Vocals

June Christy – The Misty Miss Christy

More June Christy

  • An original Turquoise Label Capital Mono LP with INCREDIBLE Shoutout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are wonderfully rich and sweet – it’s hard to imagine June sounding much better than she does here
  • All the top West Coast jazz guys are here: Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and the arrangements are by the wonderfully talented Pete Rugolo
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “… The Misty Miss Christy mostly stays on auto-stroll with a wealth of subtle and sophisticated orchestral charts. The jazz-pop environs come courtesy of longtime arranger Pete Rugolo and optimally frame the singer on highlights like “That’s All,” “I Didn’t Know About You,” and “Dearly Beloved.” Both an essential Christy title and one of the best vocal albums from the ’50s.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miss Christy’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this is a Top Title from 1956 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Both sides of this ’50s All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, because the top is there as well as the bottom.

June is no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These June Christy records are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals –- the kind with no trace of digital reverb — you may get quite a kick out of this one. And unless I miss my guess, you’ll be the first and only person on your block to own it! (That’s not a bad thing considering the average person’s taste in music and sound these days.)

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Frank Sinatra – Another Kevin Gray Mediocrity

More of the Music of Frank Sinatra

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pop and Jazz Vocals Albums

Sonic Grade: C-

Reprise reissued this album on 180 gram vinyl in 2004.

Our advice: skip this Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity. The originals are far better and not that hard to find.

In fact, the good originals are so good that they can be found in our Vocal Demo Disc section. I’m pretty sure that this run-of-the-mill reissue is nobody’s idea of a Demo Disc.

Mastered by Kevin Gray, this record has what we would call ”modern” sound, which is to say it’s clean and tonally correct, but it’s missing the Tubey Magic the originals are full of.

In other words, it sounds like a CD.

Who can be bothered to play a record that has so few of the qualities audiophiles are looking for on vinyl? Back in 2007 we put the question this way: Why Own a Turntable if You’re Going to Play Mediocrities Like These?

Also, skip the orange label reissues. We’ve never heard a good one and we stopped buying them a long time ago.


FURTHER READING

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Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Records are getting awfully expensive these days, and it’s not just our Hot Stampers that seem priced for perfection.

If you are still buying these modern remastered pressings, making the same mistakes that I was making before I knew better, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered LPs.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. of the album.

And if for some reason you disagree with us that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.

Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

More Frank Sinatra

More Duke Ellington

  • An original Reprise stereo pressing with a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • The highs are extended and silky sweet, the bass is tight and punchy – this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon
  • If you’re a fan of either of these two fine gentlemen, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you. (more…)

Bobby Darin / Another Great Sounding Reissue? What the Heck Is Going On!

More Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

More Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

  • Darin At The Copa arrives on the site with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom 
  • Recorded live at the Copacabana in New York City, this album captures Darin’s unique charisma, as well his phenomenal music
  • With clear, present vocals, huge amounts of space, and boatloads of Tubey magic – the kind they had plenty of in 1960 – this copy blew away the competition in our recent shootout
  • “…an appearance that confirmed for the adult pop crowd that the former singer of ephemera like “Splish Splash” had made the complete transition from rock & roll to more “serious” music. Serious this record certainly isn’t, though.” 
  • If you’re a fan of Bobby Darin’s, this live album from 1960 surely deserves a place in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This Shootout Winning pressing of Bobby Darin’s live album from 1960 has ENERGY and TUBEY MAGIC like you will not believe. The reissues on Bainbridge that we used in our shootout just KILL the original pressings, which are truly awful based on the ones I have heard. I started out with a copy such as this way back in the early ’90s, and when I finally tracked down a clean original on Atco, not a hard record to find really, I was shocked at just how bad it sounded.

This is, of course, one of the best reasons to own a good CD player. It’s simply a fact that some recordings, vintage and otherwise, were never mastered properly for the analog medium.

Defending Reissues

We bash reissue labels like Classic and Sundazed mercilessly on this site for making the worst kind of substandard pressings, all the while absurdly promoting them as “superior.”

Bainbridge reissued this album sometime in the early ’80s I would guess, and they did this one right. Discovery Records reissued some jazz in the ’70s (Shorty Roger’s Jazz Waltz comes readily to mind) and they did a great job.

Reissues can sound great, but they seem to be limited to the ones from back in the day when they still knew how to make good sounding records. Modern reissues, for whatever reason, almost never do, and that’s the reason we criticize them (and their apologists / promoters so relentlessly).

We are not anti-reissue. We are anti-bad-sounding-reissue.

Bobby Darin was a tremendously talented performer and this record catches him showing off his stuff to good advantage. I don’t know of a better Darin album on vinyl.

Variety Review

Darin’s finger snapping, jazzy and extremely hep delivery has its moments of humor, ease and at all times, a singular brand of charm that make it big at this particular scene.

