Heavy Vinyl Winners

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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Sonic Grade: B

Our catalog from the ’90s recommended this Heavy Vinyl Decca pressing from Speakers Corner.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Excellent, one of the best of the Deccas. Better sound by far than the Classic with Reiner, although of course the original of that record is quite good [actually it is not].

You may get better results if you reverse your absolute phase when playing this record. It’s been a while since I did it so better to check it yourself and see how you like it each way. (more…)

Louis Armstrong / I’ve Got The World on a String – Classic Records Vinyl

More Louis Armstrong

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Sonic Grade: B (probably)

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skill at interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia‘s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).

Now all that remains is for us to track down enough clean copies with which to do the shootout. At the rate were going it may be a year or two, but having heard how good the music and sound can be on the best copies, we are on it! (more…)

Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends on Speakers Corner

More Joe Cocker

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Rock and Pop releases. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Speakers corner knocks one out of the park with this wonderful reissue! Those conga drums and the back-up singers sound so much better than I remember them! If you’re going to own one Joe Cocker album make it this one. It’s a man-size serving of English Soul.”

Elvis Presley / From Elvis in Memphis – Good Sounding on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl?

More Elvis Presley

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Sonic Grade: B

Speakers Corner did the album in 2003 and if memory serves I liked it and recommended it at the time. I rather doubt I could stand it now. I have much less tolerance now for the vague imaging, lack of ambience and overall lifeless quality their records invariably suffer from than I did back then. (more…)

Shostakovich / Symphony No. 5 / Bernstein – Cisco Reviewed and Recommended

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein

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Sonic Grade: B

Years ago we wrote the following:

This Cisco 180 gram LP has EXCELLENT SOUND. Without a doubt this pressing is a HUGE improvement over the majority of shrill originals. Robert Pincus, Mr. Record himself, loaned me his best original Columbia pressing for the shootout. Not surprisingly it sounded every bit as hard, shrill and aggressive as others I have heard. Sounds lovely in the quiet passages, but you better cover your ears in the tuttis.

That’s why you see so few Columbia classical LPs on our site; the sound is usually terrible, and almost always in the same way: boosted upper midrange/ lower highs.

These records no doubt sounded great on the consoles of the day, with speakers aimed at your knees, but on modern hi-fi rigs they are positively deadly.

The aforementioned Mr. Record was also kind enough to provide us with an acetate of the very same recording, one which was cut a bit too loud and couldn’t be used. It sounded very much like our test pressing — warm, rich, and natural, with not a hint of phony sound from top to bottom. It was, however, a bit more textured, spacious and resolving of detail, exactly what you would expect. That said, the finished record has more than enough of all the best qualities we look for in a classical LP, especially that rare quality of Right On The Money Tonality. The string tone is superb. Not many modern remasterings can make that claim. Very few in fact.

This wonderful music belongs in any serious collection. Now that the sound matches the performance, it can be yours, on quiet vinyl no less.

This one gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records as one of the few heavy vinyl pressings that can actually beat some if not most of the originals.

We can’t be sure we would still agree with any of this but I’m guessing the Cisco pressing is still a good sounding record at the price. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley Quintet In Chicago – Not Bad on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

More Cannonball Adderley 

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner jazz album.

Years ago we wrote the following:

This one has excellent sound (in that left-right jazz of the fifties kind of way).

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way (about the excellent sound; the hard left right is not up for debate). My guess is that this is still probably a good record if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience. (more…)

Back In Bean’s Bag on Classic Records LP Sounds Pretty Good

More Coleman Hawkins

More Clark Terry

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Sonic Grade: B

We’re not the least bit embarrassed to admit we used to like their version very much, and happily recommended it in our catalog back in the day.

Like many Classic Records, the master tapes are so good that even with their mediocre mastering — and pressing: RTI’s vinyl accounts for at least some of the lost sound quality, so airless and tired — the record still sounds great, at least until you get hold of the real thing and hear what you are missing.

What do you get with Hot Stampers compared to the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue? Dramatically more warmth, sweetness, delicacy, transparency, space, energy, size, naturalness (no boost on the top end or the bottom, a common failing of anything by Classic); in other words, the kind of difference you almost ALWAYS get comparing the best vintage pressings with their modern remastered counterparts, in our experience anyway.

The Classic is a nice record, a Hot Stamper is a MAGICAL one.


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop  (more…)

John Coltrane / Coltrane’s Sound – A Very Good Reissue by Bernie Grundman

More John Coltrane


Sonic Grade: B+ (at least)

This is one of the better sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played recently. What makes it different from so many others that fail to live up to the remastering hype that surrounds them (and irritates the hell out of those of use who know what a good record is actually supposed to sound like)?

  • It’s tonally correct from top to bottom. At most five or ten per cent of the audiophile repressings we’ve played in the last ten years can make that claim.
  • The bass is not boosted or poorly defined. This eliminates at a minimum 95+% of all the Mobile Fidelity pressings we have ever played. Nobody seems to notice how bad the bass is on their records. A real puzzler, that fact.
  • It’s not exceptionally veiled or recessed. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Heavy Vinyl pressings that are not much too veiled and recessed to compete with their vintage vinyl brethren.

It is slightly veiled, and lacks some of the life, the space and obviously some of the presence of the real thing, the real thing in this case being an early stereo pressing on the Blue and Green Atlantic label.

Still, for your money you are getting one helluva good record. One of the top two or three Rhino records to date.

(Bernie did a great job on this Coltrane album, but whatever you do, don’t waste your money on his recut of Lush Life. It is just plain awful, a Hall of Shame pressing that’s so bad it defies understanding. Something sure went wrong somewhere, I can tell you that. Stay tuned for my review.)

• Lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman
• LPs cut from the original analog masters
• Packages replicated to the finest detail manufactured with more care than ever

OUR PREVIOUS COMMENTARY

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice on Which Pressings to Buy

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables.

(more…)

Glazunov / Violin Concerto – Heifetz / Hendl – A Classic Records Winner

Hot Stamper Pressings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

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Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

This is a 180g Classic LP with very good sound, the best of the violin concertos Classic has released to date and one of the best Classic classical titles ever.

This is one of the early 180 pressings which tend to be quieter than the later 200 gram pressings.

Original pressings of this late Heifetz/Hendl/CSO performance tend to be edgy, which has been remedied on this reissue through cutting directly from the three-track masters by Bernie Grundman. Grundman has also tuned the balance between Heifetz and the Orchestra to better integrate the phenomenal bowing and intonation that Heifetz is famous for with the power of the Chicago Symphony. Another 10++ performance and recording – not to be missed! – Liner Notes


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Nutcracker Available Now

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

More Classical Music

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Sonic Grade: B?

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Superb! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is a long one indeed.

Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

In order to help you avoid the worst of the worst, we put a great many of them in a section of their own, which we call:

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stampers.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.