Genre – Soundtracks & Soundtrack Music

Bob Dylan – Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Original Soundtrack Recording)

More Bob Dylan

More Soundtrack Albums

  • An incredible copy of Dylan’s 1973 soundtrack album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing practically everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than almost anything else we played
  • Includes the hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which charted on the Top 20 and would be famously covered in later years by the likes of Eric Clapton and Guns N’ Roses
  • “This record also proved that Dylan could shoehorn his music within the requirements of a movie score without compromising its content or quality, something that only the Beatles, unique among rock artists, had really managed to do up to that time…”

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Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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John Williams – The Missouri Breaks (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

More of the music of John Williams (1932- )

  • A stunning original pressing of this TAS-approved soundtrack album with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • This one is doing everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than anything else we played
  • As one might expect, the sound absolutely jumps out of the speakers on this recording
  • I recall this record being on the TAS List back in the day – it appears to have since dropped off the newer iterations, but we still think of it as a Super Disc
  • “While eschewing the grandiose string arrangements and heroic sweep of the composer’s best-known efforts, it’s nevertheless one of Williams’ most delightful and ambitious scores, applying traditional Western instrumentation like guitar, banjo, and harmonica to melodies rooted in contemporary pop and jazz.”

What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are two qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and lack of smear.

Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for.

Note that most Heavy Vinyl pressings being produced these days seem to be quite Transparency Challenged. Lots of important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found.

Lack of smear is also important, especially on a recording with so many plucked instruments. The speed and clarity of the transients, the sense that fingers are pulling on strings, strings that are ringing with tonally correct harmonics, is what makes these L&M records so much fun to play.

The best copies really get that sound right, in the same way that the best copies of Cat Stevens’ records get the sound of stringed instruments right.

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Herrmann – Music From The Great Movie Thrillers

This is a BEAUTIFUL London Phase 4 LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It contains music from Hitchcock classics – “Psycho” “Marnie” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and “The Trouble With Harry”.

Bernard Herrmann released many LPs on London Phase 4, and this is one of the better ones.

Included are new recordings of scores to five Alfred Hitchcock films. Psycho opens the LP, and Herrmann has arranged the music into a 14 minute “Narrative For Orchestra.”

A 10 minute suite from Marnie follows, then the main theme from North by Northwest.

Side 2 starts with three selections from Vertigo and ends with “A Portrait of ‘Hitch,'” based on motifs from the score to The Trouble With Harry.


OLD PHASE 4 NOTES FROM A LONG TIME AGO

[Some of this we still agree with and some we do not, so take it for what it’s worth.]

Phase IV, Are You Serious?

Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.

Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.

There are of course multiple mics being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.

The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Williams / Star Wars, Close Encounters and Other Multi-Miked Messes

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

This Mobile Fidelity LP contains the music of Star Wars and Close Encounters, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The MoFi pressing is far more TRANSPARENT than the London pressings we have auditioned of the album, even the ones half-speed mastered by Stan Ricker himself.

Yes, he cut the original Londons! At Half Speed! (We’ve also played some later pressings not mastered by Stan, of course. Who can predict which version would sound the best?)

It’s still one of the better MoFi remasters, all things considered. The music, to these ears, has always been hi-fi-ish schlock, and the recording itself is too multi-miked to be taken seriously. It sounds far too much like a bad Phase IV recording, and we know whereof we speak when it comes to Phase IV, good or bad. We’ve played them by the dozens.

This famous record from the Top Seven of the TAS Super Disc List has the same problem, but I never hear anybody mention it. Why, I cannot imagine, other than our favorite explanation for just about everything that seems to fly under the audiophile radar, or perhaps a better description would be flying over the heads of the self-appointed audiophile cognoscenti, that old standby, Reviewer Malpractice.

Bottom line, a loser, but the original Londons are even worse!

For more on the subject of opacity on record, click here and here.