Darin on CD

Speaking of CDs, This Is Darin from 1960 on the ’90s CD pressing is, or can be — CDs don’t all sound the same either — superb, and the record is, again, just awful. We don’t make many CD recommendations here at Better Records but we do recommend that one. We don’t know if the newer version is any good so that’s a caveat emptor situation you will have to figure out for yourself.

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Aretha Franklin – Aretha Arrives

More Aretha Franklin

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades throughout this Atlantic Green & Blue label pressing, we guarantee you’ve never heard the Queen of Soul’s 1967 release sound remotely as good as it does here
  • Both of these sides are outstanding – big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still clear, spacious and open
  • The presence, breath and resolution to the vocals is superb, bringing Aretha out of the speakers and into your listening room
  • Tons of great material here, including Aretha’s fun version of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” and the rockin’ classic “96 Tears.”
  • “Recorded in 1967 after the first flush of back-to-back successes with ‘Respect’ and ‘I Never Loved a Man,’ this captures Aretha Franklin in peak form. An essential addition to her discography.”
  • If you’re a fan, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We finally pulled together enough clean copies for a big shootout recently and most of them sounded the way you’d probably expect — thin, bright, and grainy. But not this one! It was doing pretty much everything we wanted it to, giving you the kind of life and energy this music needs to work its magic.

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Johnny Mathis – Up, Up And Away

More Johnny Mathis

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

  • Up, Up And Away debuts on the site with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades throughout this original Columbia 360 Stereo pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • So hugely spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and natural sounding Johnny, this is the way to hear it
  • “Johnny Mathis’s return to the Columbia label purrs with the rich, romantic tones that suspend the very sensation of conscious listening … ‘Up, Up and Away’, ‘Misty Roses,’ and ‘I Won’t Cry Anymore’ are soothed and coated with Mathis’s seamless style – music running together like prefabricated daydreams padded with a feeling of luxury.” – Billboard Magazine
  • More Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Frank Laico

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Johnny Mathis singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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Billie Holiday / Lady In Satin – On Classic Records

More of the Music of Billie Holiday

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic Records pressing that came out in 1998, but I remember it as nothing special, tonally correct but with somewhat low-rez vocals and lacking in both space and warmth.

Records made for audiophiles are rarely any good, so rarely in fact that we are positively shocked when such records are even halfway decent. After playing so many bad audiophile records for so many years it’s practically a truism here at Better Records.

A recording like this is the perfect example of why we pay no attention whatsoever to the bona fides of the disc, but instead make our judgments strictly on the merits of the record spinning on the table. The listener normally does not even know the label of the pressing he is reviewing. It could be a Six Eye original, the 360 reissue, or even a (gasp!) ’70s-era LP.

We don’t care what the label is. What does that have to do with anything? We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t play labels, we play unique pressings of the album.  We assume that every pressing sounds different from every other pressing. Our job is to figure out what each of them is doing right and wrong. 

We mix up all our copies and play them one after another until we come across the best sounding one.

This approach has opened up a world of sound that most audiophiles — at least the ones who buy into the hype associated with the typical audiophile pressing — will never be able to experience.

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Sinatra At The Sands on Dahlquist DQ-10s – My Neophyte Audiophile Mind Is Blown

More of the Music of Frank Sinatra

Making Audio Progress

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.  

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy.” I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy. 

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

This description is pretty close to what I thought I heard all those years ago

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This vintage stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Or so I thought at the time.

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Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic of relaxed, intimate vocals returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs – the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • The early stereo tri-color label pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile condition these days, but here’s one, and it is a knockout
  • “It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was.”
  • One of Our Favorite Titles from 1964
  • Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dean Martin

An outstanding copy of the classic Dream With Dean!

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet (including no less than Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell) behind him doing standards. On the best copies the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.

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June Christy – Gone For The Day

More June Christy

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

  • After many years, Gone For The Day is back on the original Capitol Turquoise Mono pressing, this time with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals, not to mention boatloads of Capitol Tubey Magic- everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • Side two had the most space, the richest brass, the most tonally correct and note-like bass, and virtually no vocal strain – this and more is the kind of sound that wins shootouts
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you have in your collection, or your money back
  • “One of June Christy’s two 1957 Capitol LPs, Gone for the Day boasts Pete Rugolo arrangements and a 12-piece group of mostly West Coast all-stars…includ[ing] trumpeter Don Fagerquist, trombonist Frank Rosolino, altoist Bud Shank, and Bob Cooper on tenor.”

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for.

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back, but that was before we moved the system into our new, larger studio. The sound is better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Musically this album is right up there with the best female vocal records we have ever played, the creme de la creme, albums on the level of Julie Is Her Name, Clap Hands and Something Cool. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

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