Genre – Vocals – Female

Ella Fitzgerald – The Johnny Mercer Song Book

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

The huge, rich orchestral sound captured so beautifully by Val Valentin is always one of the many highlights to be found on the songbook series. By the time this album came out in 1964 Ella had already recorded 18 LPs worth of songbooks – this was the last, going out on a high note. Some of the Mercer Classics here are Too Marvelous For Words, Day In – Day Out, Laura, Skylark, Midnight Sun, I Remember You.  

When you are lucky enough to find a album that sounds as good as this one, full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is outstanding, with huge amounts of space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella At Duke’s Place

 

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

We have a very hard time doing the famous Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks due to the fact that so many pressings don’t sound good, and the ones that do sound good are usually noisy.

That’s why it came as a pleasant surprise that Ella At Duke’s Place had the potential for excellent sound and reasonably quiet vinyl on the best copies.

We hope to do more in the future but with the reissues from the ’70s being mostly awful and the originals being harder and harder to find we are not at all sanguine about our chance of success. (more…)

June Christy – Fair And Warmer!

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Fair And Warmer!y

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  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear just how good an All Tube Capitol recording, in mono, from 1957 can sound, this record is guaranteed to do the trick
  • All the top West Coast Cool School jazz vets are here: Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and the arrangements are by the wonderfully talented Pete Rugolo
  • “… the cool-toned singer is the main star. Highlights include a definitive “I Want to Be Happy,” “Imagination,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” and “It’s Always You.” All of June Christy’s Capitol dates are well worth picking up.” 

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Aretha Franklin – Hey Now Hey: The Other Side of the Sky

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Hey Now Hey: The Other Side of the Sky

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  • A STUNNING copy of Aretha’s 1973 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • An album of deep introspective soul produced by none other than Quincy Jones!
  • “… notable are a poignant cover of Bernstein’s ‘Somewhere,’ and a sparkling ‘Moody’s Mood,’ and the beautiful Carolyn Franklin composition ‘Angel.'”

This vintage Atlantic 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…)

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris – Trio

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Trio

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  • These two sides, each rating a solid Double Plus (A++), are proof positive that Trio is a surprisingly well recorded album
  • Big, rich, smooth, and sweet, how did George Massenburg pull off this kind of analog sound in 1987?
  • We don’t know, but we do know good sound when we hear it, and we heard exceptionally good sound on this copy
  • “…that rare example of an all-star collaborative effort that truly shows everyone involved to their best advantage, and it ranks with the best of all three headliners’ work.”

With three brilliant and accomplished singers harmonizing in the studio you can imagine that faultless midrange tonality is key to the best copies, and you would be right.

Some copies had the girls’ sounding a bit dark and veiled. Some had them a bit thin and bright. The Goldilocks Principle comes into play here as it does in so many of our shootouts: the best copies find the right balance of richness and clarity. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

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What’s New

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for What’s New
  • So hugely spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and fairly natural sounding Linda, this is the way to hear it
  • What engineer George Massenburg gets right is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio
  • “…the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania… undid in the mid-60’s.”

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Linda Ronstadt – For Sentimental Reasons

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For Sentimental Reasons

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  • A superb sounding copy of Ronstadt’s 1986 release with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Both sides are incredibly clean, clear, full-bodied, and lively with plenty of extension on both ends, we’ve never heard For Sentimental Reasons sound like this!
  • The final installment of the jazz trilogy that Ronstadt recorded with bandleader and arranger Nelson Riddle
  • “… it is in the hushed intensity of Mr. Riddle’s string arrangements for the album’s ballads that one senses a musician reaching deeply into his soul to make eloquent final statements… The arrangements’ emotional gravity reverberates in Miss Ronstadt’s singing…”

Both sides give you a much more natural sounding Linda than you have ever heard. She’s fuller, sweeter, breathier, less spitty (some tracks more than others) and just plain less artificial than any others we played. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND QUIET VINYL THROUGHOUT! Both sides are lively and transparent with super low distortion and lovely breathy vocals. The sound is Right On The Money all the way around — superb clarity, mind-blowing transparency and tons of dynamics. This copy is ALIVE! The drums and percussion are powerful and punchy with lots of room around them, and the bass is PERFECTION. There’s plenty of whomp and lots of extension on the top end. This side two really conveys a sense of the amazing performances of these great musicians. It’s rich, full, smooth, sweet, open, spacious — everything you’d expect from an A+++ / A+++ record. 

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. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (2011)

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

A++ sound and quiet vinyl on both sides of this 1968 soul classic, an album that received a top Five Star rating from the All Music Guide! We’ve been playing a ton of Aretha Franklin records around here in recent days, but it’s hard to find pressing that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound for her recordings, which (naturally) seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig. Every now and then, however, we’ll luck into a copy that delivers some real soul magic in its grooves, and this was one of those copies. Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman sound JUST RIGHT. 

Most of the Aretha records we’ve played tend to be a bit too bright, which brings out a lot of grit, grain and edge. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I can’t imagine that’s the sound the Queen Of Soul was going for. A copy like this gives you smoother, sweeter sound with a more natural tonal balance. It makes the music work so much better — the sound is easier on the ears and not nearly as fatiguing, plus it lets you turn up the volume good and loud without giving yourself a headache! (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Mono Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Folks, this record came as a SHOCK — the first and ONLY mono pressing we have ever played that not only was competitive with the best stereo copies, but actually bettered them in some ways. Some IMPORTANT ways I might add. We’ve only played a handful of mono pressings of Clap Hands over the years, and for good reason — they’re exceedingly mediocre. On almost every one we’ve ever played Ella was distant, dull and lifeless. Feh! Who wants to play a record the sounds like that?

(Side two is pretty much what you would expect from a good mono, A to A+, better than average but hardly competitive with the best, or with this side one for that matter.)

What’s So Special About This Mono Side One Anyway? (more…)