Labels We Love – Prestige

Miles Davis – Steamin’

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

WOW — this Prestige Yellow Label Mono pressing has some of the most realistic, natural Miles Davis sound we’ve ever heard! Both sides earned A+++ grades and play Mint Minus Minus or a little better, truly exceptional for a vintage pressing such as this one. You will have an incredibly difficult time finding a copy that can hold its own with this one. (more…)

Miles Davis – The Beginning (aka: The Musings of Miles)

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  • Here is a killer early pressing of Miles’ 1955 Prestige album with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and vinyl that is going to be very hard to find any quieter 
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present, sound that brings out the best in Miles’ music
  • Recorded in All Tube Mono, this is the real sound of these four jazz giants playing live-in-the-home-studio of none other than a Mr Rudy Van Gelder
  • “Miles Davis was in the process of forming his first classic quintet when he recorded this date… The trumpeter is featured with pianist Red Garland, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Philly Joe Jones, playing four standards plus a blues (“Green Haze”) and “I Didn’t,” his answer to Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t.””

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Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

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A Long Drink of the Blues

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  • Superb sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even the most subtle nuances of the sound of this superb sextet
  • McLean’s sax is joined on the first side by Curtis Fuller on trombone and Webster Young on Trumpet
  • 4 stars: “Although not quite as intense as McLean’s later Blue Note dates, the ballad renditions show just how mature and original a soloist he was even at this early stage.” 

This vintage OJC/Prestige 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…)

Sonny Rollins Quintet – Rollins Plays For Bird – Live and Learn

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Rollins Plays For Bird

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Previously we had written:

“This is one of the BEST Sonny Rollins records around! Nobody seems to know anything about it but let me tell you, this is Rollins at his BEST. The sound is also EXCELLENT.”

Recently we played the OJC pictured here and did not care for the sound in the least, too thin and lacking in the Tubey Magic of the earlier pressings.

Live and learn! (more…)

John Coltrane – Plays For Lovers

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Plays For Lovers

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  • This superb compilation has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound for side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s rich, warm and natural, with loads of ambience and the Tubey Magic that was still on the tapes fifty years ago (and is surely long gone by now)
  • 4 stars: “… these half-dozen selections provide evidence of his tremendous facility and musical sensitivity… For anyone who is even nominally curious about Coltrane, or simply wants an excellent anthology of the man at his most alluring, John Coltrane Plays for Lovers pretty much says it all. Included are nearly 40 minutes of examples that acknowledge his remarkable capacity for naturally exquisite balladry.”  

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the remastering into stereo for this title from the mono tapes carried out in 1969 was done delicately, with an ear to keeping the tonal balance correct and the spread of stereo information to a minimum.

As proof, note that this pressing actually beat our true mono pressings on side one. If we had twenty mono copies no doubt one of them would have beaten even this side one. Getting five or six clean copies of this album, mono, stereo or otherwise, is hard enough these days. Twenty is out of the question.

Readers may wish to check out the especially insightful Allmusic review to gain a better understanding of this very special group of ballads. (more…)

Illinois Jacquet – Bottoms Up

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Bottoms Up

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this copy of Bottoms Up has much to recommend it
  • The sax is especially well recorded with just the right amount of bite and only the squawk of the real thing
  • Surprisingly transparent and dynamic, this recording highlights Jacquet’s soulful style
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Even in 1968 when the jazz avant-garde was becoming quite influential, tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet played in his own timeless style, performing in an idiom little changed during the previous 20 years.”

For big, full-bodied, bluesy, soulful saxophone jazz it’s hard to imagine you can do much better than the legendary Illinois Jacquet. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ – Our Shootout Winning Mono

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

A MONSTER Double Album that simply could not be beat – three of the four sides earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++). The best sounding tracks here can hold their own with ANY Miles Davis vinyl we’ve ever heard, and that’s a whole lot of Mile Davis albums. You might be surprised that a reissue can beat the originals, but one play of this pressing should be enough to remove all doubt.

This pressing is WAY off the charts. You will find Demo Disc Quality Sound of the Highest Order on the best tracks, of which there are many. The extension high and low sets these sides apart. The presence of the instruments and the space around them just cannot be beat.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles Davis

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More Miles Davis – Miles Davis

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

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the best sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the privilege to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO.

WAY off the charts. Demo Disc Quality Sound of the Highest Order on the best tracks. The extension high and low sets these sides apart. The presence of the instruments and the space around them just cannot be beaten.

It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

Talk About Timbre

Man, when you play a Hot Stamper copy of an amazing recording such as this, the timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off. To paraphrase The Hollies, you get paid back with interest. If you hear anything funny in the mids and highs of this record, don’t blame the record.

This is the kind of record that shows up audiophile BS equipment for what it is: Audiophile BS. If you are checking for richness, Tubey magic and freedom from artificiality, I can’t think of a better test disc. It has loads of the first two and none of the last.

Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Cookin’ and Relaxin’. The ’70s remastering here by Rudy Van Gelder is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.

One, modern cutting equipment did not exist in 1956. As good as the best tube cutting equipment may have been, not many records from the era do not suffer from bloated bass and a lack of extension on the top end. Starting in the ’70s record mastering equipment got a whole lot better. Most of the best sounding pressings in our Top 100 for example were cut on these modern cutters. The sound is dynamic with very low distortion, with higher highs and lower lows, as well as transparency and openness far beyond anything that had come before.

Don’t get us wrong, we love that classic tube-mastered sound — warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the pressings that would come later, with wonderful breath of life. But, sometime, like all colorations it comes at a price. That’s not what’s on the tape. What’s on the tape is what you hear on this amazing reissue, on the best of the four sides anyway. (more…)

Paul Quinichette – On The Sunny Side

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On The Sunny Side

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

With three saxophones and a trombone, this is a fresh combination that really brings out the best in all the players during this Prestige jam session, a format for which they are justly famous . I raved about this album when it was in print many years ago – it’s solidly swinging jazz that belong in your collection.  

As I wrote years ago, back in the days when we regularly sent out catalog mailings:

When we discover a record like this, a record with no reputation either in the jazz world or the audiophie world, we try to bring it to people’s attention, usually with some success. Some of my customers called me up to tell me what a great record this is.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the lively, natural, full-bodied, sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play. (more…)

John Coltrane – The Stardust Session

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

Superb sound quality courtesy of Rudy van Gelder (1958) and the brilliant mastering of David Turner (1972). The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on these incredibly Hot sides.

We were impressed with the fact that these pressings excel in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was just how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be on the right pressing.

The record takes its material from three John Coltrane albums: ‘Bahia’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘Standard Coltrane.’ We would be surprised if the originals of any of them can beat the sound of this reissue. (more…)