Genre – Vocals – Female

Julie London / Calendar Girl in Glorious 1956 Mono

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This Julie London 1956 Classic makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too. Both of these mono sides have plenty of Tubey Magic – they’re fuller, more musical and more natural than most any other copy we played. Julie’s voice sounds particularly nice on this copy – intimate, rich and warm, just as the way we like her to sound.

This is a wonderful sounding record, and almost impossible to find with surfaces this quiet.

However, the original label pressing from 1956 does have better sound, at least it does on the noisy reference copy we used in our shootout. It’s the only early pressing I have ever seen in playable condition, and it’s far too noisy to be enjoyed with audiophile equipment. Julie Is Her Name survived the bad turntables and their owners from the era because they made so many of them. This album did not sell in those kinds of numbers, and the result is that the early pressings are rare and virtually impossible to find in audiophile playing condition. (more…)

Casino Royale Can Be Amazing on the Right Copy, If You’ve Got the System For It…

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

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This is a record that has its share of problems, but if you’ve got the system for it (huge, heavily tweaked, fast, free from obvious colorations and capable of tremendous resolution), the best pressings are sure to impress.

Having heard the best sounding pressings I now understand why this has been such a highly regarded long-term resident of the TAS Superdisc List. The best copies are SUPERDISCS… while the average copy of this album is anything but. Who could take such harsh, grainy, thin, veiled, compressed sound seriously? What was Harry Pearson smokin’?

I can honestly and truthfully say that until we discovered the Hot Stampers for this album, I never thought this record deserved the praise Harry heaped upon it. Now I do. I once was blind but now I see, or something like that.

And by the way, does his copy sound as good as this one? Let’s face it: the late Harry Pearson was simply not the kind of guy who would sit down with five or ten copies and shoot them out.

When you listen to the average pressing of Casino Royale, you get the feeling that you’re hearing a standard-issue, boxy, lightweight, blary ’60s soundtrack. Perhaps you hear some promise in the recording, but it’s a promise that’s unfulfilled by the record on your turntable. This copy will completely redefine what you know about the sound of this music.

The space is big and the sound relatively rich (although the sound does vary quite a bit from track to track). The vocals have notably less hardness than most and the orchestra is not as brash as it can be on so many of the copies we audition. Huge amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies, and critical to The Look of Love.

The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

What Recordings Are Audiophile Writers Writing About Now I Wonder?

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In the early seventies, when I was first becoming seriously interested in audiophile-quality equipment, this was a well-known Demo Disc at some high-end audio salons.

Five years later I would have speakers larger and more expensive in real dollars than the speakers I now own. At a tender age I acquired Stereophile’s cost no object, state-of-the-art speaker system from the mid-’70s, the Fulton J. I was the youngest person ever to own a pair of the behemoths, a record that has never and will never be broken I suspect.

The other monster speaker from that time was the Infinity Servo-Static 1A, which I auditioned before buying the Fultons. During the audition the electrostatic drivers kept blowing if the level got up too high, so that was the end of that. Who wants a speaker that can’t play at realistic sound levels?

Of course, many of you may never have heard of Carmen McRae’s The Great American Songbook album, because the heyday for this record was probably 30-40 years ago, back when the audiophile magazines were actually writing about exceptionally natural, realistic recordings such as this one.

I don’t know what they write about now; I stopped reading them years ago. But I doubt very much that they are still writing about recordings of this quality.

What’s striking about this album is how immediate and unprocessed everything sounds. It really gives you the feeling of being at a live show in a club. It helps that the performance was captured directly onto analog tape with minimal miking. Michael Cuscuna was the remix supervisor, by the way.

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Linda Ronstadt – Lush Life

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  • An outstanding copy of Ronstadt’s 1984 release with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides were doing everything right — clean, clear, full-bodied and dynamic with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “What’s New illustrated that Linda Ronstadt was no longer interested in contemporary pop, and since it was a surprise success, there was no reason not to repeat the formula on Lush Life. Working again with Nelson Riddle, Ronstadt runs through several pop standards — ‘When I Fall in Love,’ ‘Sophisticated Lady,’ ‘Falling in Love Again,’ ‘It Never Entered My Mind’…”

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Julie London / Julie Is Her Name – Listen for Barney Kessel’s Guitar Tone

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On the first track of side one, focus on how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel’s guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on the best pressings.

Now compare the sound of that guitar — just the guitar, nothing else — you hear on a good original pressing to the sound of the same guitar on the awful Boxcar Heavy Remaster.

We think there is a very good chance you will be quite shocked.

Unsurprisingly, everything else is worse on the Boxcar record as well. It has no reason to exist. The CD is likely better.

So Natural

The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played. Julie’s rendition of Cry Me a River may be definitive.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level. (more…)

Julie London – Julie (in Mono)

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  • This outstanding vintage Liberty MONO pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • In-the-room presence, preternaturally breathy vocals, and boatloads of wonderful Tubey Magic
  • This amazing sleeper of a record belongs right up at the top of Ms. London’s oeuvre (25 albums strong) along with Julie Is Her Name – high praise indeed
  • 4 stars: “Usually put into a torch song setting, this release allows London to shed that garment and become jazzy. Instead of being sultry, she becomes dazzling and sparkling. She also becomes more adept at phrasing and timing and takes a risk or two in the tradition of a jazz singer.”

The great Jimmy Rowles plays piano, handled the arrangements and fronts the big group here, taking the music in a wonderfully jazzy direction that suits Julie’s vocal style perfectly.

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 Julie London singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now more than 63 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

Julie London in 1960 – Make Love To Me

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  • One of the best copies from our most recent shootout with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Julie is in the room with you – her voice is intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard 
  • Unusually clean surfaces, playing Mint Minus Minus (w/ caveats, see below), a step up from most of the copies we’ve been running into lately
  • “Her subtle sensuality and lightly swinging style made for a potent combination.” – All Music

Thanks to superb engineering and vintage All Tube mastering, this 1957 LP is wonderfully rich and sweet, with a breathy, intimate Julie London performing live in your listening room.

This original Liberty Turquoise Mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Carly Simon / Torch – Surprisingly Rich, Natural Analog Sound for the Eighties

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich, natural and analog considering the recording date – very little sound of the sound of the day — the kind that ruined most of what was made in the ’80s — is on display here, and thank god for that
  • “Carly Simon’s Torch is a gorgeous throwback to the Fifties and early Sixties… By blending old and new material, and by incorporating a hint of jazz-fusion music into a studio-orchestra sound, Simon and her producer, Mike Mainieri, begin to suggest a continuity between Fifties torch and Eighties pop.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Loves Cole

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  • Ella’s superb 1972 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • This copy is balanced and natural, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that no one seems to know how to record anymore
  • Fitzgerald’s second artful collection of Cole Porter masterpieces, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time favorite albums on Verve and Pablo

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Sarah Vaughan – Sings George Gershwin, Volume One

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  • No other copy could touch this original Black Label Stereo Mercury pressing for warmth, richness, and, most especially, in-the-room presence and intimacy
  • If all you know are Heavy Vinyl reissues of The Divine One’s album, our Shootout Winner here should be a sonic treat the likes of which you may never have experienced before
  • An original Mercury pressing that has no audible marks and plays as quietly as this one does is a rare find indeed – it seems to be the quietest copy from our shootout, and even better, no other copy earned higher grades
  • 4 stars: “Since these 15 selections are fairly concise, the emphasis is on the melody and the original lyrics… Vaughan, who had a wondrous voice, is in excellent form on the superior material.

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