Genre – Vocals – Female

Nina Simone – Forbidden Fruit

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  • A stunning copy of Nina Simone’s superb 1961 release on Colpix with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • This may be the best sounding Nina Simone record we’ve ever played – at the very least it’s one of the best, and worlds better than most
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and in-your-listening-room midrange presence – don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along
  • “… brilliant end to end. It rolls and weaves, suggests and states, looks under the skirts of the music… There’s not a mediocre song or rendition here. And you’ll never hear anyone else do any of them the way she does.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

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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! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. 

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto & Walter Wanderley – A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb collaboration with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical with wonderfully breathy vocals, excellent clarity and solid down low
  • “Wanderley’s organ playing is as enthusiastic and fluffy as ever, while Gilberto’s singing (in both English and Portuguese) remains smile-inducing. Both manage to create an incredibly warm sound, and when Wanderley plays some piano (as on the beautiful “A Certain Sadness”), you can sense a spark between the two.” 

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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Lena & Gabor

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides this copy sounds right from top to bottom
  • Some of the most UNPROCESSED and REAL sounding jazzy pop we have ever played
  • A True Sleeper from 1968 – love the choice of material, love the players, love Lena, love the album!
  • “The contrast of Horne’s full-throated voice and Szabo’s unconventional, modal guitar playing is mesmerizing…”

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we had known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it had been all but impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course. We had a big pile to work with, a pile that took about five years to acquire, and one that includes both Buddah and Skye pressings.

Dave Sanders, a name I was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space. (more…)

Julie London – About The Blues

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Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout. 

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

Take it from a huge Julie London fan, you can’t go wrong here, not for sonics, for music, or for anything else, including playing surfaces. In our experience, this lovely vintage pressing is as quiet as can be found. About The Blues is five times more rare than Julie Is Her Name, which makes finding clean copies much harder than it should be.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a Classic Fifties Female 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.

And you would surely be making someone a fan of Julie London’s early recordings. They are simply amazing on every level, or at least the best ones sure are. This title slotted in between 1956’s Calendar Girl (which is every bit as hard to find) and Make Love to Me, from later on in 1957. All three are wonderful.

Midrange Magic

Get the volume right and Julie will appear right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early pressing also has the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue might be available. This one is guaranteed to be dramatically more REAL sounding. It will give you the sense that Julie London is right in front of you. (more…)

Alison Krauss & Union Station ‎/ So Long So Wrong – Wrong in the Vocal Department

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We audiophiles have a soft spot for female vocals. It’s a sound that a high end stereo — practically any high end stereo — reproduces very well.

But why do some audiophiles listen to poorly recorded junk like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall? Their recordings are DRENCHED in digital reverb. Who is his right mind wants to hear the sound of digital reverb?

Rickie Lee Jones may not be my favorite female vocal of all time, but at least you can make the case for it as a Well Recorded Vocal Album. It’s worlds better than anything either of the above-mentioned artists have ever done.

The MoFi pressing of Alison Krauss (5276) is a disaster in the vocal department too.

Audiophiles for some reason never seem to notice how bad she sounds on that record. Can’t make sense of it. Any of the good Sergio Mendes records will show you female vocals that practically have no equal. Our best Hot Stampers bring the exquisite vocal harmonies of Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert) and Janis Hansen right into your living room. Why bother with trash like this Mobile Fidelity?

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This is the record you bothered to take a photo of and post next to your front end? Something is wrong somewhere.

Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Best

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Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics = whomp) at the listening position. (There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.)

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

Billie Holiday – Songs for Distingue Lovers – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B?

Probably a fairly good Classic Records jazz album.

Back in the day we noted that: “This is one of the best Billie Holiday records around” and we provisionally stand by that statement.

By the way, we have never had a Hot Stamper pressing of the album on the site because we simply cannot find enough clean copies with which to do a shootout!

For thirty bucks the price of this Heavy Vinyl pressing has to be seen as a bargain. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – Sassy Swings Again

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  • Superb nearly White Hot Stamper sound on side one – big, rich and spacious
  • Side two earned a Super Hot grade for its full-bodied brass and Sarah’s breathy vocals
  • A great selection of Jazz, Pop and Blues standards for her last Mercury release from 1967
  • Allmusic 4 Stars “…[an] essential session from that most divine of jazz chanteuses.”

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Billie Holiday – The First Verve Sessions

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  • Excellent sound throughout with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • All four sides here are clear and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals and the kind of vintage analog sound you won’t hear from any modern reissue or CD, that’s for sure
  • This double LP set captures some of Billie’s best music from the years 1952 to 1954 and features Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, Flip Phillips, Freddie Green, Charlie Shavers and more

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