Genre – Vocals – Male

Louis Armstrong – I’ve Got The World on a String on Classic Records Vinyl

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

Sonic Grade: B (probably)

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

 have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skills interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).

Now all that remains is for us to track down enough clean copies with which to do the shootout. At the rate were going it may be a year or two, but having heard how good the music and sound can be on the best copies, we are on it!

1960 – What a Year

This ’60s LP (1960 to be exact) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

prime samplings from the autumn of Armstrong’s recording career. Even in the pressure cooker of a marathon session, even when confronted with standards not often associated with him, Armstrong finds the essence of each tune, bending and projecting them with his patented joie de vivre and gravel-voiced warmth every time. There are also lots of examples of his trumpet — pithy, soulful, belonging to no one else…

Ray Charles & Betty Carter – A Forgotten Classic

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this vintage stereo pressing – it’s the first truly Hot Stamper to EVER hit the site 
  • This 1961 release showcases two of the most soulful singers to ever share a microphone, both at the height of their powers
  • Includes the still-popular “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (no one has ever recorded it quite like these two), People Will Say We’re In Love, Side By Side, and many more
  • 4 stars: “There is certainly a powerful, often sexy rapport between the two — Charles in his sweet balladeering mode, Carter with her uniquely keening, drifting high register — and they definitely create sparks in the justly famous rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.””

It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of Ray Charles & Betty Carter in anything but beat condition, but here’s one that not only sounds great, but plays exceptionally quietly for an album from this era.

We’ve raved about the DCC pressing in the past. If you own that one, this very record will show you what you’ve been missing. (more…)

Roy Orbison – Crying on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP reviewed. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in 2003 when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

“This is actually a very good sounding record, unlike the first Orbison that Classic did. It’s also a better album.”

Track Listing:

1. Crying 
2. The Great Pretender 
3. Love Hurts 
4. She Wears My Ring 
5. Wedding Day 
6. Summer Song 
7. Dance 
8. Lana 
9. Lonliness 
10. Let’s Make a Memory 
11. Nite Life 
12. Running Scared

 

 

Bobby Darin at the Copa

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  • Darin At The Copa arrives on the site with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom 
  • Recorded live at the Copacabana in New York City, this album captures Darin’s unique charisma, as well his phenominal music
  • With clear, present vocals, huge amounts of space, and boatloads of Tubey magic – the kind they had plenty of in 1960 – this copy blew away the competition in our recent shootout
  • “…an appearance that confirmed for the adult pop crowd that the former singer of ephemera like “Splish Splash” had made the complete transition from rock & roll to more “serious” music. Serious this record certainly isn’t, though.” — Allmusic

This Shootout Winning pressing of Bobby Darin’s live album from 1960 has ENERGY and TUBEY MAGIC like you will not believe. The reissues on Bainbridge that we used in our shootout just KILL the original pressings, which are truly awful based on the ones I have heard. I started out with a copy such as this way back in the early ’90s, and when I finally tracked down a clean original on Atco, not a hard record to find really, I was shocked at just how bad it sounded.

This is, of course, one of the best reasons to own a good CD player. It’s simply a fact that some recordings, vintage and otherwise, were never mastered properly for the analog medium.

Bobby Darin was a tremendously talented performer and this record catches him showing off his stuff to good advantage. I don’t know of a better Darin album on vinyl. (more…)

A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

 

For those of you who’ve never chanced upon it, here is the ‘live’ version of the album in five parts.

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Nilsson was way ahead of his time. Rod Stewart recently made an album of classic popular music that went to number one and revived his career. Harry Nilsson understands this music SO MUCH BETTER and sings it SO MUCH BETTER than Rod Stewart that one can only come to that conclusion. Either that or the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate Nilsson as much as I do. Probably both I guess. Too bad. This album is better than all the “also rans” albums put together. (more…)

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – The Best Male Vocal Recording of the Era

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This album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, ranks right up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings from any era. Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

For a Popular/Jazz Vocal album produced in 1975, or, to be honest, the entire decade of the Seventies, we can think of no other that is its sonic equal.

