Genre – Exotica & Easy Listening

Esquivel – Infinity In Sound, Vol. 2

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  • Infinity In Sound, Vol. 2 makes its Hot Stamper debut on this original RCA pressing with KILLER Living Stereo sound 
  • This Living Stereo pressing is spacious, lively and positively dripping with ambience – here is the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation these kinds of recordings are known for
  • 4 stars: “This may be the Esquivel album that has it all: his signature style and sound, some experimentation (whistling), and an even mix of Latin and non-Latin standards.”
  • If you’re a fan of Juan Garcia Esquivel, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this Top Exotica/Easy Listening Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Infinity In Sound, 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 1961
  • 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 studio space

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.

Vintage Living Stereo Recordings – What to Listen For

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 pressings from the ’50s and ’60s 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. (Full sound is especially critical to the horns; any blare, leanness or squawk ruins some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.)

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right from top to bottom.

What We’re Listening For On Infinity In Sound, 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 so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Jalousie (Jealousy)
Time On My Hands
Bye Bye Blues
Baía
Who’s Sorry Now?
Anna (El Negro Zumbon)

Side Two

Espańa Cańi
Sentimental Journey
Cherokee
Lullaby Of Birdland
La Bamba
Limehouse Blues

AMG 4 Star Review

Infinity in Sound Vol. 2 builds on the strength of the first volume and earlier successes. Two tracks feature whistling, one of which is the beautiful, exotic Latin tune “Baia.” Other standouts include “Anna (El Negro Zumbon),” “Who’s Sorry Now,” and “Limehouse Blues.” This may be the Esquivel album that has it all: his signature style and sound, some experimentation (whistling), and an even mix of Latin and non-Latin standards. It may be the most representative of Esquivel’s U.S. releases, although not the greatest.

Chet Atkins – Chet Atkins in Hollywood (1959)

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  • An original RCA pressing of the original mix from 1959 with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or close to it from first note to last
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, with no marks that play or issues with the inner grooves
  • This TAS List recording will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.
  • You won’t believe how natural, rich, tonally correct and Tubey Magical this copy is – until you play it, of course
  • The bass is exceptionally well recorded on this album – it’s so clear, deep and note-like, you may just want to use it as Bass Test Disc for your own system
  • 4 1/2 stars: “If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense.”
  • More Reviews and Commentaries for recordings engineered by Bill Porter

DEMO DISC SOUND! Fairly quiet and unusually clean for a record of its age. TAS List of course, and full of Living Stereo Magic. You can feel the cool air of the studio the minute the needle hits the groove.

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this copy is very special indeed.

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Esquivel – Infinity In Sound

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Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • You’ll find INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo All Tube Chain sound throughout this original RCA pressing from 1960
  • Both sides are incredibly clear and open, yet rich and and oh-so-Tubey Magical, with brass that has little to none of the “blarey” quality that plagues most copies
  • Folks, I can tell you right now most original Living Stereo Popular (LSP) pressings, of this or any other LSP title, do not begin to recreate the Studio Wizardry found on this album
  • The sound rivals the best Chet Atkins albums and Bob and Rays in all their delicious three-dimensional Cinerama staging
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • AMG raves that “Esquivel returns to his full glory on Infinity in Sound.”

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Martin Denny / Quiet Village – Our Shootout Winner from Way Back

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More Recordings Engineered by Ted Keep

This superb sounding Hot Stamper copy of Quiet Village has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Arthur Lyman and others.

But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly enchanting). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and not-so-real ones) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint.

If you’re an audiophile, both the sound and the music are crazy fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1959 All Tube Analog sound can be, this is the record that will do it.

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the sound here is PHENOMENAL. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” it. If you like the sound of vibes and unusual percussion instruments, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of any of them.

Quick Notes

We were surprised that a number of copies were neither transparent nor spacious. For a while there we thought of giving up, but then we played this Black Label original copy and all was right with the world.

Unsurprisingly, we ran into plenty of noisy vinyl, too noisy to enjoy as the music is frequently quiet for extended periods.

There is a shocking amount of rich, deep bass in the recording. You could play fifty ’70s rock records and not hear this much richness and weight down low. Having played scores of Exotica titles over the years we were very pleasantly surprised to hear the bass  on this title surpass them all.

Side Two

Every bit as rich, sweet and tubey as side one, but this side is transparent, three-dimensional and spacious like no other side of any copy we played. The perfect music to demo your stereo with for anyone who thinks audio recording technology has improved in the last thirty years.

