Genre – Percussion

Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra – Viva Cugat

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

This crazy Cugat record (is there any other kind?) is a BALL and has absolutely amazing Demo Disc quality sound on side two, better than Super Hot Stamper quality. 

It sounds like Henry Mancini on speed, and the recording quality puts most of Mancini’s records to shame to boot. This is Bachelor Pad music for those who like their Bachelor Pad to be FUN!

Side Two

With A++ to A+++ sound this side is pretty much doing it all. So spacious! And such tremendous low and high frequency extension, the kind that vintage records usually have trouble with. Not this copy. The strings and horns can get slightly aggressive

Make sure you have your VTA set dead right or this record will be a mess. Careful adjustment is critical to reproduce this kind of complex and lively sound. (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our 4+ Shootout Winner from 2019

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) on the first side and Triple Plus (A+++) on the second. Side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found – and this pressing, with Beyond White Hot sound for that side, is guaranteed to be bigger and more lively than you ever imagined (because that’s how we felt about it, hence the fourth plus).

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Both sides show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave side one that fourth plus!

This Angle Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality. (more…)

Dick Schory – The Happy Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Side One – A++. This side is full and rich yet clear. Listen to that crazy banjo on track two; that’s not an easy instrument to get to sound right, but the RCA engineers pull it off. The brass is a bit “hot” at times so we took off one plus. For all we know this is as good as it gets. 

Side Two – A++, not quite as warm as side one, but more lively and really jumpin’. The last track is truly Demo Disc quality. The bottom and top are extended and the sound is rich in the best possible sense of the word. Superb sound and plenty of fun, wacky music!

  • Super Hot on both sides on this rare title – the sound is killer on most tracks
  • Side one is rich and tubey yet clear, our favorite combination
  • Side two has the best sounding track on the album – Demo Disc quality
  • Quiet vinyl, with sound that’s more lively and energetic than most Schory discs

As is usually the case with these vintage Living Stereo pressings, the vinyl may not be dead quiet but it’s certainly quiet enough for any problems to stay hidden well underneath the music.  (more…)

Los Admiradores – Bongos / Flutes / Guitars

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First things first: one of the main bongo players is none other than Ray Barretto himself. You jazz guys out there will know exactly who that is, a man whose reputation for brilliant rhythmic contributions to some of the greatest classic jazz albums of the ’60s is beyond dispute. One listen to Midnight Blue will do the trick. The man had a gift. And he is here joined by two other top players.

And of course the guitarist has to be the incomparable Tony Mottola, the man behind one of our favorite jazz guitar records of all time: Warm, Wild and Wonderful.

Soundfield, Timbre and Dynamics

The spaciousness of the studio is reproduced with uncanny fidelity, with both huge depth and width, but there is another dimension that this record is operating in that Bang, Baa-room and Harp, just to take one example, does not — the instruments here are capable of jumping out of your speakers, seemingly right into your listening room.

The effect is astonishing. I have never heard these instruments sound more real than they do here. The timbre is perfection. The dynamics are startling.

Add to those clearly unattenuated dynamics, high and low frequencies that are also not attenuated, and microphones capable of deadly accuracy, and you have yourself a recording of virtually unparalleled fidelity. We’ve played these kinds of records by the score but I have rarely heard one that can do what this one is doing. (more…)

Arthur Lyman – Taboo: The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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This out-of-this-world WHITE HOT Stamper side two of Taboo blew our minds with its uncanny three-dimensional recreation of space. It’s so transparent and boundless you’ll feel like you are standing right on the stage with these guys and their birds! 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 can do it, maybe better than any other.

Naturally it 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, Martin Denny and many 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 otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more side two of this copy excelled beyond all of our expectations.

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.

The sound here is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

Arthur Lyman – Bwana A – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

White Hot Stamper sound, with a big stage, Tubey Magic and correct tonality from top to bottom. There’s plenty going on at the extreme top – the rare copy that has it all!

Everywhere else the sound is tonally and timbrally Right On The Money. It’s very lively, with tight, clear bass. Listen to how open the sound is. That sound is just not to be found on popular albums anymore.

This Superb sounding stereo (we don’t bother with mono) copy of Bwana A 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, Martin Denny and others too numerous (or obscure) to name.

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

Ronnie Aldrich / Melody and Percussion For Two Pianos – Reviewed in 2012

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

This Decca Phase 4 record from 1962 has Demo Disc sound of a sort on side one. Super Hot sonics, coupled with the Super Phase 4 “jumping out of the speakers” recording techniques that were employed, mean that this is one LIVELY record!

The pianos can get to be a bit much, but when they are under control, the huge stage and the effect of all the percussion that jumps out of the soundfield is really quite something to behold. Zero smear on this side too, which is what makes it work — the blunting of all those transients would quickly ruin the fun. Which is what happens on side two; the smear and hardness of the typical Phase 4 pressing are evident and do spoil all the fun.

Try tracks 1, 2, 4 and 6 – talk about immediacy and explosive dynamics.

76 Pieces of Explosive Percussion – Direct to Disc – Reviewed in 2000

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

Sonic Arts Box Version. A poor man’s Bang-Baaroom with a stage full of percussionists playing a variety of instruments. This LP presents a realistic soundstage and an amazing array of sounds. There’s also some incredibly deep bass drum work.  

Kotekan – Percussion and… – Reviewed in 2002

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

This IMMACULATE Reference LP with No Sogn Of Play (NSOP) is the best sounding record RR ever made! 

“.. heady, explosive, weird, bizarre and brilliant playing…” – S.F. Chronicle

Takemitsu – Percussions in Colors – Reviewed in 2010

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

Superb sound!

“Rare 1978 audiophile limited edition Japanese lp with Sumire Yoshihara on percussion performing experimental works. The Ichiyanagi work has a unique graphical score and allows the performer to select different classes of percussion. Takemitsu’s piece is based on a work of art in the form of a book made for the composer by Italian artist Bruno Munari. Takemitsu’s score consists of this book and an accompanying set of musical instructions on how to interpret its abstract collages and designs. Includes extensive notes inside the gatefold cover.” (more…)