Genre – Vocals – Female

Helen Humes – ’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET Contemporary Recording has wonderful sound on both sides. It’s got SHOCKINGLY DYNAMIC VOCALS — just listen to Miss Humes really belting it out on a great reading of Stardust! The sound is really rich and full with a BIG punchy bottom end. The clarity and transparency are superb, and you can really hear the leading edge transients on the various horns (Carter on trumpet, Rosolino on trombone). (more…)

Dinah Washington – Unforgettable

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  • An outstanding vintage mono pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely breathy vocals – this All Tube Mastered pressing has the right sound for this music
  • Although this is a stereo recording, the goofy stereo mix sticks Dinah way out in one channel, ruining any sense of being in her presence as a performer, so our early mono here is the only way to go
  • “The songs focus on love, and they’re distinguished by Washington’s ability to mingle loss and resignation with the promise of the future and a steely determination to make it happen. Ultimately Washington’s art is the romance of experience itself, its enduring truths and possibilities etched in her unforgettable voice. — Stuart Broomer

This ’60s 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…)

Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

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

You’d be hard pressed to find a female vocal album from the 1950s with sound comparable to this one. We just finished up a big shootout for the sublimely titled Music For Torching, and this was clearly one of the better pressings we played. If you love smoky jazz vocals the way only Lady Day can sing them, we think you’ll be absolutely blown away to hear her sound this warm, rich and present. 

The formula is simple: Take one of the best female vocalists in the game, back her with a stellar crew of jazzmen and set them loose to knock out incredible versions of classic torch songs — It Had To Be You, A Fine Romance, Come Rain Or Come Shine and so forth. The good news is that the performances turned out to be some of the best ever recorded by this extraordinary singer, and fortunately for us audiophiles, the mono sound turned out to be dramatically better than we would have expected from Norman Granz’s Verve label in 1955. (more…)

Barbra Streisand – People

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  • An outstanding copy of Streisand’s fourth solo studio album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Barbra Streisand returned to form on her fourth album, People, with a selection of songs that showed some of the imagination of her debut album… it was a definite improvement over the second and third albums. (People won Grammy Awards for Best Vocal Performance and Best Album Cover.)” 

This vintage Columbia 360 Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Let No Man Write My Epitaph – Reviewed in 2006

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Let No Man Write My Epitaph

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

This very nice looking Verve T Label original Mono LP with the early pink cover has lovely sound. Ella’s voice is present, smooth and sweet. Since this recording only involves voice and piano, the loss of stereo information presents no problem for the listener. Ella and her accompanist are dead center and tonally correct. Many Verve Ella records are a disaster sonically – this is one of the exceptions.

Sarah Vaughan – Golden Hits (1954-58)

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  • Excellent sound throughout with each side rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly dynamic on both sides – this pressing lets you hear The Divine One when she really was that good
  • This is Sarah in her prime, presenting the listener with an especially good overview of her best Mercury recordings from 1954-58

Wonderful space and most of the richness that makes these ’50s recordings (many by the legendary Robert Fine) so wonderfully natural.

Big, lively and highly resolving. A powerful low end too (which has to be Fine’s doing).

We’ve been fortunate to have a number of excellent sounding Sarah Vaughan records find their way onto our turntable over the course of the last few years, but this is our first official Sarah Vaughan shootout title to make it to the site.

Most of the reason for this unfortunate fact can be attributed to the lack of clean copies of her prime albums for Mercury sitting in our local record store bins. Her best albums are either missing or scratched. (Plenty of Pablos and Mainstreams, sure, but we have never been all that impressed with either label’s recordings of vocalists.)

This Greatest Hits album apparently stayed in print long enough to produce the supply necessary for one of our shootouts, and the result is we now have some wonderful Sarah Vaughan performances with superb sound to share with our customers. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – After Hours on Emus

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this copy of After Hours put the living, breathing Divine One right between our speakers
  • With simple arrangements, featuring Mundell Lowe’s guitar and George Duvivier’s double bass, Vaughan’s soulful voice can take center stage
  • This copy was pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl – it plays as quietly as any copy we have ever heard
  • “…a quiet and intimate affair, with Vaughan more subtle than she sometimes was… some fine jazz singing.”

This early Emus Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it for all four sides, this glorious 1956 mono recording is superb from first note to last
  • Full-bodied, musical, and smooth, with surprisingly spacious orchestral staging – this is just the right sound for this album and especially this kind of music
  • “The combination of Ella and Porter is irresistible and whether up-tempo or down-tempo, Ella’s three-octave range voice soars effortlessly as she makes each song come to life. It was all helped by the cream of L.A. session men and Buddy Bregman’s arrangement that oozes sophistication way beyond his twenty-four years. It is a perfect record.” – Richard Havers

he space is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies.

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Rhythm Is My Business – 1962 Was a Great Year for Ella

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  • Ella’s first album to come out after Clap Hands finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • What took us by surprise was how rich and sweet this original Verve was – so many of Ella’s early albums don’t have the smooth, natural vocals of this pressing
  • We absolutely love the swinging R&B organ Bill Doggett brought to these big band sessions, all backing an exceptionally well recorded First Lady of Song
  • “Ella Fitzgerald is in the spotlight throughout, mostly singing swing-era songs along with a couple of newer pieces… [her] voice was in its prime, and the charts are excellent.”

This copy is as quiet as we can find any domestic original Verve stereo pressing. The monos of this title — which naturally are five times more common — have that hard, honky sound that so many mono cuttings made from Ella’s stereo recordings suffer from.

Clap Hands is a notable exception to that rule, and of course any of her albums recorded in mono sound best in mono, when cut right and pressed right.

1962 was a great year for Ella. She released this album early in the year and followed it up with the Grammy winning Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson. Later in the same year Verve released Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, and it’s interesting to note that all three of these classic albums were recorded late in 1961. The woman could do no wrong! We would have to wait for her first release of 1963, Ella Sings Broadway, before she put out a clunker. But who’s fault is that? The music is fine, it’s the recording that’s bad (as far as we can tell; we have yet to hear one sound good). (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 2

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES!
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.

Ella is no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of artificiality you cannot help but find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. You could certainly demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, even one that’s not nearly this good, because this one is superb.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1957
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does. (more…)