Genre – Jazz – Latin / Bossa Nova

Listening in Depth to Ye-Me-Le

More of the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

More of our favorite Sixties Pop albums

The first three tracks on side 1 are the best reason to own this album, especially the first two (Wichita Lineman and Norwegian Wood), which are as good as anything the group ever did. I’m a big fan so that has to be seen as high praise indeed.

Let’s be frank: the average LP of this album is terrible. Shrill, aggressive sound is the norm, but compression and overly smooth (read; thick and dull) sound are also problems common to Ye-Me-Le. There’s also a “strained” quality to the loud vocal passages on almost every copy; only the best are free of it.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Wichita Lineman

The best copies have out of this world sound on this track, every bit as good as anything Sergio Mendes ever did. This was the song that made me search out the best sounding copies. Even when I had mediocre copies, I loved the music and KNEW there had to be better sounding versions out there.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Love the arrangement. When the voices get loud, the sound can be painful. On the better pressings there is practically no strain whatsoever.

Some Time Ago

I love this song! It’s so relaxed and easygoing.

Moanin’

This is actually a pretty good arrangement of Moanin’. I’ve grown to like it.

Look Who’s Mine

Side Two

Ye-Me-Le

The best copies have DEMO DISC QUALITY sound for this song.

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Astrud Gilberto – Windy

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  • This superb pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget whatever Heavy Vinyl imposter is in print – this vintage Verve stereo pressing has the kind of High-Rez Tubey-Magical Midrange that will bring Astrud’s soft samba music to life in your very own listening room
  • “… Windy nevertheless proves one of Astrud Gilberto’s most consistent and sublime efforts, artfully straddling the division between Brazilian bossa nova and American sunshine pop.” 

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Laurindo Almeida – It’s A Bossa Nova World

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  • An original Capitol stereo pressing of this superb Bossa Nova classic with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Here is the Tubey Magical richness, size and space that only the best vintage pressings are capable of conveying to the critical listener
  • The brilliance of this All Tube Chain recording from Capitol makes all the hard work you’ve put into your system pay off
  • You will certainly hear this music far better than anyone who had the kind of vintage equipment it would have been reproduced with back in the ’60s
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim on Bad Rhino Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: C-

The Rhino 180 gram LP mastered by Kevin Gray is passable, but the real thing is the real thing and just can’t be beat by some wannabe reissue.

There is a richness, a sweetness and a relaxed naturalness on the best early pressings that are virtually never found on modern remasterings.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

Mastered by Kevin Gray, this record has what we would call ”modern” sound, which is to say it’s clean and tonally correct, but it’s missing the analog qualities the better originals have plenty of.

In other words, it sounds like a CD.

Who can be bothered to play a record that has so few of the qualities audiophiles are looking for on vinyl? Back in 2007 we put the question this way: Why Own a Turntable if You’re Going to Play Mediocrities Like These?

Frank Sinatra – Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim

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  • Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, this vintage stereo pressing of Sinatra and Jobim’s sublime collaboration will be very hard to beat
  • The presence and three-dimensional space of the recording have the power to transport the Chairman of the Board and his Brazilian buddy right into your listening room
  • This is a magical album from start to finish, one of a handful of a Must Own Sinatra releases, and my personal favorite of all his recordings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After a few plays, the album begins to slowly work its way underneath a listener’s skin, and it emerges as one of his most rewarding albums of the ’60s.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This is a good example of a record audiophiles should make an effort to get to know better

This is, in our opinion, one of the two best sounding Sinatra album on Reprise (the other being September of My Years from 1965). The recording is so rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical you would think it was prime Capitol period Sinatra — but it’s not, obviously; it just sounds that way. (more…)

Sergio Mendes + Psych + Your Mind Will Be Blown

mendestill_depth_1102533608More of the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Reviews and Commentaries for Stillness

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This commentary was written sometime around 2010.

If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.

If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, For What It’s Worth on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full-bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are.

This one being from 1970 fits the bill nicely.

Side two of this album can be one of THE MOST MAGICAL sides of ANY record — when you’ve got a killer copy. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s an excellent test disc as well. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test.

To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound. There is still plenty to discover locked in these grooves, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge to find all the sounds that Sergio created in the studio, locked away in the 40 year old vinyl.

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Airto / Fingers – Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

airtofinge_

More of the Music of Airto

Hot Stamper Pressings of Jazz Fusion Albums Available Now

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies, there is an extension to the top end that you won’t hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical.

The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing, it’s as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these. Some of the energy of the music is lost. 

With an extended top end the sound is SWEET, not HARSH. Believe us when we tell you, the last thing you want is a harsh sounding pressing of a Rudy Van Gelder recording. (Not unless you have a dull, dull, deadly dull system. Those “Old School Stereos” are practically the only way one can tolerate some of his early recordings.)

With so many high frequency transients and such complex arrangements, this is a record that must be mastered (and pressed) with great skill or the result is going to be trouble. RVG, who both recorded and mastered the album, has a penchant for over-cutting records and being heavy handed when it comes to his favorite studio tricks, often to the detriment of instrumental fidelity. When his approach works, the resulting recordings are wonderful. When he gets too carried away with his “sound,” look out.

This is without a doubt The Best Album Airto ever made. On top of that, this copy really has the kind of sound we look for, with an open, fully extended top end that gives all the elements of this complex music room to breathe.

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Sergio Mendes – Look Around

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More Bossa Nova

  • An excellent pressing of Look Around with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and the layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, as well as the piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself
  • “The Look of Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are the epitome of Bossa Nova Magic on this exceptional pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sergio and crew, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the girls’ breathy multi-tracked vocals and the layers and layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the crucially important, always tasteful keyboards and arrangements of Sergio himself.

Most copies of Look Around are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled, smeary and full of compressor distortion in the loudest parts. Clearly, this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

Our Hot Stamper pressings are the ones that are as far from that kind of sound as we can find them. We’re looking for the records that have none of those bad qualities. I’m happy to report that we have managed to find some awfully good sounding copies for our Hot Stamper customers. (more…)

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Fool on the Hill you’ve heard
  • Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and title trackl
  • Top engineers for A&M, Henry Lewy and Larry Levine, capture the natural, breathy intimacy in the voices of these wonderful female leads – Lani Hall, Karen Philipp and Gracinha Leporace
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sergio and the band, this early pressing from 1968 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.

Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.

This vintage A&M 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.

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Vince Guaraldi & Bola Sete – Live At El Matador

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 More Live Recordings of Interest

  • This early Fantasy pressing of Live at El Matador earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish
  • Both of these sides are rich, clean, clear, lively and spacious with little of the grittiness that plagues the average copy
  • This is the third and final collaborative effort between Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete, and if you’re a fan of either, you should find much to enjoy here
  • “… a virtuoso guitar performance; even as a living room listening experience, Sete demonstrates the mastery that so impressed club patrons.” – Five Cents Please

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