Genre – Jazz – Drummer Led

Shelly Manne and his Friends / My Fair Lady – This Black Label Original Stereo Pressing Was Just Awful

In our experience, the Black Label stereo originals with D4/D5 stampers are terrible sounding.

With those stampers, My Fair Lady is a Hall of Shame pressing, as well as another early pressing we’ve reviewed and found wanting. Both sides graded “No,” our not-especially-technical term for a record that sounds bad.

Notes for Side One:

Track one is bright and unnatural up top. Track two is not very musical.

Notes for Side Two:

Track one is very weird sounding, thin and small.

(Obviously there was no need to play a second track.)

As you may have read elsewhere on the site, some Contemporary originals are very poorly mastered, which should put paid to the idea that Hot Stampers are only, or even usually, original pressings.

In our most recent shootout, the second-best sounding pressing was on the early Black Label. We would love to give out the stampers for that one, but we don’t do that.

Click here to read about the various labels that Contemporary used over the years. Some people like to search for relationships between the sound of the pressing and the label it has, but in our experience that is more often than not a fool’s game once you account for the confirmation biases that go along with that approach.


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Shelly Manne and His Friends / Part One – You Simply Cannot Record a Piano Better than Roy DuNann

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I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned, was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak my stereo and many of those that were owned by friends. 

Playing the original stereo record on the Black Label, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s all tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention, all of which I simply attributed to the limitations of the vintage mastering.

Well, things have certainly changed.

I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on the pressing I owned. This is clearly a different LP, I sold the old one off years ago, but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on this blog.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was. (more…)

Art Blakey – Meet You At The Jazz Corner of the World – Volume 1

More Art Blakey

More Albums on Blue Note

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  • The first in this superb 2-volume live set makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Credit goes to RVG once again for the huge space that the superbly well recorded combo occupies
  • “Here all ears are tuned to the proverbial “jazz corner of the world,” better known as Birdland, where the quintet serves up a healthy sampling of its concurrent catalog… a welcome addition to the library of most any jazz lover.”

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Art Blakey – Selections From “Golden Boy”

More Art Blakey

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  • An amazing sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Both sides here are incredibly big, rich, present and musical with tons of Tubey Magic, a lovely bottom end, and plenty of space around all of the players
  • “Based off the play, written by Clifford Odets and William Gibson, Golden Boy was a socially conscious musical about a Harlem prize-fighter trying to escape his working class roots. A somewhat obscure Blakey release, Golden Boy nonetheless features plenty of improvisatory, hard bop firepower.” – All Music

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Shelly Manne and his Friends – My Fair Lady

  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on vinyl that’s about as quiet as these vintage stereo pressings ever play
  • The piano sounds lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom
  • This copy makes it clear that this is an exceptional Demo Disc Quality Recording for Contemporary, and that’s saying a lot
  • Recorded entirely in one session, this album was the first jazz recording using only songs from a Broadway musical
  • 5 stars: “This trio set by Shelly Manne & His Friends… was a surprise best-seller and is now considered a classic…The result is a very appealing set that is easily recommended.”

This vintage Contemporary Stereo LP from has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND.

It’s all tube, live-to-two-track direct from the Contemporary studio. It’s pretty much everything you want in a recording from this era.

How can you beat a Roy DuNann piano trio recording? The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off. This Shelly Manne album marries Jazz with Broadway in an unexpected, yet sublime union.

Which Contemporary Label Won the Shootout?

What color label — black, green, yellow, orange — won the shootout, you ask? (more…)

Ed Thigpen – Out Of The Storm

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  • Ed Thigpen arrives on the site with this STUNNING copy of his debut album, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1966 sounds
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Out of the Storm features jazz legends Clark Terry, Kenny Burrell, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter
  • 4 stars: “Drummer Ed Thigpen’s first album as a leader… Although not soloing much, Thigpen wrote three of the seven selections and occasionally played tuned drums, which sound a little bit like timbales… the performances are enjoyable.”  

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Shelly Manne & His Friends – Bells Are Ringing

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on vinyl that’s about as quiet as these Black Label originals ever play
  • The piano sounds lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom
  • This copy makes it clear that this is a Demo Disc Quality Recording for Contemporary, and that’s saying a lot
  • It’s also our favorite jazz piano performance by Andre Previn on record
  • “Previn’s piano is the lead voice and his virtuosity, good taste, melodic improvising, and solid sense of swing are chiefly responsible for the music’s success.”

I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak all the stereos in my friends’ systems.

Playing the original stereo record, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s All Tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention, all of which I simply attributed at the time to Old School vintage jazz vinyl.

Well, things have certainly changed. I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on the pressing I owned.

To be fair, this is of course a different pressing. I sold the old one off years ago, but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning approach, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on the site.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you are should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was. (more…)

The Chico Hamilton Quintet

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  • This superb live recording finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • A killer mono pressing, with solid weight, lovely richness and warmth, real separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • Recorded live at The Forum Theater in Los Angeles in 1956, this vintage pressing boasts exceptionally natural sound, as well as the energetic live interplay of these five musicians (including a cellist)

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Shelly Manne – Manne – That’s Gershwin!

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with each side earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade for its Shootout Winning sound, or one very close to it 
  • “The Gershwin program includes some of the typical familiar standards but also versions of the lesser-known “By Strauss,” “The Real American Folk Song,” “Prelude #2” and “Theme from Concert in F… this music generally swings, leaves space for concise solos and is fairly fresh.” – All Music

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Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both sides here have big, full-bodied master tape sound – huge, Tubey Magical and lively
  • The presence is astonishing — turn it up loud and it’ll be as if you were right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)