The soundstage is open and spacious, the piano full-bodied and clear, and the vocals have the clarity and fullness missing from most pressings. It’s incredible to hear these two top-notch musicians interacting and responding to each other in this kind of huge, open and natural space.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Just One Of Those Things on S&P Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: C+

S+P’s 180g reissue has some nice qualities, but it isn’t especially natural, nor is it Tubey Magical the way the real Capitol pressings are. Ambience and instrumental textures are sorely lacking, although to be honest, considering how bad most Capitol pressings are, it’s still a step up from the average copy sitting in your local store’s used record bins.

Our commentary for the DCC Nick of Time lays out in more detail some of the same sonic shortcomings we heard with Just One of Those Things. 

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Our most recent Hot Stamper commentary follows.

ONE OF THE MOST TUBEY MAGICAL MALE VOCAL RECORDS WE’VE EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF PLAYING! We shot this out against similar copies, earlier pressings, and a 180g reissue, and nothing was quite in a league with this one. Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and let Nat serenade you from right between your speakers — he’ll be IN THE ROOM with you!

Side one rates A++ and side two may be even better! The immediacy of the vocals is startling. The bass has the typical “tubby” sound so common to this kind of album, but it’s tighter here than on any other copy we played.

Nat’s voice is PERFECTION — full-bodied and breathy with loads of texture. The overall sound is three-dimensional, with Nat up front and the orchestra behind. The brass sounds wonderful, with just the right amount of bite and more breath than we heard elsewhere.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this record is not one of those “cry in your beer” Sinatra rip offs. The songs are actually fairly lively: mid-tempo and even up-tempo. Maybe it’s the influence of Billy May, the arranger for these sessions. His arrangements keep lifting the spirits of the down in the dumps Nat King Cole (see cover), which is fine by me.


 

 

 

Ray Charles and Betty Carter – DCC Reviewed & Recommended

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Sonic Grade: B+

Folks, I have to hand it to Steve Hoffman — this is the BEST SOUNDING DCC LP we have played in years.

We’ve been harshin’ on DCC for quite a while now. Whenever we do a shootout for The Eagles or The Doors or Bonnie Raitt or Queen or you name it, the DCC pressing almost always gets a serious drubbing from our listening panel. Not so here. This one took TOP HONORS against the other copies we played and was head and shoulders better sounding in practically every way.

Do all the copies of the DCC sound this good? I would bet money right now they don’t. Folks, I’m guessing this is a Hot Stamper. It was pressed just right and all the Hoffman magic is in these grooves. But that’s just a guess, and I could easily be wrong. If you have a few copies at home, shoot them out! What, you don’t have a bunch of these? Me neither, so no shootout will probably ever be done. This album is just too rare and pricey these days.

Bottom line: We know a good record when we hear one, and this is a very good record indeed! Bravo to Steve for a job well done. 

Lou Rawls – Live! – His Masterpiece

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to it, grace both sides of this Lous Rawls masterpiece 
  • A recent addition to our Top 100, Lou Rawls Live! is an outstanding recording that really comes to life on this original pressing
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is amazing — Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights of the set
  • 4 Stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better.

Lou is live, singing his heart out in a small club that exists between, behind and maybe even around your speakers. If you can reproduce the three-dimensional space of this club you are in for a real treat. (more…)

Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington – The Great Reunion

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one, this vintage stereo pressing was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • So big, so rich, so Tubey Magical, we doubt you have ever heard Louis Armstrong sound remotely as good as he does here  
  • We remember the Classic pressing as being a very good sounding record but make no mistake, this is a GREAT sounding one
  • “One of the best things about this configuration is the sound of the Duke’s piano – an underrated pianist, he seldom recorded in such an intimate context.”

Note that the second track on both sides is slightly smoother and more natural than the first. Listen for it! (more…)