Genre – Vocals – Female

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Bruce Botnick and The Big Bottom End

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What separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. The first album was recorded by the legendary BRUCE BOTNICK, the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention. This, in my opinion, is his Masterpiece. The Doors albums Bruce recorded represent some of his best work, but what Doors album sounds as good as Sergio’s debut? I can’t name one. [Actually I can: the first album, when you get the right pressing. It’s out of this world.] 

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick his due. The man knew what he was doing. (Larry Levine, who recorded the subsequent albums, was no slouch either. Stillness is one of the ten best sounding records I have ever played, and that’s no exaggeration.)

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was close to twenty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the intervening decades.

Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – The Lonely Hours

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  • The Lonely Hours debuts with killer Hot Stamper sound – this copy took top honors with Triple Plus sonics on both sides
  • No other copy could touch this early Roulette pressing for size, space, clarity, dynamics and, most especially, vocal richness
  • With Benny Carter brilliantly handling the arrangements, we feel that this is a badly underrated album of Ms Vaughan’s from 1964, a glorious year for music
  • “Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.”

Wonderfully warm, big and clear, not to mention exceptionally dynamic, this copy shows the listener just how good the master tape must be.

Not only could no other copy touch it; as far as I can tell it’s the only copy with two sides good enough to put on the site!

Classic Records remastered this album back in the day, and I can see why: the average pressing on Roulette is borderline unlistenable. Of course we didn’t know that when we started this shootout. We had found a nice sounding copy and subsequently went on the hunt for more. Little did we know how wide the variation in sound quality we would find on the original Orange Label pressings. There was simply no denying that many of the copies we played were just too thin, shrill and pinched in the midrange to be of any interest to our Hot Stamper customers.

As mediocre as Bernie’s Classic cutting may be, it’s still better than the average Roulette original one might throw on the turntable. And you can forget the monos completely; they were by far the worst sounding of them all.


Sarah and Her Remarkable Pipes

Vaughan’s New York Times obituary described her as a “singer who brought an operatic splendour to her performances of popular standards and jazz.”

Fellow jazz singer Mel Tormé said that Vaughan had “…the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field.” Her ability was envied by Frank Sinatra who said that “Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor.” The New York Times critic John S. Wilson said in 1957 that Vaughan possessed “what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz.”

Vaughan’s vibrato was described as “an ornament of uniquely flexible size, shape and duration,” a vibrato also described as “voluptuous” and “heavy.” Vaughan was also accomplished in her ability to “fray” or “bend” notes at the extremities of her vocal range. It was noted in a 1972 performance of Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Bart’s “Where Is Love?” that “In mid-tune she began twisting the song, swinging from the incredible cello tones of her bottom register, skyrocketing to the wispy pianissimos of her top.”

Though usually considered a “jazz singer”, Vaughan avoided classifying herself as one. Vaughan discussed the term in an 1982 interview for Down Beat:

I don’t know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I’m not putting jazz down, but I’m not a jazz singer…I’ve recorded all kinds of music, but (to them) I’m either a jazz singer or a blues singer. I can’t sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing ‘Send In the Clowns’ and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all kinds of music.

Wikipedia

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lonely Hours
I’ll Never Be The Same
If I Had You
Friendless
You’re Driving Me Crazy
Always On My Mind

Side Two

Look For Me, I’ll Be Around
What’ll I Do
Solitude
These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
The Man I Love
So Long, My Love

AMG  Review

The Lonely Hours, Sarah Vaughan’s contribution to the genre of saloon song LPs, doesn’t have a stellar selection of material — although of course nearly anything recorded by one of America’s foremost jazz interpreters is worth hearing.

Add to that the special treat of Benny Carter — the seminal altoist who’d been contributing charts to the hottest big bands since 1928 — occupying the arranger’s chair, and The Lonely Hours becomes a very intriguing proposition. Carter’s refined arrangements and ensemble playing don’t exactly reinforce the isolation of the title, but Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.

For “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and “What’ll I Do,” she cleverly mirrors the comic frustration embodied in Carter’s flügelhorn/tuba ensemble.

The Lonely Hours is a solid match of vocalist and arranger in most respects, with only the quality of the material weighing it down slightly.

Barbra Streisand – Je M’Appelle Barbra – ’60s 360 Vs. ’70s Red

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For Barbra Streisand’s early albums the original pressings on the 360 label have just got to be better, right? 

