- Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1961 sounds
- We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market (or the Classic Records pressing, which sounded fine at the time, but up against the real thing, forget it
- “The music resulting from Thiele’s inspired experiment is outstanding and utterly essential. That means everybody ought to hear this album at least once, and many will want to hear it again and again all the way through, for this is one of the most intriguing confluences in all of recorded jazz. Armstrong blew his horn with authority and sang beautifully and robustly.”
The last time I played this album in preparation for a new shootout, which was some time in early 2020, I was not thrilled with either the sound or the music.
I found the lack of ambience and overall artificiality of the recording not to my liking. In the old days — the review below was probably from the early 2000s — my system was not remotely as good as it is now. I can play the space in a recording much better than I could then, and the lack of natural space now bothers me no end, when before it usually did not.
Live and Learn we say!
Many of Allen Sides‘ recordings suffer from a lack of ambience. The musicians do not seem to have much air around them to breathe. Many audiophile recordings, especially direct to disc recordings from the ’70s, are insufferable in this respect, with too much multi-miking and not enough studio space.
A good example of how some audiophiles with modern high-tech recording equipment but little in the way of experience or understanding end up producing records that are not remotely the equal of those that were commonly made twenty years before is this Bach recording by Virgil Fox for Crystal Clear.
Other records that are good for testing Ambience, Size and Space can be found all over this blog.
Two of the Worst
Of course, some of the most ambience-challenged records available today are on Heavy Vinyl. I could link to a hundred of them, but here are two that should get the point across well enough.
This album on DCC, like much of their dubious output, has very little of the breathing space of the vintage pressings we sell.
And the disgraceful label that released this title can be relied upon to press records that no audiophile with a decent stereo and two working ears should want anything to do with.
Our Old Review
Take the following review from decades ago with a very large grain of salt and don’t pay too much for this album if you see one around.
This is a long out of print Pablo LP with AMAZING sound and music. It’s one of those superb Allan Sides engineered recordings at Ocean Way, like Basie 88 Street. Demo disc quality sound is the result! With players like these, the music is every bit as good as any jazz record I know of. In other words, I really like this album.
- Two rare Donald Byrd albums in one, both with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- The Tubey Magic is fully intact, making these two albums sound just the way 1956 RVG jazz should
- Composed of two superb LPs, 2 Trumpets and The Young Bloods, these wonderful pressings capture some of Byrd’s best sound
- “Art and Donald are in fine form, and if there is any competition it serves only to increase the musical yield.”
- “… These blowing sessions (typical of Prestige’s albums of the 1950s) have their enjoyable moments with Farmer and Woods taking overall solo honors.
This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s in this case. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today.
The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these superb sides.
We were impressed with the fact that these pressings excel in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was just how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be on the right pressing.
This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, lively, clear, rich sound of the recording was still on the tape decades later, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound on to a record was simply to thread up the tape on the right machine and hit play.
The fact that practically nobody seems to be able to make a record nowadays that sounds remotely this good tells me that I’m wrong to think that such an approach tends to work, if our experience with hundreds of mediocre Heavy Vinyl reissues is relevant.
- Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
- 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”
Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious this early pressing is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep.
Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has good tone, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite, and so on.
We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.
And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (more…)
- With a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, here’s a copy that’s practically as good as it gets
- This fun, lively, superbly well-recorded 1961 release is a real SLEEPER of Demo Disc Quality West Coast Jazz
- Huge, spacious, clear, Tubey Magical, natural and above all REAL, this copy blew our minds when we stumbled on it in our shootout
- 4 Stars: “High-quality and consistently swinging West Coast jazz … this was the initial album to gain wide recognition and helped to introduce the L.A.-based trumpeter’s talents to the East Coast.”
This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.
If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one.
- Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on sides two and four with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides
- These sides are clean, clear, lively and present with tons of space around all of the players; you can hear right in to the soundfield, and you can be sure that there’s a whole lot going on in there
- It’s not an easy album to find in clean condition, let alone a copy that sounds like this and plays mostly quietly throughout!
- If jazz-fusion is your bag, sides two and four of this copy will take you on a trip like few other records could
- “Thought by many to be the most revolutionary album in jazz history, having virtually created the genre known as jazz-rock fusion (for better or worse) and being the jazz album to most influence rock and funk musicians, Bitches Brew is, by its very nature, mercurial.”” – All Music, 5 Stars
The incredible musicianship and Teo Macero’s innovative production each help take these jazz-fusion soundscapes to places most folks had never imagined before. And a copy like this one takes the entire production to a whole new level. I can’t begin to tell you how many crappy copies have hit our table over the years, but after finding this one I’m really glad we never gave up on this album.
I remember buying this record when I was in college and I had a hell of a time trying to make any sense of it. I also bought the first two Weather Report albums and had a hell of a time with those. But then when Sweetnighter came out, which was angular but still accessible, this kind of music started to make sense to me. This is music for those who want to be challenged. It’s as true today as it was 39 years ago when this record came out.
Our favorite track on this album, Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, is found on the A+++ side four, which means the sound for it is OFF THE CHARTS. (more…)
Listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not clearly convey the transient information of Miles’ horn, causing it to have an easily recognizable quality we talk about all the time on the site: smear.
No two pressings will have precisely the same amount of smear on his trumpet, so look for the least smeary copy that does everything else right too.
Meaning simply that smear is important, but not all-important.
If you click on the above link, you will see that we regularly talk about smeary pianos, smeary brass, smeary violins and smeary Classic Records classical reissues. Nobody else seems particularly bothered by smear as far as we can tell, and one of our many theories about the stereo shortcomings of reviewers and audiophiles in general is that their systems are fairly smeary, so a little extra smear is mostly inaudible to them.
I had a smeary system for my first twenty or more years in audio, so I know whereof I speak.
And of course I was just as clueless as everybody else.
We’ve worked very hard over the last twenty years or so to make sure our system has a practically undetectable amount of smear. Any smear we hear on a record means that the smear is on the record. It is not the product of shortcomings in our playback system.
And almost any system that uses vintage tubes — whatever their pros and cons, however much you may like the sound they produce — will have some smear.
We got rid of our tube equipment a long time ago, and having done so, the smear it added to the sound of the records we were playing at that time was dramatically reduced.
About a hundred other tweaks and improvements got rid of the rest. As I say, it took about twenty years.
This is a wonderful Chet Baker record that doesn’t seem to be getting the respect it deserves in the wider jazz world. You may just like it every bit as much as the Chet Baker “Chet” album, and that is one helluva record to compare any album to. In our estimation it is about as good as it gets in most respects.
Both sides of the best copy in our last shootout were Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. We’d never heard the record sound better, and we’d been playing the album since it was first reissued in the ’80s.
I used to sell these very records in the ’90s — we retailed them for ten bucks, if you can believe it — but we had no clue just how good they could sound back then.
We couldn’t clean them right, or even play them right, and it would never have occurred to us to listen to a big pile of them one after another in order to pick out the best sounding copies.
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.
The less said about the awful Doug Sax remastering for Analogue Productions in the mid-’90s the better. What a murky piece of crap that was. Audiophile reviewers may have been impressed, but even way back then we knew a bad sounding record when we played one, and that pressing was very bad indeed.
One further note: the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today, twenty-five years later, have a similar suite of shortcomings, sounding every bit as bad if not worse, and fooling the same audiophile reviewers and their followers to this very day. Nothing has changed, other than we have come along to offer the discriminating audiophile an alternative to the muddy messes these labels have been churning out. (more…)
- Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
- Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
- If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
- And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
- We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match
Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.
That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.
The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.
Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)