Labels We Love – Blue Note

Freddie Hubbard – Ready For Freddie – Reviewed in 2006

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a QUIET Blue Note ’70s pressing with wonderful music and pretty good sound. The trumpet here sounds excellent with lots of breath and just the right amount of bite. The track Crisis on side two should particularly appeal to audiophiles — just check out that well-recorded bass and all the cool little drum breaks.  

We hardly ever see clean copies of this album, so we don’t imagine we’ll ever have the resources to do a proper shootout. I don’t imagine that you’ll find a much better sounding copy of this album that plays this quietly.

The reproduction of the trumpet on practically every track is nothing less than superb. It jumps out of the speakers front and center and forces you to listen to it. (more…)

Lee Morgan – The Cooker

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Both sides are open, spacious and transparent, with a lovely and quite extended top end. Just listen to the trumpet solo on ’A Night In Tunisia’; you can really hear the leading edge transients. The baritone sax played by the estimable Pepper Adams also sounds particularly nice throughout the record.  

Side One – Record One

Big, open and rich, with tight bass and a huge baritone sax, we found this side Hard To Fault.

Side two of this copy badly lacked warmth, which is a deal killer for us. That “clean” Heavy Vinyl sound drives us up a wall. (more…)

McCoy Tyner – Expansions – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Expansions

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

Both sonically and musically, this is THE BEST McCoy Tyner album that we can recall ever playing! Expansions has long been a favorite around here — it’s got a great lineup (including Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter) and the most interesting set of songs that we’ve heard on a Tyner album.

Drop the needle on the last song, I Thought I’d Let You Know, for the best sound on the album. It’s rich and sweet with a BIG bottom end and a wonderful sounding cello. McCoy’s playing a lot like Bill Evans at his best on this song.

This is another album that’s frequently scooped right out of the bins by DJs and producers who like to sample the funky grooves. We almost never see this one and when we do they don’t usually sound like this, so if you like this kind of music you should jump on it! (more…)

Ornette Coleman – Love Call – Reviewed in 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

EXCELLENT A++ SOUND and QUIET VINYL for both sides of this great Ornette Coleman Blue Note album. Ornette’s music clearly isn’t for everyone, but you’ve got to hand it to the guy when it comes to getting good sound on his records. We’ve heard a number of Ornette records that had excellent sound, the trick is finding the ones that sound good and aren’t so crazy musically that there’s still appeal to the average audiophile. This one’s a bit out there for sure, but we enjoyed it — the excellent sound throughout helped the music make sense.  

Of course, good recordings don’t always get you good sounding records, and this 2-pack helps prove that point. Each of these copies had one great sounding side backed with a flip that was much more typical. Fortunately, we ended up with an A++ side one and an A++ side two, which allowed us to pair them up. If you want to see just what the Super Hot Stampers give you that the average copy lacks, it’s as easy as flipping either record over and playing the side that didn’t earn a Hot Stamper grade. And as always, if you want to leave the tedium of playing mediocre sounding vinyl to the guys who sit through stacks of it every day (that’s us, natch), don’t worry — there won’t be a quiz at the end!

The sound on the A++ sides is bigger and livelier with more presence, better clarity and more extension up top. You get tighter bass with more weight, and more air and texture to the brass. If you’ve got a taste for free jazz, I think you’ll be very impressed with the winning sides. (more…)

Horace Silver – Song For My Father

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Blue Note Jazz classic
  • The piano is clear and clean here, with much more weight and solidity than one would expect from an RVG recording
  • This copy was obviously cut with super-low distortion mastering equipment, and boy does it help the sound
  • 5 Stars: “Horace Silver’s signature LP and the peak of a discography already studded with classics. Silver was always a master at balancing jumping rhythms with complex harmonies for a unique blend of earthiness and sophistication, and Song for My Father has perhaps the most sophisticated air of all his albums…”

The leading edge transients on the horns here are excellent, with the pinched quality you hear on some tracks kept to a minimum. The whole of the ensemble is transparently clear. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – My Point of View

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

TWO KILLER SIDES, dramatically better sounding than the other copies we played it against. Both sides here are incredible — rich and warm with a huge bottom end and lots of space around the instruments. About as quiet as they come, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout.

We’ve been saving up copies of this album for years in hopes we could find a top copy to put on the site; we were pleasantly surprised to find one this good on an early label with decent vinyl.

This is a great album, with a killer lineup that includes Grant Green, Donald Byrd, Tony Williams, Hank Mobley and more. If you’re a fan of Herbie’s debut album Takin’ Off, you’ll find much to like here. The typical pressing leaves much to be desired though — many copies we’ve played sounded a bit hollow and flat. Hot Stamper copies give you richer, fuller sound and more energy, qualities that really help this music shine. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs and the like, and at one point I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected, each of the players balanced with all the others. 

It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

Tony Williams on the drums here deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is original and spontaneous in the best tradition of jazz improvisation. (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – Blowin’ The Blues Away

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder – he refined a “live-in-the-studio” jazz sound that still sounds fresh to this day, even after 60 years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Blowin’ the Blues Away is one of Horace Silver’s all-time Blue Note classics, only upping the ante established on Finger Poppin’ for tightly constructed, joyfully infectious hard bop… one of Silver’s finest albums, and it’s virtually impossible to dislike.”

The really good RVG pressings (often on the later labels) sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located on a wide and often deep soundstage, surrounded by the natural space and cool air of his New Jersey studio. As our stereo has improved, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has come to impress us more and more. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Hub-Tones – Reviewed in 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Blue Note reissue LP has SUPERB SOUND AND QUIET VINYL! Freddie’s trumpet sounds Right On The Money — breathy and full-bodied with clearly audible leading edge transients. The overall sound is tonally correct with extended highs and super low distortion. It’s open and spacious and wonderfully dynamic. I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this music to make it sound much better than this!

The reason this copy has such transparency and such an extended top end compared with other copies is due, to some degree, to better cutting equipment. I’ve never heard an original with this kind of resolution, these leading edge transients, this kind of bass definition, and on and on. Collectors pay big bucks for original copies that don’t sound nearly as good as this one. 

AMG Review

“Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard teams up on record with James Spaulding (who doubles on alto and flute) for the first time on this excellent set, with the assistance of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Clifford Jarvis. The quintet performs four of the trumpeter’s originals (including “Lament for Booker” and the title cut) plus an advanced version of the standard “You’re My Everything.” John Coltrane’s modal music was starting to influence Hubbard’s conception and his own playing was pushing the modern mainstream ahead without really entering the avant-garde.”

Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This SHOCKINGLY QUIET Blue Note NYC Label Stereo pressing is the one of the VERY BEST SOUNDING COPIES OF THE SIDEWINDER WE’VE EVER HEARD! When we dropped the needle on this one, we immediately stopped listening critically and just began enjoying the album. That’s the sign of an exceptional copy — the sound gets out of the way and the music becomes the point. (more…)