Side One

Super Hot Stamper sound, with a big stage, Tubey Magic and correct tonality from top to bottom. From top to bottom the tonality is Right On The Money. It’s very lively, with tight, clear bass.

Listen to how open the drum sound is. That sound is just not to be found on popular albums anymore.

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Herb Alpert / Whipped Cream & Other Delights – Top End Extension Is Key

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The better pressings have the kind of Tubey Magical, big-bottomed, punchy, spacious sound that we’ve come to expect from Larry Levine‘s engineering for A&M. If you have any Hot Stamper pressings of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s albums, then you know exactly the kind of sound we’re talking about.

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 the full complement of harmonic information.

In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids.

This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk.

Painstaking Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.

Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns.

Any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.

The Ames Brothers with Esquivel – Hello Amigos

More Exotica

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • By far the best sound we have ever heard for The Ames Brothers
  • 1960 Webster Hall vocals in RCA Living Stereo sound at its best
  • Huge, rich, smooth and natural, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
  • Esquivel and His Orchestra bring some fun Exotica flourishes to these Latin tunes

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” upon it.

This recording is the very definition of The Sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, nor will any CD ever be able to capture what is in the grooves of this pressing.

For the audiophile of wide ranging taste, both the sound and the music should be lots of fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, I’d be hard pressed to think of another record that could do the job better than this one.

Perfect for demo-ing your stereo to anyone who thinks audio recording technology has improved in the last forty years. (more…)

Tony Mottola / Warm, Wild and Wonderful

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

More Exotica Albums with Hot Stampers

  • You’ll find KILLER solid Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides of this original Project 3 pressing – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with plenty of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • We have never heard the electric guitar sound more real than it does here – the timbre is perfection and the dynamics are startling
  • The arrangements of these mostly familiar songs are clever and innovative – the last thing this music could be called is boring or obvious

This is clearly one of the best sounding guitar records we’ve ever had the pleasure to play here at Better Records. Project 3 was an audiophile label in the truest and best sense of the word: a label that not only cared about the sound of their recordings, but actually proved they could produce title after title of the highest quality, equal or superior to anything on the market.

This, of course, places them in stark contrast with the audiophile labels of the modern era, the last forty years say, which only on rare occasion produce records of any real quality. Instead these modern labels endlessly grind out one mediocrity after another to the consternation of those of us who know the difference.

But I digress.

We had a mind-blowing percussion record on the Somerset label years ago that raised the bar for us regarding that genre, and this jazz guitar record on Project 3 has achieved the same effect. Some of the following is borrowed from the listing for that Somerset record.

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Herb Alpert – Whipped Cream & Other Delights

More Sixties Pop Recordings

More 5 Star Albums

  • Tubey Magical, big-bottomed, punchy, spacious sound – what we’ve come to expect from Larry Levine’s engineering
  • An INCREDIBLE copy of this wonderful 1965 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Tubey Magical, punchy, spacious, natural sound – this copy has what we love about Larry Levine’s engineering, with special emphasis on the HUGE amounts of deep bass that Herb liked to put on his records back in 1965. (Quick question: Where did that sound go?)
  • Not many audiophiles know how well recorded some of these early Herb Alpert albums were, but we count ourselves among the ones that do, going back more than twenty years now
  • It’s almost impossible to find clean copies of this album nowadays, which is why our last shootout took place in 2020 – now that we know the hottest stampers, we hope to do this shootout again before too long
  • Alpert’s most famous album, 5 stars on Allmusic: “Three Grammy Awards alone for the update of the Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow-penned theme ‘A Taste of Honey.'”

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Henry Mancini – Charade

More of the music of Henry Mancini (1924-1994)

  • An original RCA Victor stereo LP boasting excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience — talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this outstanding copy may be just the record for you

This RCA Victor stereo LP gives you a healthy dose of the Tubey Magic we love here at Better Records. As is usually the case with Mancini’s records, some tracks sound far better than others.

“Charade” is a particularly good sounding song on side two, with superb reproduction of both female and male voices, rich and sweet in the best tradition of RCA from the Golden Age.

More good stuff on side two? Drop the needle on “Latin Snowfall” to hear exactly what I’m talking about.

As an added bonus, the last track, “Charade (Carousel),” has absolutely no IGD on the glockenspiel or Calliope. Few copies will not be groove damaged on that track — we speak from experience here.

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular – Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only — the Bob and Ray Test. 

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is The Song of the Volga Boatman on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last year or two.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one.

It will be invaluable in the long run. The copy we have is so good (White Hot, the best we have ever played), and so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test

One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through The Song of the Volga Boatman. I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better. (more…)