Genre – Vocals – Male

Mel Torme – Live at Marty’s – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

We just finished a shootout for this album and had a blast with the ol’ Velvet Fog. Many copies of this album are transistory, gritty and dry, but this one has got enough richness and warmth to smooth out those unpleasant qualities. The immediacy and presence throughout are going to KNOCK YOU OUT. Mel is gonna be in the room with you when you play this one good and loud. (more…)

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. 

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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Stardust

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There’s a reason Willie Nelson’s Stardust is on HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Willie Nelson record. You wouldn’t have a clue how magical this recording can be if you dropped the needle on the average copy, a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be exactly the pressing that Harry Pearson recommends on his Super Disc list. The catalog number may be the same, but the sound won’t even hint at Super disc status. (Which, sad to say, most audiophiles don’t seem to notice.)

Get real. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record (and we had more than double that) you have very little chance of finding even one side with exceptional sound.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover. (more…)

Mel Torme & Buddy Rich – Together Again For The First Time – Reviewed in 2008

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This is a Century Direct-to-Disc featuring Mel Torme fronting the Buddy Rich Big Band. And it’s a pretty big band with four trumpets, three trombones, five saxes and a tuba! One of the best tracks is “Here’s That Rainy Day”, with guest soloist Phil Woods. The beginning is just Mel and Phil, a duet of sorts, with a lovely sense of melancholy.

However, both these men seem tired and the session doesn’t swing much. Or could it be that they’re playing it safe, afraid to make a mistake and then have to start the live-to-disc session over from the top? Hard to know, but that’s the problem with direct to disc recordings — avoiding mistakes, even engineering ones, can suck the life out of the music. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Point of No Return

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  • This vintage stereo pressing of Sinatra’s 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and full, with a nice extended top end and wonderfully present vocals
  • About as quiet as they come — Mint Minus Minus on both sides (with two issues, noted below)
  • “… someone persuaded the singer to make the album a special occasion by reuniting with Axel Stordahl, the arranger/conductor who helped Sinatra rise to stardom in the ’40s. Sinatra would never sing these standards with such detailed, ornate orchestrations, and, as such, the album has a feeling of an elegy.”

Check out the AMG review for the story behind the album, which teams Frank up with his former collaborator Axel Stordahl, who arranged and conducted the album. The results are wonderful.

We love doing the work that it takes to find Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun. This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find gems like this one. But hey, that’s what we do. We love it when a record with music this good can be found with sound like this.

Believe me, these Capitol pressings don’t usually sound like this. From the very first notes you hear Billy May’s colorful arrangments come to life in a way you are very unlikely to have heard before. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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Come Dance With Me

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

Get ready to swing with the Chairman of the Board on this incredible White Hot Stamper pressing of this classic album from 1959! This is one of the more fun Sinatra albums we’ve had the pleasure of playing around here, and this is a copy that delivers BIG TIME. Billy May and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements here, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work. The brass blasts on side two are to die for!

It’s tough to find good sounding copies of almost any Sinatra album, finding amazing copies of his most classic albums like this one with reasonably quiet surfaces is a ridiculously tough task. Even for us, the guys who do nothing but search for and audition records all day every day! So we were thrilled to play a copy like this one that did just what we wanted from music like this.

This pressing did it all — and on both sides — with incredible energy and exceptional immediacy. The brass blasts are OUT OF THIS WORLD. If you never thought you’d hear a Sinatra record sound as powerful as the man himself came across — this is the pressing that you’ve been looking for. Most copies were either smeary or edgy, but this one was wonderfully smooth with impressive clarity (more…)

Tony Bennett – For Once In My Life

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For Once In My Life

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  • This vintage pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Lou Rawls – Natural Man

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Natural Man

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  • This outstanding copy of Lous Rawls’ 1971 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The immediacy of the vocals is striking, putting a living, breathing Lou Rawls right between your speakers
  • 4 stars: “Relying on his deep, rich voice, he sings with confidence everything from the bluesy ‘I’m a King Bee’ and the Beatles cover ‘Got to Get You into My Life’ to Duke Ellington’s jazz ballad ‘Sophisticated Lady’… a representative collection covering the eclectic range of styles in which Rawls has always performed.”

This Original MGM pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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 with Lou, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Nat “King” Cole’s – Love Is The Thing

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Love Is The Thing

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  • A lovely pressing of this audiophile favorite, with Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides to rival the best pop vocal recordings we know of
  • Nat himself sounds especially immediate and real, and the strings are much less of a problem here than they are on most pressings
  • If all you know of this album is the weirdly unnatural remix DCC did (on Analogue Productions vinyl too) this pressing will be nothing less than a revelation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nat King Cole’s collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. 1957’s Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair’s undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks.”

Love Is The Thing has always been one of the better Nat “King” Cole recordings we play. The music is sublime, and on the right copy the sound can be superb. Armed with a much larger variety of pressings to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, our recent shootout convinced us that it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the best copies of this very recording.

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the quality of relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the good sounding pressings. On some pressings that casual quality is not nearly as noticeable. (more…)

Sammy Davis Jr. – The Nat King Cole Song Book

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The Nat King Cole Song Book

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  • A superb sounding original stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Bigger and richer, with lovely Tubey Magic and breathy vocals, this Tri-Color Reprise pressing lets us hear Sammy at the peak of his powers performing some of Nat’s most memorable songs
  • 4 Stars: “Alongside Cole’s collaborator, Billy May, and notable jazz arranger Claus Ogerman, Davis and company turned in one of the finest and most underrated efforts.”

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