Genre – Vocals – Female

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

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  • This killer 2-Pack offers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too for a stereo pressing of this vintage
  • Exceptionally lovely All Tube sound from 1961, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by the legendary Nelson Riddle
  • Ella’s way with this material won her the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, her 7th Grammy
  • “The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on ‘Don’t Be That Way,’ ‘What Am I Here For,’ ‘I’m Gonna Go Fishin,’ ‘ and ‘I Won’t Dance.'”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. This is about as quiet as we can find them – this is one of the lucky few that play this well.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy and Bess

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  • STUNNING sound throughout this Ella & Louis classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on three sides matched with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on the fourth
  • Spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with Ella and Louis front and center, this is the sound you want for their brilliant collaboration from 1958
  • Two vocal giants came together to perform Gershwin’s timeless opera, revered by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What’s really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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  • A superb pressing of Ella’s wonderful 1967 release with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing everything right– it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than nearly almost everything else we played
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “Whoever decided to put pianist Marty Paich and Ella Fitzgerald together in the studio in 1966 deserves a bit of credit for the great music on Whisper Not. Together, Fitzgerald and Paich deliver a dozen beautifully sung, carefully arranged standards.”

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Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Volume 2

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • The superb follow-up to Julie’s stunning debut finally arrives on the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • No marks are audible, and the vinyl is about as quiet as any Black Label Liberty stereo pressing we’ve ever played, which makes this a very special copy indeed
  • On a copy this good, London will appear as a living, breathing (albeit disembodied) person right in your very own listening room. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • Every three to five years or so we run into a copy that plays this quietly and sounds this good – the last one was in 2018, so if you have a few years to wait, you can be sure there will be another coming down the pike
  • 4 stars: ” London’s breathy vocals aren’t that different [from her debut], but she seems more confident and she swings more, even on the ballads. . . This album was also better recorded than London’s debut and the release has a fuller, richer sound to it.”

The reliably brilliant Ted Keep was the engineer for these sessions from 1958. The stereo tape came out in 1958, along with the mono LP, but those of you who wanted a stereo record had to wait until 1959! (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – Look To The Rainbow

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • This kind of spacious, warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever – you have to go back to 1966 to find it
  • Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced, Gil Evans did most of the arrangements, Rudy Van Gelder and Val Valentin engineered – what’s not to like?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This was a beautiful bossa nova record of Astrud Gilberto’s vocal stylings…”

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Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie – Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan

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  • A KILLER copy of this superb collaboration with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one
  • On a copy this good, Vaughan will appear as a living, breathing person right in your very own listening room – we call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • Here is what’s best about vintage analog – sound that is exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, relaxed, full-bodied and natural
  • 4 stars: ” Basie’s Orchestra and pianist Kirk Stuart are purely in a supporting role behind the magnificent voice of Sarah Vaughan… her wide range and impeccable musicianship carry the day.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Like Someone In Love

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this MONO original pressing from 1957 (the only way to fly) will be hard to beat
  • Ella’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than it is on most of the other copies we played
  • An album that is beyond difficult to find with decent surfaces and undamaged inner grooves – most copies we get in are just trashed
  • “Most of the songs are veteran standards, Stan Getz’s warm tenor helps out on four tunes, and her voice was so strong and appealing during this era that all of her recordings from the mid- to late ’50s are enjoyable and easily recommended.”

*A mark makes 9 medium then 7 medium-light pops at the end of track 1, There’s A Lull In My Life
**A mark makes 20 very light pops near the end of track 5, What’s New

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some ticky vinyl. This is about as quiet as we can find them. Like Someone in Love is five times rarer than Clap Hands, and twice as likely to be noisy.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The space is huge and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra — especially on side two — is not brash for once.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • This Mono pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound good, play quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early pressing will put Ella in the room with you – more than anything else, it lets her performance come to life
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.”

Folks, if you’re in the market for one of the most magical female vocal recordings ever made, today is your lucky day.

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Our last shootout was early 2019. Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)

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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Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound brings Aretha’s underrated Soul Album from ’69 to life on this early Atlantic pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful record, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Tough to find this quiet – Aretha made a lot of amazingly good records in the ’60s and they got played good and hard
  • “One of her most overlooked ’60s albums, on which she presented some of her jazziest material. Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate, as is the musicianship; players include the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and respected jazzmen Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, et al.”

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