Genre – Vocals – Male

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing Special on Heavy Vinyl

 

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Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. In our opinion neither one is worth pursuing.

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — too giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning.

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They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

Joe Williams – Sings About You

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • We have a devil of a time finding good sounding Joe Williams records – discovering that this title was so well recorded was a very pleasant surprise, and this copy takes the record about as far as we think it can go, hence the very high sonic grades
  • “Joe Williams was the last great big-band singer, a smooth baritone who graced the rejuvenated Count Basie Orchestra during the 1950s and captivated audiences well into the ’90s.” – All Music, Biography

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Frank Sinatra – This is Sinatra – Volume 2

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  • This is Sinatra, Volume 2, finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) mono sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a Black Label Capitol pressing
  • The sound is gloriously ANALOG – smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural sound
  • Credit must also go to the extraordinarily inventive arrangements of Nelson Riddle
  • “… a selection of wonderful recordings, made over a period (the mid 1950’s) during which Sinatra’s voice, and his talent for song interpretation were undeniably at their peak.”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes 10 light ticks at the end of Track 3, I Believe.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Frank Sinatra music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This vintage Capitol 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.

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.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Frank Sinatra singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of This is Sinatra, Vol. 2 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 1958
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on This is Sinatra, Vol. 2

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hey! Jealous Lover
Everybody Loves Somebody
I Believe
Put Your Dreams Away
Something Wonderful Happens In Summer
Half As Lovely Twice As True
So Long, My Love
It’s The Same Old Dream

Side Two

You’re Cheatin’ Yourself
You’ll Always Be The One I Love
Wait For Me (“Johnny Concho” Theme)
If You Are But A Dream
You Forgot All The Words
How Little We Know
Time After Time
Crazy Love

Amazon Rave Review

[This is Sinatra, Volume 2] contains a selection of wonderful recordings, made over a period (the mid 1950’s) during which Sinatra’s voice,and his talent for song interpretation were undeniably at their peak.

In 1956 Capitol records had issued ‘This is Sinatra!’ a compilation album of his hit singles to date for the label. Following immediately on from the massively successful ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’; ‘This is Sinatra’ sold like the proverbial hot cakes.

… [Volume 2] contained a large number of the ‘B sides’ from the hit singles featured on ‘This is Sinatra’. However; many of these recordings are brilliant in their own right; frequently(in my view) eclipsing the ‘A sides’ that they accompanied.

I bought my copy of the album in 1959, fortunately before it vanished into obscurity. It has always remained one of my favourite Frank Sinatra albums. As had previously occurred following his departure from Columbia records; Sinatra, after starting his own Reprise label, re-recorded much of his previous hit material.

He also used his influence to restrict the availability of many of the definitive recordings from his Capitol back catalog; including those tracks featured on this album. As far as I am aware from my researches, six of the album’s sixteen tracks were originally recorded by Capitol as stereo recordings. However, the album it’s self was only ever issued in Mono!

— HuddyBolly, Amazon Reviewer

Tony Bennett – The Movie Song Album

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  • Tony Bennett’s 1966 album of movie songs arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound on this superb pressing is full-bodied and lively, with the kind of Tubey Magic Columbia still knew how to get on analog tape
  • Musical Director Johnny Mandel partnered with Neal Hefti and Quincy Jones, arranging and conducting their own compositions, including “Girl Talk,” from Harlow, and “Emily,” from The Americanization of Emily
  • Some of the songs that Bennett could hardly have sung any better are “Days Of Wine And Roses,” “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and “The Second Time Around,” the last two previously recorded by Frank Sinatra, and we leave it to you to judge who comes off better

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Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours

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  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • “In many ways, the album is a personal reflection of the heartbreak of his doomed love affair with actress Ava Gardner, and the standards that he sings form their own story when collected together. Sinatra’s voice had deepened and worn to the point where his delivery seems ravished and heartfelt, as if he were living the songs.” – 5 Stars

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Frank Sinatra – Moonlight Sinatra

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

Out of this world Triple Triple (A+++) sound – this is sure to be one of the best Sinatra records you’ll ever hear. Both of these Shootout Winning stereo sides are unbelievably rich and Tubey Magical – this is some killer Frank Sinatra sound. We’ve been working on this shootout for years – this is the first – and best – copy we have to show for our efforts.

This Blue Green Label LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more REAL SOUNDING. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Reprise pressings — like every label’s pressings — are all over the map. When you find a good one, you can be pretty sure it’s the exception, not the rule. (more…)

Johnny Mathis – Johnny’s Newest Hits

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  • This early Columbia 360 pressing of Johnny’s Newest Hits (hey, they were new in 1963!) boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies demonstrate the big-as-life early Columbia Sound at its best – full-bodied and warm yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • Both sides here are clean and present with wonderfully full strings and rich vocals
  • “…a collection of his ‘latest hits, the ones that brought him back to the singles charts.'”

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 50+ years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is no easy task, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year — there are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Look To Your Heart

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

Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, with a side two that is right up there with it – outstanding sound quality from first note to last. This copy was the fullest, richest and smoothest, with the best bass and most natural vocals of any we played. Recorded from 1953-1955, this mono collection of singles and such gives us Old Blue Eyes in his Capitol-period prime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most.

This Hot Stamper pressing has the kind of ’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems as if no one can even remaster a recording like this anymore, if our direct experience with scores of such albums counts as any sort of evidence.

Steve Hoffman is the guy that can get the closest in this regard, but the difference between The Real Thing and even the best of his Remasters is not the slightest bit hard to hear. (more…)

Tony Bennett – I Wanna Be Around…

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout  
  • This is an excellent vintage 360 stereo pressing, with the all important midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “As the studio album followup to Tony Bennett’s breakthrough record, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, I Wanna Be Around had a lot to live up to, but since San Francisco was a culmination of Bennett’s development, and not a fluke, I Wanna Be Around turned out to be almost on a par with its predecessor… A worthy successor.”

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Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Hearing this kind of Tubey Magical, tonally correct, rich, sweet, spacious sound is nothing less than a THRILL. The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

We’ve been through dozens of Columbia albums from the ’60s over the last year or two since we discovered how good the Marty Robbins titles on Columbia can sound. Most of the popular vocal and country albums we play have an overall distorted sound, are swimming in reverb, and come with hard, edgy, smeary vocals to boot.

To find an album with freakishly good sound such as this involves a healthy dose of pure luck. You will need to dig through an awful big pile of vinyl to uncover a gem of this beauty.

Side Two

Like any good Elvis or Nat “King” Cole record, the quality that is far and away the most important is that the vocals must be full-bodied, rich and smooth. Without that sound you might as well be playing a CD. This is precisely what side two here gives you – Tubey Magical Richness in spades.

Note that the heavy reverb not only sounds right for this music and this era, but actually sounds great, the very opposite of the hard, sour, metallic digital reverb that replaced it decades later. (more…)