Vocals

Lou Rawls – Live!

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  • This superb 2-pack of Lou Rawls’ masterpiece offers a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Lou Rawls Live! is an amazing recording that really comes to life on this Hot Stamper pressing
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is superb – Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights, but really, there’s not a bad track here
  • If you could only have one Lou Rawls album, no question it would have to be this one – everything that’s good about the man’s music is fully on display
  • 4 stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Hello Love

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  • Ella’s 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Mono sound from first note to last
  • The sound is relaxed, full-bodied and lively, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1957 and 1959 recording dates of these sessions
  • Skip the stereo pressing on this title – none of the copies we played could hold a candle to this killer mono LP
  • “The album focuses on well-known songs not included in Fitzgerald’s epic Songbooks project, and several of the songs are tunes that she had recently recorded in duet with Louis Armstrong.”
  • 4 stars: “A fine gem among the diamonds of Ella Fitzgerald’s late-’50s period with Verve… Wrapped in the strings of Frank DeVol’s orchestra, Fitzgerald is a bewitching presence singing these dreamy standards…”

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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Now That’s What a Real Drum Kit Sounds Like!

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space.

When the drums come in on the first track on side one you will hear immediately what I mean. The third track on side two has especially good drums as well. The vocals on that third track, Message to Michael, are some of the most natural on the album as well. Lena can strain a bit on some songs in the loudest passages, but on others she can belt it out and stay clean all the way to the top. Listen track by track to hear how well she holds up when the bigger choruses come in.

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we’ve known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it’s been impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course.

Dave Sanders, a name I — and no doubt most audiophiles — was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – The Concert Sinatra

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  • The Concert Sinatra finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this original Reprise LP
  • Sinatra’s voice on this exceptionally good pressing always sounds natural even at its loudest – there is no strain or hardness, and that makes it a very special copy indeed
  • The 73 musicians you see stretched out across the soundstage at Samuel Goldwyn Studios behind Sinatra will give you some idea of the size and scope of the sound – with 24 mics feeding 8 tracks onto 35MM recording film, this was the sonic equivalent of Gone With the Wind
  • “It’s not exactly the swinging Sinatra of myth and legend, but it does make for a stunning musical experience; the Chairman is in great voice, and he scales the explosive orchestral peaks of Riddle’s arrangements with the confidence of a mountain climber on methedrine. His versions of “Ol’ Man River” and “Soliloquy” are big improvements over his Columbia-era attempts, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “My Heart Stood Still,” and “Lost in the Stars” are positively breathtaking.”

Folks, when we say that clean, good-sounding Sinatra records are hard to come by, we are not kidding. It took us five years to find enough copies of this title to do a proper shootout. In that time an awful lot of bad LPs passed through our hands: the monos (never heard a good one), the reissues (ditto), imports, and, most commonly, original stereo pressings in beat-to-death condition. People loved Sinatra and played his records until the grooves were gone.

This album ranks right up there with the best of the Reprise era musically; recorded in 1963, Sinatra was still in his prime.

For audiophiles, the amount of effort that went into the recording, effort that actually paid off, is what will impress the most about The Concert Sinatra. Fortunately for those of us who are still playing records forty-odd years on, this special project took place before the advent of the transistor, which means that all the Tubey Magic of the singer and his all-encompassing orchestra was captured on the “tape”.

Ah, but how much of that sound made it to the record itself, that’s always the rub with records isn’t it?

In this case, plenty. There may be a touch of smear (you can most easily hear it in the strings) but the sound is so RICH and Tubey Magical that you will barely be aware it. Your attention should instead be focused on the superb feel the man has for this music.

