Labels We Love – Impulse

Gabor Szabo – Wind Sky and Diamonds – A Weak Effort

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Music Grade: F

Not recommended, a weak effort by Impulse in 1967, with silly background vocals no less. Neither the music nor the sound, at least on the copies we played, will likely be worth your time.

This has been a public service review from the record loving audiophiles here at Better Records.

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing Special on Heavy Vinyl

 

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Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. In our opinion neither one is worth pursuing.

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — too giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning.

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They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

Gabor Szabo – The Best of Gabor Szabo – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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This Minty looking Impulse LP has GREAT SOUND on both sides. We put this one through our extensive cleaning process and gave it a listen. Side one is clean and clear with lots of tubey magic and it’s not as drenched in echo as most of the originals. Side two is very lively with lots of presence and wonderfully silky highs. The originals from which these tracks are taken are practically impossible to find in anything resembling audiophile playing condition.

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy for the instruments or vocals in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings have much more energy. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did a very good version of this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, which we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – More Sorcery – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This is a Minty looking Original Impulse Stereo LP with EXCELLENT sound and quiet vinyl.

This is a live recording that’s got that small jazz club feel. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds runs almost ten minutes and gives everybody involved a chance to stretch out. People is also exceptionally good here.

It’s hard to find a recording Szabo did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. This album is right up there with the best of his recordings, courtesy of the two top engineers noted below. (more…)

Oliver Nelson – More Blues and the Abstract Truth

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  • Nelson’s 1965 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to hear it
  • 4 stars: “… there are some strong moments from such all-stars as trumpeter Thad Jones, altoist Phil Woods, baritonist Pepper Adams, pianist Roger Kellaway and guest tenor Ben Webster (who is on two songs). The emphasis is on blues-based pieces and there are some strong moments even if the date falls short of its predecessor.” 

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Sonny Stitt & Paul Gonsalves – Salt and Pepper

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish on this excellent pressing
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • Van Gelder was masterful at the kind of spacious, dynamic, energetic sound found on this vintage pressing
  • “[Stitt’s] beautiful playing behind Gonsalves’ warm melody statement raises the session to the classic level.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An exciting match-up of tenors Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves… Highly recommended to bebop and straight-ahead jazz fans.”

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John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme – Better Sound than the Originals?

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

The original Impulse pressings on the brown and orange label are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that plays into one of the biggest canards in all of record collecting, that the first pressings are always the best sounding.

For this album, having sampled a large group of pressings from every era, we found the originals to be inferior to the best reissues we played. Naturally the ones we offer here as Hot Stampers will be the best of those reissue pressings. We are not the least bit worried that this vintage Impulse LP won’t beat the pants off of any original as well as any reissue you may have heard. And of course it is guaranteed to be dramatically better sounding than any Heavy Vinyl pressing produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time. (more…)

Benny Carter – Further Definitions

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this original Impulse stereo pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are clean, clear, spacious and natural, yet overflowing with the rich, Tubey Magical sound of vintage ANALOG
  • There’s not a chance in the world the current 180 gram reissue can hold a candle to this early stereo pressing 
  • 5 stars: “The all-star group (which also includes Hawkins, altoist Phil Woods, Charlie Rouse on second tenor, pianist Dick Katz, guitarist John Collins, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Jo Jones) performs a particularly inspired repertoire. Carter’s charts, which allow Hawkins to stretch out on “Body and Soul,” give everyone a chance to shine. …Very highly recommended.”

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Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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  • Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Clean, clear and present with a solid bass foundation, as well as the big stage this big group of musicians needs
  • If all you know is Van Gelder’s original cutting, you will surely have your eyes and ears opened by this wonderful Hot Stamper
  • Allmusic calls this album “…his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era… but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever.” 5 Stars (of course)

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true. (more…)