Labels We Love – Decca/London

Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

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

One of the greatest records in the London catalog. As you may have read elsewhere on the site, the Londons to me have the best overall sound of any Golden Age label. As good as RCA and Mercury were, the Londons are more consistently sweet, tonally correct, dynamic and natural sounding. This is a perfect example.  

Amazing DEMO QUALITY SOUND. This is the best sounding copy of this record I have ever heard! Side two is astonishingly good: there’s nothing like it.

Our Favorite Tchaikovsky 1812 – The Alwyn Performance on Decca

More Peter llyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

1812 / Marche Slave / Alwyn

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

A BEYOND White Hot Quadruple Plus side one – hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 in Demo Disc sound. This is the most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of, with the best sound ever to boot on this copy. This is an exceptional Decca remastering of a superb Golden Age recording on very good vinyl.

The WHOMP FACTOR on this side one has to be heard to be believed. If you’ve got the woofers for it this record is going to rock your world!

Strings Are Key

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can make that sound clear to you. (more…)

Debussy / La Mer / Ansermet

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More La Mer / Ansermet 

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

We were impressed with the fact that this vintage London pressing excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, allowing the listener to inhabit the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. Depth and transparency are key to losing yourself in the music, and this pressing offers plenty of both.

White Hot Stamper “can’t be beat” sound on side one for La Mer. Side two is also White Hot for this 1965 Victoria Hall recording. Front row center seating for both sides in the best Decca tradition. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande bring out the beauty in this enchanting, enigmatic work. (more…)

Delibes / Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet – London Vs. Decca, Again

More of the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891) 

More Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet 

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

Once again, the right Decca reissue blows the doors off the original we played. This has lately become a pattern, but keep in mind it’s a pattern that’s reliable less than half the time, if memory is any guide. Many of the Decca reissues we’ve played over the last few years have failed badly in a head to head with their earlier-mastered and -pressed counterparts. But the ones that beat all comers are the ones that stick in our minds and show up on our site. Clearly a case of confirmation bias, but at least we know something about our own biases. 

Record collectors and record collecting audiophiles will tell you it shouldn’t happen, but fools like us, who refuse to accept the prognostications of those supposedly “in the know,” have done the work and come up with the experimental data that’s proven them wrong again and again.

Sort of. We had one, and only one, pressing of the original London (CS 6185), and boy was it a mess — crude as crude can be. It sounded just like an “old record” — we’ve played them by the thousands, so we know that sound fairly well at this stage of the game — not the Decca engineered and mastered vintage collectible we know it to be. (more…)

Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

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More Swings In High Stereo

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

This Super Hot Stamper has DEMO QUALITY SOUND. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of My Funny Valentine on side one, or Big Ben, the second track on side two, for audiophile Big Band sound. Many consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best big band ever recorded. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree.”

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the LP era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this music. He really does swing in high stereo.  (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Albeniz – Where on The List Is This Record?

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909) 

More TAS List Thoughts on Albeniz 

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Another nail in the coffin for HP’s TAS List. The fact that questionable entries such as Reiner’s Pines of Rome make the cut, and an amazing recording such as this doesn’t, should tell you everything you need to know concerning the value of such an incomplete list.

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records simply do not get any more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet.

Our Hot Stamper Classical 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.


Further Reading

Check out our new section: The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

We have a section for all the Classical Records we have reviewed on the site to date.

We also have a section for all the Heavy Vinyl Classical Records we have reviewed on the site.

We have a number of Commentaries specifically addressing issues we’ve encountered when playing classical recordings.

Sibelius, Liszt, Dukas et al. / Bernard Herrmann Conducts – London Phase 4 Debunked

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More London Phase 4 Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

While preparing for a Finlandia shootout recently we happened to drop the needle on this album, a 1977 Phase 4 recording made in Kingsway Hall and engineered by Arthur Lilley. We could hardly believe how bad it sounded. The multi-miking is the worst I have ever heard! We like lots of Phase 4 recordings — especially those of Bernard Herrmann — but this is definitely not one of them. 

Are they all bad? Who can say? We sure aren’t going to be wasting any more time and money on the album in order to find out, I can tell you that.

The Obsession soundtrack is a dog as well; audiophiles looking for good sound are best advised to avoid them both. 

 

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Jane Eyre And Other Film Scores

More Bernard Herrmann

More Conducts Jane Eyre And Other Film Scores

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

This BEYOND White Hot Stamper Side Two completely blew our minds with Bernard Herrmann orchestral MAGIC. Side two is just OUT OF THIS WORLD. Since side two is where the Three Worlds of Gulliver suite is found — the very same superbly recorded music that is on Harry’s Super Disc List — you can be sure that is this is some of the best sounding Bernard Herrmann music you will ever have the opportunity to hear, if not THE best. The sound is DEMONSTRATION QUALITY of the HIGHEST ORDER. 

When it comes to this side two what we have here is a record that sounds so good, with the needle hits the groove you will feel like you’ve just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect is that you’re so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience you forget you’re listening to a record. You’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that. (more…)

The Moody Blues – A Question of Balance

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  • Side one earned a Double Plus (A++) grade and side two was even better, nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++)!
  • This copy has some of the tubiest, richest, yet clearest Moody Blues sound we’ve heard
  • Huge and spacious with strong midrange presence – this is the way the band should sound, alive and kickin’!
  • Includes the big hit Question, one of the all time greats by the band, which sounds fantastic here of course

Note that the sound on side one seems to get better as it goes, a phenomenon we have noticed often in the past.

What to Listen for

Achieving just the right balance of “Moody Blues Sound” and transparency is no mean feat. You have to be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need top end extension, a very rare quality on these imports, and finally, good bass definition to keep the bottom end from blurring and bleeding into the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the British imports (no Dutch, German or Japanese need apply) manages to get all three on the same LP. (more…)