but I have hundreds of CDs that sound better than this album, so even setting the bar that low, I would say it’s unlikely I would want to have this set in my collection.

Who can find the time to play a mediocrity such as this. And who needs the bother of flipping it over three times for less than ten minutes a side?  Buy the CD. It plays all the way through and costs a whole lot less.

Boosted sloppy bass.

By far the biggest problem with the sound. The bass is really boosted. It constantly calls attention to itself. It is the kind of sloppy, droning upper-bass that cannot be found on any RVG recording, none that I have ever heard anyway, and I’ve heard them by the hundreds.

You no doubt know about the phony boosted bass on the remastered Beatles albums. It’s that sound. Irritating in the extreme, and just plain wrong.

Good space.

The album’s best quality.  CDs can have good space, so why shouldn’t this CD-like record have some of that quality?

Still dry horns.

Not the sound of the horns that RVG is famous for.  Somebody screwed them up in the mastering.

Bad cutting equipment? Bad EQ? Both?

What else could it be?

Wears out its welcome.

Between the boosted bass and the dry horns, the sound of these remastered audiophile discs gets old fast.

Needs heavy tubes.

If you have an Old School Vintage Tube system with heavy tube colorations, you have the ideal system to get this record to sound better than it is, and better than I ever will.  As I have said many times on the site, a system like the one I owned in the ’70s (Audio Research) and again in the ’90s (McIntosh) would put me out of business today.

I need to know what is on the records I play, warts and all, not the euphonic colorations my stereo equipment wants me to hear.

No real top.

Space, yes, but not much air. Practically all the Heavy Vinyl records we play have no real extension on the top end. You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, it’s just not something these discs reproduce well.

RTI pressings are serial offenders in this regard.  We find them uniformly insufferable.

(more…)