Genre – Jazz – Guitar

Bola Sete / Tour De Force – Analogue Productions Reviewed

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bola Sete

Hot Stamper Pressings of Bossa Nova Recordings Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Acoustic Sounds had Stan Ricker remaster this record a number of years ago, and of course they (he) ruined it. A twinkly top end and flabby bass were just two of the major shortcomings of their version. Nothing surprising there, as Stan Ricker is famous for his “smile” curve, boosting both ends of the audio spectrum, whether they need boosting or not. (They rarely do).

When you add too much top end to a guitar album and ruin the sound of the guitar, what exactly are you left with?

Please note that not a single title from the Analog Revival series is any good, to the best of my knowledge, and every last one of them should be avoided if high quality sound is important to you.

The same is true for all the 180 gram jazz titles on Analogue Productions that were mastered by Doug Sax, as you may have read elsewhere on the site. Those records received rave reviews in the audiophile press when they came out, but you won’t find too many audiophile reviewers sticking up for them now, as they are, without exception, murky, compressed disasters of the worst kind.

I guess these reviewers eventually acquired equipment accurate enough to notice how bad those pressings are, which I guess goes to show there is hope for practically anyone.

Barney Kessel – Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

More Barney Kessel

More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

  • Vol. 3, To Swing Or Not To Swing finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades throughout this early Contemporary MONO pressing – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, dead-on timbres from top to bottom – this is a textbook example of Contemporary sound at its best
  • For some reason, the guitar sound from this era of All Tube Chain Recording seems to have died out with the times – it can only be found on the best of these vintage pressings, like this one
  • 5 stars: “The unusual repertoire on this set … would by itself make this bop/cool set noteworthy. Add to that a very interesting lineup of players (trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Georgie Auld or Bill Perkins on tenor, pianist Jimmy Rowles, the rhythm guitar of Al Hendrickson, bassist Red Mitchell, and Shelly Manne or Irv Cottler on drums) … and the overall result is a recording highly recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz.”

Man, this music is a blast when it sounds this good. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you could do to make this music sound any better! It’s one of the best early mono Contemporary LPs we’ve ever played. It’s so Tubey Magical. Kessel’s guitar sound is out of this world.

The music here matches the sound for excellence. The whole band just swings. There’s a real old rag-timey feel to the songs. Look at this list of all-star players: Harry Edison, Jimmy Rowles, Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne — this is some serious jazz talent.

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The Pat Metheny Group – Self-Titled

More Pat Metheny

  • An early pressing of the group’s debut studio album, with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has more CLARITY, ENERGY and DYNAMICS than any pressing of the album you have ever heard, guaranteed
  • And the bass is monstrous – finally the kick drum is really kicking, breaking through the mix
  • We don’t know how you feel about ECM recordings in general but we tend to think they are pretty lifeless and boring. Not so here!
  • 5 stars: “The music is quite distinctive, floating rather than swinging, electric but not rockish, and full of folkish melodies…[it] grows in interest with each listen.”

This WHITE HOT Stamper of arguably his best album lets the music come to LIFE in a way that no other pressing in our shootout managed to do. We don’t know how you feel about ECM recordings in general, but we tend to think they are pretty lifeless and boring.

Not so here!

This is the sound of the Master Tape — worlds better than what most record lovers have ever had the privilege of hearing. If you want to know how good this album can sound, it’s first come, first served. There’s only one, folks, and this is it.

This copy has more of the clarity, energy and dynamics than any pressing of the album you have ever heard, guaranteed. Where is the muck? The blurry bottom end? The smear? All gone.

And the bass is monstrous. Finally the kick drum is really kicking, breaking through the mix.

Lively and fun, who knew any Pat Metheny album could sound like this?

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Pat Metheny Group – First Circle

More Pat Methany Group

More Jazz Fusion

  • Pat Metheny Group’s 1984 release debuts on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this original ECM pressing – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing everything right – they’re clean, clear and lively with tons of space and a solid bottom end
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • 4 stars: “The ever-restless Metheny…mixes up the music, not quite leaving the Brazilian glide behind but coming up with some fascinating permutations always affixed with his personal stamp.”