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth. The best of the 360 pressings in our shootout did well, just not as well.

Our good later label pressings had all the richness and Tubey Magic of the 360s — one really couldn’t tell which pressing was on the turntable by the sound — but had a bit more space, clarity and freedom from artificiality.

Watch your levels because she really gets loud on some of this material. The best copies, such as this side one, hold up. The lesser copies get congested, shrill and crude at their loudest, and of course get marked down dramatically when that happens.

Side two as very rich and smooth, yet clear and breathy – this is the right sound for ol’ Babs. The first track has tons of Tubey Magical reverb – check it out! (more…)

Barbra Streisand – The Third Album

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  • Streisand’s 1964 release eturns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • These 360 Label stereo originals are the only way to hear the Tubey Magic and space that is all over the original master tape
  • Frank Laico engineered at Columbia’s legendary 30th street studios – you can easily imagine how good the sound is
  • Ms Streisand sings a wonderful batch of standards on this one: My Melancholy Baby, Just In Time, It Had To Be You, As Time Goes By and 6 more

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as befits anything recorded by the legendary Frank Laico at Columbia’s 30th street studios. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Slightly Classical

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  • ‘Sarah Slightly Classical’ debuts with KILLER sound – this copy took top honors with Triple Plus (A+++) sonics on both sides
  • No other copy could touch this early Roulette pressing for size, space, clarity, dynamics and, most especially, vocal richness
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “Vaughan cuts loose on numbers such as “Be My Love,” “Intermezzo,” “Full Moon and Empty Arms” and “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life.”

(more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Finally, Hot Stampers are here for this notoriously difficult to reproduce recording. This side one was KILLER, earning a grade of A++ to A+++! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copy. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians with this one. Some of the tracks on this side one are DEMO DISC quality.  

Side One

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall so clear and open that you will have a hard time believing that it’s the same recording as whatever copies you may have heard in the past. It KILLED most of the copies we played against it.

It’s just much more FUN and LIVELY this way! (We had one copy that earned the full three pluses but the difference between them was minimal.) (more…)

Julie London – Lonely Girl

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

A Knockout recording of female vocal with guitar: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, seriously good Double Plus (A++) on the second. Julie is in the room with you – intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. For late night listening this is surely one of the best Sultry Female Vocal recordings ever made – you won’t believe how real the sound is.

After hearing this amazing copy in our shootout we felt that it might be a bit too noisy to list, but another scrub cleaned it up nicely and now it’s about typical for an exceptionally clean copy of the album. No marks play — the noise one hears is mostly just the vinyl of the day.

I bought this very record in 1998. It took me close to twenty years to be able to clean it and play it right! (more…)

Billie Holiday – Stormy Blues

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  • Outstanding throughout with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other three sides
  • All four sides here have intimate, relaxed, breathy vocals – the only way to hear Lady Day in her prime sounding the way she should
  • This double LP set captures Billie from 1954-1955 and features Benny Carter, Jimmy Rowles, Tony Scott, Harry Edison, Chico Hamilton and other jazz greats
  • “The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Rhythm Is My Business

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  • This outstanding copy of Ella’s superb follow-up to Clap Hands boasts insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • What took us by surprise was the richness and sweetness of this early Stereo Verve – so many of Ella’s early albums don’t have the smooth, natural vocals heard on this pressing
  • We absolutely love the swinging R&B organ Bill Doggett brought to these big band sessions, all backing an exceptionally well recorded First Lady of Song
  • “Ella Fitzgerald is in the spotlight throughout, mostly singing swing-era songs along with a couple of newer pieces… [her] voice was in its prime, and the charts are excellent.”

This copy is about as quiet as any domestic original Verve stereo pressing can be found. The monos of this title — which naturally are five times more common — have that hard, honky sound that so many mono cuttings made from Ella’s stereo recordings are cursed with.

Clap Hands is a notable exception to that rule, and of course any of her albums recorded in mono sound best in mono, when cut right and pressed right.

1962 was a great year for Ella. She released this album early in the year and followed it up with the Grammy winning Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson. Later in the same year Verve released Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, and it’s interesting to note that all three of these classic albums were recorded late in 1961. The woman could do no wrong! We would have to wait for her first release of 1963, Ella Sings Broadway, before she put out a clunker. But who’s fault is that? The music is fine, it’s the recording that’s bad (as far as we can tell; we have yet to hear one sound good). (more…)