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Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Soundtrack Recordings of Interest

  • This vintage Columbia 360 Stereo pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Side one is spacious, rich and smooth, and side two is not far behind in all those areas
  • If you want to hear what a healthy dose of Tubey Magic, energy, and full-bodied vocals set on a huge stage (the famed Columbia 30th Street Studio) sounds like, this pressing should do the trick
  • If you’re a fan of Leonard Bernstein’s music, this superb All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

SUPERB sound can be found on this vintage Columbia 360 stereo pressing of the Broadway Cast recording. This is a huge, spacious, natural, exciting All-Tube Golden Age recording that impressed us to no end here at Better Records.

We heard an amazing sounding copy many years ago, and the only reason we haven’t done the shootout since then is that we just couldn’t find enough clean copies with which to do it. To be clear, we’re not talking quiet vinyl, we’re talking about not beat-to-death, not all-scractched-up vinyl. People loved this music and they played the hell out of it.

Imagine our surprise when the good sound of these copies turned out to not only have superb sound, but reasonably quiet Mint Minus Minus vinyl too! Don’t expect to see another of this quality any time soon. If we can’t find them, who can?

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Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story (Original Soundtrack)

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Soundtrack Albums

  • You’ll find INCREDIBLE Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides of this original Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Spacious, rich and smooth – only vintage analog seems capable of reproducing all three of these qualities without sacrificing resolution, staging, imaging or presence
  • Tonality is the hardest thing to get right on this album, and here it is practically right on the money
  • For those of you who like to do your own shootouts, good luck, you will need a lot of originals to find one that sounds as good as this one does
  • The biggest selling album of the ’60s – 54 weeks at Number One (!)
  • 5 stars: “The soundtrack of the West Side Story film is deservedly one of the most popular soundtrack recordings of all time, and one of the relatively few to have attained long-term popularity beyond a specialized soundtrack/theatrical musical audience.”
  • If you’re a fan of Leonard Bernstein’s, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this Top 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 album is at least five times more common in mono than it is in stereo, and finding a clean stereo original ended up taking us three to five years, so don’t expect to see another one of this caliber any time soon.

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Bernstein / Symphonic Dances and the Need for Full Brass and Clean Cymbals

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars

This reissue had the sound we were looking for!

One of the biggest advantages this copy had over most of what we played is fuller brass. The shrill sounding horns on most Columbia albums is what gets them tossed in the trade pile.

Fortunately for us audiophiles who care about these sorts of things, the sound here is rich and clean, with solid, deep bass. The stage is huge, with the multi-miking kept to a minimum so that you can really hear the space this big group of musicians occupies.

This pressing is a reissue, not a Six Eye original. The reason this particular LP beat every other pressing we played comes down to one specific quality — the top is dramatically cleaner and more extended.

There is a HUGE amount of top end on this recording. Wildly splashing cymbals and other percussion instruments are everywhere, and they are a joy to hear. No original was as clean up top as this reissue, and without a clear, (mostly) distortion-free top end, the work will simply not sound the way Bernstein wanted it to.

All that percussion is in the score. The high-frequency energy – perhaps the most I have ever heard from any recording of his music — is there for a reason. He conducted his own score, and one can only assume he liked the way it came out. We sure did.

Willie Nelson & Family – Honeysuckle Rose

More Willie Nelson

More Country and Country Rock

  • This surprisingly well recorded live album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to achieve by 1980, but here it is!
  • 4 stars: “The soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose is… a collection of songs by Willie Nelson and his Family band as well as a host of friends… Nelson’s readings of his own tunes like “On the Road Again,” and others are solid, inspired, and rollicking. His versions of tunes written by Kris Kristofferson (“Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”), Rodney Crowell (“Angel Eyes”), and Lee Clayton (“If You Could Touch Her at All”) blow away the studio versions.”

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Herrmann – The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann

More Bernard Herrmann

More Reviews of Soundtrack Music

  • An outstanding recording with a huge three-dimensional stage, open, clear, extended up top and down low — the sound on this pressing is nothing short of amazing
  • 4 stars: “The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.”
  • If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this is a killer album from 1975 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?

The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.

This vintage London Phase 4 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. (more…)