One thing to pay special attention to, especially if you have other copies of the album, is Sinatra’s voice, which sounds natural from first note to last, even at its loudest. There is no strain or hardness. That, among many other things, is what separates the best copies from the also-rans (and, of course, all the reissues, which tend to have gritty, harsh vocals which quickly get unbearably edgy in the louder parts). (more…)

Julie London – Around Midnight

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  • Julie’s impossibly rare and wonderful 1960 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this original Liberty stereo pressing
  • For whatever reason, this is a record that takes us years to find even one clean stereo copy, ouch
  • Like many of her best Liberty recordings, this one puts Julie right in the room with you thanks to the brilliant engineering of John Kraus (Julie Is Her Name, Calendar Girl, Julie… At Home, etc.)
  • 4 stars: “Her ability to interpret a song was at its strongest in the late ’50s and early ’60s, as is evidenced on the shimmering Around Midnight. While some of her best recordings were in front of small jazz combos, Around Midnight proves that London was just as effective in front of larger orchestras and bands. The drowsy “Black Coffee” and lazy “Lush Life” typify the late-night feel of the album, leading right into “The Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”

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Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

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  • This wonderful collaboration finally returns with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Two masters come together here to create a compilation of timeless arrangements still appreciated by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • It’s tough to find top quality pressings of Nat King Cole’s recordings in audiophile playing condition – this All Tube Recording from the early ’60s is your chance to hear just how rich and real he could sound in his prime
  • 4 stars: “Cole is in prime form on such songs as ‘September Song,’ ‘Pick Yourself Up,’ and ‘Serenata.’ Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.”

The better pressings of this unique collaboration between Nat King Cole and George Shearing put Cole’s voice right up front with lovely breath and natural texture. On the better copies such as this one, the Nat’s vocals are full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the soundfield is open and transparent. If you want a great-sounding male vocal LP in your collection, this one will do the trick nicely.

The reissue pressings rarely sounded right to us. In addition, the mono copies were uniformly awful — small, congested and gritty. Our Hot Stamper pressings — even the lowest-graded copies we offer –are sure to give you fuller vocals, more transparency, more weight to the piano and, of course, the tubey warmth of vintage analog. (more…)

Tony Bennett – If I Ruled The World / Songs For The Jet Set

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  • Bennett’s wonderful 1965 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – Tony is right in the room with you on this one
  • “Employing Sinatra arranger Don Costa, Tony Bennett put together a concept album similar to Sinatra’s Come Fly with Me.”

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Willie Nelson – Stardust

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this exceptionally well-recorded album, this copy surely qualifies as an Audiophile Demo Disc, the best copy to hit the site in years!
  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”

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Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me!

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  • Come Dance With Me! finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this early Capitol stereo LP
  • This pressing did it all — and on both sides — with incredible energy and the kind of immediacy that puts Frank Sinatra front and center right in your very own listening room
  • This is one of the more fun Sinatra albums we’ve had the pleasure of playing recently, and this is a copy that delivers BIG TIME
  • 5 stars: “Working with Billy May again, Frank Sinatra recorded his hardest swing album ever with Come Dance with Me! . . . an intoxicating rush of invigorating dance songs.”

Get ready to swing with the Chairman of the Board on this superb pressing of his classic album from 1959! Billy May and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements here, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work. The brass blasts on side two are to die for!

It’s tough to find good-sounding copies of almost any Sinatra album, finding amazing copies of his most classic albums like this one with reasonably quiet surfaces is a ridiculously tough task. Even for us, the guys who do nothing but search for and audition records all day every day! So we were thrilled to play a copy like this one that did just what we wanted from music like this.

On the best pressings, the brass blasts are OUT OF THIS WORLD. If you never thought you’d hear a Sinatra record sound as powerful as the man himself came across — this is the pressing that you’ve been looking for. Most copies were either smeary or edgy, but this one was wonderfully smooth with impressive clarity.

Sinatra fans, don’t miss out — we don’t find records like this too often. (more…)

Nancy Wilson – Nancy Wilson / Cannonball Adderley

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  • This dynamic collaboration finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Here is the sound we love at Better Records – both sides are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with Wilson’s vocals unusually smooth and present
  • An inspired collection that showcases the versatility of both Wilson and Adderley (who plays five instrumentals)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Given the play list and the outstanding artists performing it, why any serious jazz collection would be without this classic album is difficult to comprehend.” [Hear hear!]

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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