Labels We Love – Mercury

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin – Reviewed in 2010

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Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin

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

This is a very good sounding and pretty darn quiet Mercury Plum label pressing of Janis’ superb performances, and a member of the TAS Super Disc list. Side one, the Prokofiev side, is super-transparent, with a percussive and wonderfully clear, correct sounding piano at the center of the stage. Additionally, the orchestra is not shrill as it is on so many Mercury pressings. 

If you’re in the market for quality classical recordings these days you know that finding a fairly quiet, not shrill, tonally correct Mercury is no easy task. So many are scratched or groove damaged, especially on this title — we went through three copies to find one that was even passable. The piano on the other two broke up like crazy whenever Janis started to pound away, which is something both works call for throughout. (more…)

JS Bach / Suites for Solo – Cello Two and Five / Starker (SR90370) – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach 

More Cello Two and Five / Starker (SR90370) 

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

EXCELLENT CELLO REPRODUCTION and MOSTLY QUIET VINYL on side one, where you get Bach’s entire Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. Side two has excellent sound as well but the vinyl is noisy so take this one at a bargain price and hear how wonderful solo cello can sound when recorded and mastered for maximum effect, live in your listening room!

The sound of Starker’s cello here is HUMONGOUS — it’ll fill up your room, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling! It’s also tonally correct from top to bottom, a quality we heard on NONE of the new Mercury heavy vinyl reissues. The cutting is super low distortion on this later label copy as well. This copy will show you in short order why these Starker Mercury records are so highly prized.

These Starker records are legendary for their sound, not to mention Starker’s way with this music. If anybody can make Bach’s solo cello pieces capture your interest, Starker can. (more…)

The Best Sounding Record on the Site?

 The Original Soundtrack

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On any given day a White Hot side one of The Original Soundtrack could very well be the best sounding record on the site.

“On any given day” being a day when we don’t have a hot German copy of Dark Side of the Moon to offer, or a killer Eagles first album, or a top copy of the self-titled BS&T, or an RL Zep II, or a White Hot Teaser and the Firecat. Most days we don’t have such records on the site, and on those days this 10cc album is a recording Tour De Force that would be bigger, bolder, more dynamic, and more powerful than anything we could throw against it.
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Holst / British Band Classics Vol. 2 / Fennell

More the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More British Band Classics Vol. 2 / Fennell

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

Side one big, full and dynamic, with horns and winds that are never screechy. (Side two of this first LP is very screechy and not at all to our liking.) 

Side two of the second record has the sound of live music. Huge space, clear yet rich, this is the sound we were looking for! (more…)

Liszt / Les Preludes / Dorati – Reviewed in 2008

More Franz Liszt’s music

Les Preludes / Dorati

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

This copy with Philips stampers has a fairly quiet and good sounding side one, which has the work by Smetana and A Night On Bald Mountain. Side two is thin and bright. Dorati is excellent on material like this and plays it with great verve. 

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Antal Dorati. This performance also includes Smetana’s “The Moldau”, Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain”, and Sibelius’ “Valse Triste.”

10cc – How Dare You!

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More How Dare You!

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding early UK pressing of 10cc’s fourth album, How Dare You! – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful LP will show you that 10cc’s commitment to Audiophile Recording Quality was – at the time – beyond reproach 
  • Forget the dubby domestic stuff and the no-doubt-awful Heavy Vinyl, this early British pressing is huge, spacious and rich, with prodigious amounts of bass, like no other copy you’ve heard
  • 4 stars: “…a well-crafted album that shows off 10cc’s eccentric humor and pop smarts in equal measure… it remains a solid album of witty pop songs that will satisfy anyone with a yen for 10cc.”

With this superb British pressing some of you who might consider yourselves more devoted fans of the band will finally be able to hear what a good recording this is. The typical domestic copy is a disaster as are some of the British originals and reissues; we should know, we cleaned them, played them and heard them for ourselves. (more…)

Hindemith / Symphony in B Flat / Fennell – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Hindemith 

More Symphony in B Flat / Fennell 

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

This Mercury RFR pressing contains Hindemith’s Symphony In B Flat, Schoenberg’s Theme And Variations Opus 43a and Stravinsky’s Symphonies Of Wind Instruments. All three pieces sound quite good here, and we’ve rated both sides between A+ and A++ overall. The sound is very dynamic and spacious throughout in the best Mercury tradition. Mercury was also known for its top quality performances of landmark 20th century works such as these, and here, as expected, Fennell and his venerable Eastman Wind Ensemble do not disappoint.   (more…)

Haydn / Symphonies 59 & 81 – The Best on Record

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

More Symphonies 59 & 81

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

These are THE BEST HAYDN SYMPHONIES I have ever heard on disc. Folks, until I heard Dorati and the Festival Chamber Orchestra perform these pieces I never knew there could be this much FIRE in Haydn’s music. (Please excuse the pun; the 59th Symphony is entitled “Fire”.)

Mercury bring the kind of recording energy and presence to this music that I have frankly never heard before. Credit must go to both Dorati and his players.

His tempi are fast and sprightly throughout, and the smaller orchestra allows the players to zig and zag with the musical changes much more quickly than would be the case with a larger and more inertia-bound group.

The FCO are so technically proficient and so light on their feet that Dorati was able to push them to dizzying heights of performance. For the first time I can honestly say that Haydn’s music really works — it’s wonderful!

(If you’ve ever heard Previn conducting Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony with the L.A. Phil from 1990 you will know what I mean. In his (their) hands the work is so lively it’s hard to hear it performed by anyone else. Bad digital sound but it’s worth it to hear the piece played with such gusto.) (more…)

Dinah Washington – Unforgettable

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  • An outstanding vintage mono pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely breathy vocals – this All Tube Mastered pressing has the right sound for this music
  • Although this is a stereo recording, the goofy stereo mix sticks Dinah way out in one channel, ruining any sense of being in her presence as a performer, so our early mono here is the only way to go
  • “The songs focus on love, and they’re distinguished by Washington’s ability to mingle loss and resignation with the promise of the future and a steely determination to make it happen. Ultimately Washington’s art is the romance of experience itself, its enduring truths and possibilities etched in her unforgettable voice. — Stuart Broomer

This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Adam / Giselle / Fistoulari

More Mercury Recordings 

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

Remastered by Philips from a Golden Age Classical Recording by Mercury, originally released in 1961.

This Mercury Golden Import 2 LP set has VERY GOOD sound. The average copy tends to be a bit dark and recessed, but this one is refreshingly free from those problems. It’s not quite up to Hot Stamper status, but it is a very enjoyable record!