Genre – Jazz – Guitar

George Benson – Tell It Like It Is – A&M Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty — pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.

Gabor Szabo – Mizrab – Not Recommended

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Music Grade: D (at best)

Not recommended, a weak effort from CTI in 1972. Neither the music nor the sound, at least on the copies we played, is worth your time. 

This has been a public service review from the record loving audiophiles here at Better Records.

The Poll Winners – Straight Ahead

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  • This superb collaboration has KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Musically, this is by far our favorite Poll Winners record – these guys got back together after 15 years and were eager to prove that they still had their youthful exuberance, and even better chops, which they did have and did prove!
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kessel in particular is heard in excellent form… Overall this is the best all-around recording by The Poll Winners and is easily recommended to bop fans.”

These guys play with more spunk here than on any other album of theirs I’ve ever heard. And you have to love those ’70s leisure suits they’re wearing on the cover. I remember my commentary when this record was around, mentioning that Roy DuNann had lost none of his engineering skills in the intervening years either.

This is a very dynamic recording, one of his best. You almost never hear cymbals sound this good on an RVG Blue Note, that’s for sure. The bass definition on this record is amazing — you can really hear Ray Brown pulling and bending the strings of the instrument. He’s tearing it up. (more…)

Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

A Top Copy of this Fusion Guitar classic! Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present — the sound, in a word, is HUGE. A great lineup including Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Steve Gadd and more.  

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana LPs, I think you’d find a lot to like about this record. (more…)

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy for the instruments or vocals in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings have much more energy. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did a very good version of this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, which we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – Dreams – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This original Black Label Skye LP has an EXCELLENT SIDE TWO backed with a pretty good side one.

Szabo has made a number of mediocre albums, some of which are poorly recorded, but thankfully this is not one of them. In fact, this is some of the best sound and music he produced for Skye. Side two is open and spacious with a HUGE three-dimensional soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music.

Side one is pretty darn good as well. While not quite as three-dimensional as side two it still retains some of that quality. Listen to all the crazy studio recording effects on the first track. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – More Sorcery – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a Minty looking Original Impulse Stereo LP with EXCELLENT sound and quiet vinyl.

This is a live recording that’s got that small jazz club feel. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds runs almost ten minutes and gives everybody involved a chance to stretch out. People is also exceptionally good here.

It’s hard to find a recording Szabo did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. This album is right up there with the best of his recordings, courtesy of the two top engineers noted below. (more…)

Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a nice Early Riverside pressing with excellent sound! It’s also a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played this record, I can see hear how they did it.

First of all, the guitar and the drums are tonally right on the money. Mobile Fidelity of course brightened up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and a phony sounding drum kit, with tizzy cymbals. (The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one.)   

The other 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.

Mobile Fidelity rarely understood what an acoustic guitar was supposed to sound like. They blew it on all the Cat Stevens masterpieces, brightening up the guitar which emphasized the “picking” at the expense of the resonating guitar body and 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. Riverside cut this record, and they knew how to cut it right.

Joe Pass – Portraits Of Duke Ellington

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Maybe it’s the fact that there are only three instruments playing, live in the studio, that accounts for the amazing recording quality. Nobody knows, certainly not us, but the one thing we can say for sure is that you will have a very hard time finding a guitar trio album that sounds remotely as good as this one does.

And the music is by The Duke himself. How great is that? Can’t fault the song choices in any way; they’re all classics: Satin Doll; Sophisticated Lady; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); In A Mellowtone; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear From Me and more.

Watch for more Joe Pass albums coming to the site. After hearing this album, and enjoying the hell out of it, we’re hunting down everything we can get our hands on to audition. I’d be surprised if we find another album with sound this good, but in the land of records you just never know.

Gabor Szabo – 1969

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  • A KILLER sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both sides here are incredibly rich and full-bodied yet still clean, clear and spacious with a HUGE three-dimensional soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music
  • Superb choice of material, with a heavy emphasis on Beatles tunes — “Dear Prudence”, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “In My Life” and “You Won’t See Me”, all make an appearance here
  • “Szabo acknowledges that worthwhile popular music didn’t die with George Gershwin… [he] deserves credit for bringing a jazz perspective to songs that so many other improvisers were ignoring.” – All Music

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