Labels We Love – Decca (domestic)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Best of Ella Fitzgerald – Reviewed in 2005

 

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

Two Minty looking Deccalite Pink Label Promo LPs.

This is the best of Ella’s Decca material recorded between 1938 – 1955, the songs that made her a star.

For those of you who don’t know what Deccalite is, Deccalite is a material that Decca invented as an alternative to vinyl. It’s quieter than vinyl as a rule — and these pressings are extremely quiet — but it is not unbreakable. If you wack this record against a chair, it will shatter into pieces like an old 78. But most audiophiles takes good care of their records, so the risk of breaking an album like this is extremely small.

John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – these early UK stereo LPs are the only way to fly
  • “Eric Clapton is usually thought of as John Mayall’s most important right-hand man, but the case could also be made for his successor, Peter Green. The future Fleetwood Mac founder leaves a strong stamp on his only album with the Bluesbreakers, singing a few tracks and writing a couple, including the devastating instrumental “Supernatural.” – All Music

This vintage Decca import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Liszt / Sonata in B Minor & Other Pieces / Curzon – Reviewed in 2011

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Sonata in B Minor & Other Pieces / Curzon

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Super Hot Stamper solo piano record is 1963 Decca recording technology at its finest (or would be if we had ten copies to shoot out and could find the White Hot Stamper pressing hidden among them). As it is, we are happy to have found this one, Super Hot on both sides, an amazingly realistic representation of a piano. You will have a hard time finding better. 

And the music, especially on side two, is compelling and wonderful. This is classical music that will engage you at the deepest and most serious level. Widely considered Liszt’s masterpiece, in Curzon’s forceful hands it is not hard to understand why.

Side One

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound, with a clear piano surrounded in space. Present and dynamic, there is little to fault here, save a touch of smear and a slight lack of weight. (Real pianos in live recitals have weight that I have never heard reproduced by any stereo system, so “real weight” is a relative term, one that applies more to recordings than to the live instrument itself). (more…)

Debussy / Images Pour Orchestre / Argenta – Reviewed in 2013

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Side two (with Iberia) is simply amazing. It”s more natural than the famous Reiner performance. Argenta brings out the folky quality of this music.  (more…)

John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – these early UK stereo LPs are the only way to fly
  • “Eric Clapton is usually thought of as John Mayall’s most important right-hand man, but the case could also be made for his successor, Peter Green. The future Fleetwood Mac founder leaves a strong stamp on his only album with the Bluesbreakers, singing a few tracks and writing a couple, including the devastating instrumental “Supernatural.” – All Music

This vintage Decca import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album Badly? Our Audiophile LP Overview

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The following was written in the early 2000s.

Who’s Next has been remastered for audiophiles many, many times, more often than not quite badly in our opinion. To be fair we should point out that our opinion has changed quite a few times over the course of the last twenty years.

This then is our story.

MCA MASTERPHILE
Back in the days when I was foolishly in the thrall of half-speed mastered audiophile pressings, I thought that the MCA Masterphile was king. That was probably the mid to late ’80s.

BRITISH TRACK LABEL ORIGINALS
By the early ’90s I had discovered how good the Black Label Original British Track pressings could be and started preferring those. A bit murky but tubey-magical, full and rich, precisely the way a good British rock recording (Faces, Jethro Tull) should be.

JAPANESE AND GERMAN
Of course by then I had played numerous Japanese and German pressings, none of which sounded right to my ears, then or now.

MCA HEAVY VINYL
In 1995 the MCA Heavy Vinyl version came out, mastered by Kevin Gray. I quite liked it at the time but no longer do; it’s brightened up and much of the fine detail of the recording is missing. It’s also notoriously badly pressed, resulting in stitches in the vinyl that are quite audible on practically every copy.
(more…)

Who’s Next – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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WHO’S NEXT is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.  

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.

Maximum Volume

Now if you like to play records at 70 db, little of the following discussion will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing music at quiet levels surely has to be one of the dumbest. You Want to Turn The Volume DOWN? Are You Out of Your Mind?

Anybody who plays a record like Who’s Next at moderate levels should be taken out and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD. If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and DON’T make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Who’s Next and Aqualung for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them. If you’re not going to turn up the volume, don’t waste your money on a good Track pressing. Buy the Classic; at 70 db it will probably sound good enough for you. Spend the money you save on wine and cigars.