Labels We Love – Mercury

Rod Stewart / Every Picture Tells a Story – Big Drums in a Big Room

 

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What could be better?

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles and otherwise.

Nevermind

I Know I’m Losing You on this album rocks as hard as anything from the era. If you have BIG DYNAMIC SPEAKERS and the power to drive them to serious listening levels, you will be blown away by the power of this recording.

You know what this album is? It’s the Nirvana Nevermind of the early ’70s. It has that kind of power in the bass and drums.
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Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This lovely Mercury Golden Import LP not only has Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, which is where Gaite Parisienne can be found, but it also boasts one of the greatest performances of the piece ever recorded. 

Dorati is surely The Man when it comes to energy, drive and dynamic excitement with this venerable warhorse. He and his Minneapolis Symphony play the hell out of this boisterous music, and luckily for us audiophiles, the Mercury engineers give us Demonstration Quality Sound to go with it.

The original Mercury release of this record (90016) is a shrill piece of trash, as is the Mercury Wing pressing. So many of the early Mercurys were poorly mastered it seems. We audiophiles must wait for reissues (either by Mercury or in this case by Philips once they had bought Mercury) to show us how good the sound of a particular recording might actually be. (Of course what you really need is the right copy to know ultimately how good the recording can be, and to find it you might have to clean and play ten LPs, or more. That’s where we come in.) (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Dorati – Reviewed in 2006

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One of the most dynamic Scheherazade”s on record. The brass really blasts through in this recording. 

Of course the question is how does this recording stack up to the famous Reiner. Well, I’ll tell you.

The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra is not in the same league with the CSO, that’s well known. Dorati may be every bit as talented as Reiner, but he doesn’t have the players at his disposal capable of pulling off demanding material such as this.

But the orchestra acquits itself well here. The first violinist is quite good. That’s not the problem. What lets the side down is the Mercury recording team, who fail to adequately present the weight of the orchestra in the lower midrange and below. One thing I noticed recently when playing an original LSC 2446 was how rich and powerful the sound was in the lower strings and in the brass relative to later pressings of the same title and other recordings of the work. That opening movement of Scheherazade needs power down there and the Mercury simply doesn’t have enough of that power to qualify it as one of the top sounding Mercs. (more…)

Modest Mussorgsky on Vinyl – Don’t Waste Your Money on These Three

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Very bad sound! So blary! Terrible performance too.


Never liked the performance. The sound can be quite good however.


Somewhat slow and ponderous – there are better performances with excellent sound.

These are just some of the recordings of the music of Mussorgsky that we’ve auditioned and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place on our site, in your collection, and may even belong in a Hall of Shame.

Schubert / Symphony #9 (“The Great”) / Skrowaczewski

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

This Colorback Maroon Label RFR pressing (SR 90272) has wonderful orchestral sound, with both sides having Hot Stampers. Side two earned the full Two Pluses for its relatively rich strings, a quality one rarely hears on Mercury recordings from this era. The string texture is superb here, so critical to the enjoyment of a large scale romantic symphony such as this. 

  • A Superb Super Hot side two – rich strings on a Merc? Yes!
  • Nearly as good on side one – spacious and open, with a huge stage
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl for a vintage Mercury
  • One of the great symphonic works of the Romantic period

Side One

Pretty quiet vinyl! Side one is spacious and open, with a huge stage and practically no transient smear.

Like so many Mercury recordings, it’s a bit “shifted up” tonally, with the strings and brass lacking the weight one would hear in a live performance. A+ to A++ sonically, quite good.

Side Two

Even better, earning the full Two Pluses (A++). It’s relaxed and musical, with excellent string texture. The sound on this side is richer so we kicked up the grade a bit. An excellent Merc! (more…)

Anderson / The Music of Leroy Anderson Vol. 3 / Fennell – Reviewed in 2011

More Orchestral Recordings 

More Anderson / The Music of Leroy Anderson Vol. 3 / Fennell 

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

Volume Three (SR 90400) of Anderson’s recordings for Mercury with Fennell conducting has long been a favorite or ours here at Better Records. The first volume is of course on the TAS Super Disc list, and when you get a good copy of it you will have no trouble believing it is a Super Disc. But so is this one, provided you play the right pressing of course. (more…)

Grieg / Peer Gynt Suite / Barbirolli (SR 90164) – Reviewed in 2010

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

This is an original Mercury LP with an AMAZING sound and EXTREMELY quiet vinyl! This has got that Mercury LIFE to it! The sound may be slightly on the dry side, but all the instruments have wonderful texture and tonality.

And of course, this is music that belongs in any collection. It’s some of the greatest and most accessible classic music ever written.  (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati

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

This London Symphony recording is without a doubt THE BEST SOUNDING Nutcracker we have ever played here at Better Records, and that includes not only the full ballet but the suites and excerpts as well. The sound in a word is GLORIOUS. This copy, with 8 1/2 pluses total for the four sides, has DEMO DISC quality sound on three out of four sides. We shot out nine original maroon label copies (and one oval label Philips pressing) so we had our work cut out for us when it came to this masterwork of Tchaicovsky’s. It was an absolute JOY to hear his sublime orchestration recorded so faithfully and naturally by the Mercury team, using 35MM film no less. 

The review which can be seen by clicking on the Nutcracker Review tab above discusses Dorati’s sprightly performance guiding the LSO. He brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor of which I am aware.

A top performance with top quality sound. Let’s get right to each of the four sides. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – Jump For Joy

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  • An incredible sounding copy – this early stereo pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • We were knocked out by the Tubey Magical midrange of this killer original, with all the saxophone’s breath and bite you would expect to hear on an All Tube affair from 1958
  • This is precisely what is sure to be missing from whatever reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “Jump for Joy is Adderley’s reinterpretation of a Duke Ellington stage musical from 1941… Hearing Adderley’s often thrilling, always well-constructed alto sax improvisations over tunes like “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” is reason enough for the album to exist…”

With Bill Evans on piano no less! (more…)