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Kenny Burrell – Great Arrangements by Don Sebesky

More of the Music of Kenny Burrell

Don Sebesky, A Top Arranger

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture 

This is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others off the top of my head would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

On a killer copy like this the sound is out of this world. Rich and full, open and transparent, this one defeated all comers in our shootout, taking the Top Prize for sound and earning all Three Pluses.

What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the orchestra’s string sections are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.

Both sides blew us away with a deep, wide soundstage and full extension on both the top and the bottom.

The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are Right On The Money. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.

This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it!

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George Benson – Bad Benson and Bad Audio

More of the Music of George Benson

More Recordings Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder

Some notes about this shootout from years back may be instructive.

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music.

No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed. [Now that we are much better at our jobs — see the advice at the end of this review — this happens only a few times a year.]

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

Rich, full-bodied sound is not hard to find on Bad Benson; most copies had the goods in the bass and lower midrange.

Your Old Stereo (If You Had One in the Seventies)

On the other hand, clarity, top end, transparency and freedom from smear were hard to come by on all but a few copies. Most copies sound pretty much like your old ’70s stereo system — you know, the one you had with the three-way box speakers sitting on concrete blocks.

Fat, blurry down low, thick, opaque and smeary, that sound was everywhere. Pleasant, but not much more than that.

[This seems like an apt description for the records currently being pressed on Heavy Vinyl, wouldn’t you say?]

We’ve come a long way since then. Some pressings still have that sound to a degree, but with so many audio revolutions taking place over the last twenty years, now we can get dramatically more out of even those sub-optimal copies.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

Al Di Meola et al. / Friday Night in San Francisco – on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: D?

The Speakers Corner remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing of this famous jazz album has two big strikes against it right from the get go. It’s both congested and hard.

With these guys hell-bent on one-upping each other right off of the stage, even our best Hot Stamper pressings struggle with clarity, transparency and harmonic sweetness

Do you really want to add all the problems of the modern remastered heavy vinyl pressing to a tape that already has plenty of its own?

Congested and hard is the kind of sound Speakers Corner should be quite familiar with by now. You can hear it on plenty of their mostly mediocre pressings.

Sourced from a digital tape of the master? Maybe, but who cares what tape was used to make this dog?

It’s a loser and should be avoided at any price.

Our Hot Stamper pressings of this album will be dramatically more transparent, open, harmonically-correct, resolving of musical information, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are the most obvious areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short, if our experience with hundreds of them over the last few decades has any bearing.

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Kenny Burrell – “After returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…”

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Kenny Burrell

Reviews and Commentaries for Midnight Blue

A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout:

By the way, side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note AP reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something.

When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…

I know what you mean about these modern reissues “missing something”. No matter how well mastered they may be, they’re almost always missing whatever it is that makes the analog record such a special listening experience. I hear that “analog” sound practically nowhere else outside of the live event (and, of course, the vintage LP). 

Thanks for your letter. 
TP

Our Classic Records Review

Pretty flat and lifeless. You would never understand why audiophiles rave about this recording by listening to the Classic Records pressing.

We played it up against our best, and as expected it was nothing to write home about. Since Rudy has remastered and ruined practically all the Blue Note CDs by now, you will have your work cut out for you if you want to find a good sounding version of Midnight Blue. This sure ain’t one.

Of course we would be more than happy to get you an amazing sounding copy — it’s what we do — but the price will be five to ten times (or more) what the Classic costs. In our opinion it’s money well spent.

Since the Classic conveys very little of what the musicians were up to whilst recording the album, our advice is to cross it off your list of records of interest. It’s thirty bucks down the drain.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to Their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

Wes Montgomery / Boss Guitar – Killer on Vintage OJC

More of the Music of Wes Montgomery

This Is a Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressing

This is one of Wes Montgomery’s best albums from his prime ’60s period, if not THE best. Rich and full-bodied but clear and spacious, the 1963 All Tube Analog sound is perfect for Wes’s organ trio format. 

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

George Horn

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

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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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