Genre – Vocals – Female

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings The George Gershwin Song Book

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

White Hot sound on side two of this original copy – shockingly good. Ella sounds rich, Tubey Magical and breathy — this is a real Demo Disc. Side one is very good as well, nicely warm and rich by track two. Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are especially interesting and artful throughout. 

It is our opinion that the mono takes all the fun out of the Nelson Riddle’s deliberately wide, spacious orchestral presentation surrounding Ella. Which is too bad: the mono pressings are five times as common as the stereo ones. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – Windy

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout, making this one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • Forget whatever Heavy Vinyl imposter is in print – this vintage Verve stereo pressing has the kind of High-Rez Tubey-Magical Midrange that will bring Astrud’s soft samba music to life in your very own listening room
  • “… Windy nevertheless proves one of Astrud Gilberto’s most consistent and sublime efforts, artfully straddling the division between Brazilian bossa nova and American sunshine pop.” 

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June Christy – This Is June Christy

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This wonderful recording from 1958 is a distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

It’s very rare that a Shootout Winning copy of a June Christy album from the late ’50s would have vinyl this quiet. Can’t recall the last time that happened, or if it ever has.

Both sides of this ’50s All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, which means the top is there as well as the bottom, with good vocal presence throughout. (more…)

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin – Balancing the Vocal, Strings and Rhythm

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The better copies reproduce clearly what to our minds are the three most important elements in the recording — strings, rhythm, and vocal — and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another. 

The monos, as you might expect, balance the three elements well enough, but the problem with mono is that the vocals and instruments are jammed together in the center of the soundfield, layered atop one another.

Real clarity, the kind that live music has in abundance, is difficult if not impossible under the circumstances. Only the stereo pressings provide the space that each of the elements need in order to be heard.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Billie Holiday record. They should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper, the pressings we offer must be highly resolving. You will hear everything, surrounded by the natural space of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio in which the recording was made. 
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Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Ray Charles & Betty Carter – DCC Clear Vinyl Pressing

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked

This Dunhill Compact Classics LP pressed on CLEAR VINYL is one of DCCs earliest forays into analog production. Unfortunately it sounds like a bad CD. In fact, you can be sure that Hoffman’s CD murders it in every way. Don’t waste your money. 

Sergio Mendes And Brazil ’66 – Crystal Illusions – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

A White Hot Stamper side one on this A&M LP means it’s the BEST sounding copy of Crystal Illusions to ever hit the site. Yes, it’s a recording that has many problems, but the best copies seem to be able to overcome most of them, and that’s precisely what we are offering here: a White Hot copy that gets the sound of this music about as right as it’s going to get. And the vinyl is QUIET. 

If you are not familiar with Sergio and his magical band, this is not the place to start. Try the first two albums or Stillness if you want to hear the best material recorded with the highest quality. This is a second tier album in the Sergio canon, and priced accordingly. There are of course some truly great songs on this one, just as there are on every Brazil ’66 album.

I would draw your attention especially to the Otis Redding classic Dock of the Bay, which is on this killer side one. Fans will no doubt find much to like here; others maybe not so much. If you get a thrill out of FINALLY hearing a famous album sound the way you always wished it could, even if it’s only on one side, this copy is for you. (more…)

Thoughts on a Direct to Disc Recording – Side One Vs. Side Two

I’ve Got The Music In Me

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In our last shootout this White Hot Stamper tied for the best side two we have ever heard! In the final round it simply came down to the fact that the other copy was a little more clear, this one is a little richer. They were both so amazing we couldn’t decide which we preferred so we gave them both White Hot Stamper grades.

In our experience this rarely happens. Most of the time one side of one of the records in the shootout will show itself to be the clear winner, doing everything (or almost everything; there is no such thing as a perfect record) right. When you play enough copies, eventually you run into the one that shows you how the music wants to be heard, what kind of sound seems to work for it the best. The two side twos we liked were variations, and fairly subtle ones at that, on a theme — a little richer here, a little clearer there, but both SO GOOD!

Side two fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few — very few — direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good. Few didn’t do most things at least well enough to earn a Hot Stamper grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we’ve done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don’t even sound like Direct Discs! (more…)

Peggy Lee – Latin ala Lee!

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Latin ala Lee!

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  • Superb sound throughout for Lee’s 1960 release with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or very close to it
  • Everything that’s good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record
  • “The rhythms are not only authentically Afro-Cuban, but surprisingly strong and rarely watered down. The rest of the arrangements, though breezy and pop-slanted, support Lee’s vocals perfectly. And though her voice isn’t quite as strong as it had been during the ’50s, Lee uses the cracks on her high notes to accentuate the songs.” – Allmusic

This vintage Capitol LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Ye-Me-Le.

The first three tracks on side 1 are the best reason to own this album, especially the first two (Wichita Lineman and Norwegian Wood), which are as good as anything the group ever did. I’m a big fan so that has to be seen as high praise indeed.

Let’s be frank: the average LP of this album is terrible. Shrill, aggressive sound is the norm, but compression and overly smooth (read; thick and dull) sound are also problems common to Ye-Me-Le. There’s also a “strained” quality to the loud vocal passages on almost every copy; only the best are free of it.

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

This recording is quite Difficult to Reproduce, which means it ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS). Do not attempt to play it using any but the best front ends. Unless you are using a very good cartridge and arm the vocals are apt to tear your head off when they get loud (which they do; this is a dynamic recording).

In a way, this is the perfect record to demonstrate how much progress you have made in audio. I remember playing these albums many years ago and hearing lots of harmonic distortion and other unpleasant sonic qualities. Those very same pressings sound DRAMATICALLY better today. (more…)

Rosemary Clooney – Rosie Solves The Swingin’ Riddle!

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  • An outstanding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • These sides are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical with wonderfully breathy vocals and lots of space around all of the players
  • “The pair made the most of their first collaboration, devising a program of 12 standards that combined Riddle’s pugnacious yet intricate arrangements with Clooney’s warm, grand vocals to create a swing record with feeling… Vocalist fits together with orchestra like hand in glove…” – All Music

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