Genre – Vocals – Male

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind

More Willie Nelson

  • This wonderful early Columbia pressing boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Just drop the needle on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to hear Willie and his bandmates doing what they do best
  • Fans of Stardust are going to love this one – it’s another solid album full of Willie’s heartfelt renditions of modern classics
  • Winner of the Album of the Year at the 1982 Country Music Association Awards
  • “…Throughout the late ’70s, Nelson’s freewheeling, organically eclectic music was not just the biggest thing in country, it was also some of its best, most adventurous music… At the time, it was a huge, huge hit — his biggest ever, actually, spending 22 weeks at the top of the country charts…”

This is one of Willie’s best-known and best-loved albums, and when you get the right copy the sound can truly be excellent. This copy is guaranteed to be a big step up from any other copy you’ve heard. With these grades, at these kinds of prices, it had better be!

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Willie belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band of industry session masters. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to hear these guys doing what they do best.

Much like Stardust, a top quality pressing of this record is a real treat for the audiophile, no matter where they may be on the audio scale. The transparency and clarity on the best copies will be nothing less than astonishing. Even if your system isn’t at its best, a great copy of this record will still be musical and involving. On the other hand, if you’ve spent the time and energy to really get your stereo cooking, you’re going to be in for some amazingly soulful country-tinged midrange magic!

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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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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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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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Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

  • You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on both sides of this early mono pressing – if only a record of this quality could be found on quieter vinyl!
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Santana’s first album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals, this 1956 release is an absolute Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Click and pop counters might want to give this one a miss. It’s not as quiet as a modern pressing would be, but it’s as quiet as this title can be found on vintage ’50s Verve vinyl. If you have a top quality, heavily tweaked front end and a quiet cartridge, you might be good to go, but if you are picky about your surfaces, we recommend you give this one a miss.

Those of you looking for a cheaper, quieter alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on one of our Hot Stampers should look into the original Speakers Corner pressing or the CD, both of which we’ve played and both of which are quite good. (more…)

The Hi-Lo’s – A Demo Disc for Tubey Magic

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

  • Superb sound throughout this early 6-Eye Stereo pressing, with both sides earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • On the right system, the better copies of this All Tube Chain Demo Disc from 1958 will demonstrate the superiority of both the analog medium and the vintage pressing (not to mention the concept of Hot Stampers)
  • With a copy this good, The Hi-Lo’s will appear as living, breathing (albeit disembodied) persons right in your very own listening room – we call that “the breath of life,” and there is plenty to be found on this record
  • “The Hi-Los weren’t really a jazz unit, but more of a pop band that knew how to incorporate jazz’s harmonic sensibilities. This was among their better albums, complete with catchy title.”
  • More records with exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound
  • More reviews of our most Tubey Magical Demo Discs

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