Genre – Jazz – Guitar

Charlie Byrd – Another Hyped-Up MoFi

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed [decades ago] and found seriously wanting.

This is a title Mobile Fidelity ruined (what else is new?), and having just played an early Riverside LP I can see how their mastering approach was — as is so often the case — misguided to say the least.

First off, the guitar and the drums on the original are tonally right on the money. They sound like bass and drums should. They sound, in a word, correct.

Mobile Fidelity felt it necessary to brighten up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and phony sounding drums, with tizzy cymbals thrown in for good measure.

(The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one. We’ve had Hot Stamper copies of the originals so we know they can sound superb, some of RVG’s best work.)

The old Mobile Fidelity — the pre-Heavy Vinyl Mobile Fidelity — rarely met a master tape they didn’t think needed a healthy dose of top end boost. They also never understood what an acoustic guitar sounds like. They blew it on every last one of the Cat Stevens albums, brightening up the guitars, which, as we all know from playing with the treble controls on our receivers way back when, emphasizes the “picking” of the strings at the expense of the resonating guitar body as well as the vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record, for audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. (Chesky anyone?)

Another reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect. Bad guitars, bad drums and bad bass — that pretty much covers everybody in the trio. Resulting score: 0 for 3. (more…)

Grant Green on Music Matters – Tizzy Cymbals and a Bright Snare Drum, That’s Your Idea of Audiophile Sound?

Hot Stamper Blue Note Albums Available Now

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, the audiophile world is drowning in them).

After discovering Hot Stampers and the mind-blowing sound they deliver, a new customer generously sent me a few of his favorite Heavy Vinyl pressings to audition, records that he considered the best of the modern reissues that he owns.

He admitted that most of what he has on Heavy Vinyl is not very good, and now that he can clearly hear what he has been missing, having heard some of our best Hot Stamper jazz pressings, he is going to be putting them up on Ebay and selling them to anyone foolish enough to throw their money away on this kind of vinyl junk.

We say more power to him.  That money can be used to buy records that actually are good sounding, not just supposed to be good sounding because they were custom manufactured with the utmost care and marketed at high prices to soi-disant audiophiles.

Audiophile records are a scam. They always have been and they always will be.

I haven’t listened to a copy of this album in a very long time, but I know a good sounding jazz record when I hear one, having critically auditioned more than a thousand over the course of the 33 years I have been in business. (To be clear, we only sold verified good sounding records starting in 2004.)

I knew pretty early on in the session that this was not a good sounding jazz record.  Five minutes was all it took, but I probably wasted another ten making sure the sound was as hopeless as it originally seemed.

For those of you who might have trouble reading my handwriting, my notes say:

Bass is sloppy and fat.

The bass is boosted and badly lacks definition. It constantly calls attention to itself. It is the kind of sloppy bass that cannot be found on any RVG recording, none that I have ever heard anyway, and I’ve heard them by the hundreds.

You no doubt know about the boosted bass on the remastered Beatles albums. It’s that sound. Irritating in the extreme, and just plain wrong.

Reserved. Playing through a curtain.

Very few Heavy Vinyl records these days do not sound veiled and reserved in the midrange.

To get a better sense of the effect, throw a medium weight blanket over your speakers. Voila! Your thin vinyl now weighs 180 grams!

No space.

Typical of Heavy Vinyl. The studio space and ambience found on the better vintage pressings, the kind we play all day long, is GONE.

(more…)

Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

More Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

(more…)

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays – As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls

More Jazz Fusion

More Jazz Guitar

 

  • As Falls Wichita… finally returns with outstanding sound on both sides — reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This is the sound of the Master Tape — worlds better than what most record lovers have ever been granted the privilege of hearing in analog
  • This spacey music needs huge amounts of reproducible recording space to work its ethereal magic, and you will have no trouble finding that space on this very pressing
  • The best sides were always the biggest, clearest and most three-dimensional, assuming they were able to retain the rich, natural, balanced tonality that is inherently key to a good record, or a great one in this case
  • “This joint solo effort by Metheny and regular pianist and collaborator Lyle Mays is an impressive outing. In the process of stretching out away from the confines of the quartet setting of prior albums, Metheny and Mays presage the sleeker and more ethereal sound of the band’s Geffen years on portions of the title track…”

This superb pressing of Metheny’s ECM Chart-Topping release from 1981 shows you just how well recorded the album is. 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!

We guarantee this copy has more CLARITY, ENERGY and DYNAMICS than any pressing of the album you have ever heard. Where is the muck? The blurry bottom end? The smear? All gone. And the bass is monstrous.

If you’re a fan of this album, this copy will show you what you’ve surely been missing all these years — the kind of sound that lets this music breathe. (more…)

Vince Guaraldi & Bola Sete – Live At El Matador

More Vince Guaraldi

 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

(more…)

Pat Metheny – Offramp

More Pat Metheny

  • Offramp returns with a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This is the sound of the Master Tape – worlds better than what most record lovers have ever had the privilege of hearing
  • Offramp held the Number One spot on the Jazz Album charts for 16 weeks back in 1982
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the thoughtful Metheny makes excellent use of space, choosing his notes wisely and reminding listeners that, while he has heavy-duty chops, he’s not one to beat everybody over the head with them.”

(more…)

George Benson – Breezin’

More George Benson

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • Breezin’ finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tubey Magical richness and plenty of note-like bass are two of the important qualities that separate the winners from the also-rans, but smooth, grain-free, present vocals for Masquerade are a big part of the best pressings too, so make that three important qualities
  • This copy will blow the doors off your old copy or any MoFi pressing — guaranteed!
  • It’s got all the elements this smooth masterpiece needs to come to life today, almost 40 years later if you can believe it
  • There’s tons of energy, strong presence, excellent bass and a huge soundfield with real depth
  • You hear right into the music, something that is only possible on the most transparent copies
  • If like us you’re a fan of Jazz Guitar, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album features the huge hit “This Masquerade” and lots of other strong material as well. Benson is at the top of his game, with blazing guitar lines accompanied by his scat vocals at many times. No one else ever did music like this so well again, in our humble opinion.

(more…)

Bola Sete – 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.

(more…)

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?

(more…)