Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Bruch / Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz

More of the music of Max Bruch 

More Scottish Fantasy / Heifetz 

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

WHITE HOT Stamper sound for the Bruch side of this original RCA Shaded Dog, one of the best Heifetz concerto titles of all time. (I’m trying to think of a Heifetz title that sounds better and coming up blank.)

This was our shootout winner on side two, beating all comers, earning our highest grade, the full Three Pluses (our blue ribbon, gold medal, and best in show all wrapped into one). The sound is nothing short of DEMO DISC QUALITY.

If you want to demonstrate the magic of Living Stereo recordings, jump right to the second movement of the Bruch. The sonority of the massed strings is to die for. When Heifetz enters, the immediacy of his violin further adds to the transcendental quality of the experience. Sonically and musically it doesn’t get much better than this, on Living Stereo or anywhere else. (more…)

Ornette Coleman – The Music of Ornette Coleman

More Ornette Coleman

More The Music of Ornette Coleman

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

WONDERFUL SOUND and QUIET VINYL on both sides! We played a stack of these and this was clearly one of the better copies, rating above A+ on both sides. This one has the old RCA tubey magic, that’s for sure! The sound is rich, full, natural and warm throughout. I bet you don’t have anything like this in your collection — it’s a very cool record!

If you’re looking for something different that sounds great and have a taste for adventurous music, give this one a try. We certainly enjoyed it. 

This is not your typical Ornette Coleman album (is there such a thing?) — this album features music Coleman composed performed by a Woodwind Quartet on the first side (including trumpet interludes from Ornette) and a Chamber quartet on the second side. (more…)

Anderson / Fiddle-Faddle / Fiedler

More Living Stereo

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

This famous Fiedler / Boston Pops recording of Leroy Anderson’s music has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides! I frankly admit to never having taken this title seriously. I imagine few hard core Shaded Dog collectors have ever bothered to play it, which is their loss, not ours. It’s very well recorded, with tons of Golden Age Living Stereo magic. Talk about BIG and RICH, both sides will show you exactly why modern audiophiles drool over these recordings. You simply cannot find this sound anywhere else.

Side One

A++. It’s dynamic and lively, with huge size and scope and lovely transparency (a quality we find virtually non-existent on modern pressings by the way). Bells up top, rich lower strings, tons of Tubey Magic — it’s all here folks.

There is however some smear, heard most clearly on the strings. A++ is about right we think.

Side Two

A++, so transparent, with spaciousness, depth and 3-D that really draws you in and lets you forget you’re listening to a record at all. You will have a very hard time finding a Golden Age classical record that sounds better.

Listen to the horns on the second track — man do they ever sound REAL.

Track three has some pizzicato playing that you can demo your stereo with.

Like side one, a bit of smear holds it back from out top grade. (more…)

Chet Atkins In Hollywood

More Chet Atkins 

More Chet Atkins In Hollywood 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This Minty looking RCA Victor LP has an AMAZING SIDE TWO backed with a great side one. Side two is full of the tubey magic that’s missing from the Classic Records version and it has a wonderfully extended top end. Side one lacks some of the top end extension found on side two but the first track has that tubey Nashville sound that we love here at Better Records. The rest of the side is pretty damn good as well.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs. (more…)

Albeniz / Falla / Granados / Spain / Reiner

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz 

More Albeniz / Falla / Granados / Spain / Reiner 

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

Spain has been an audiophile favorite for a very long time. Everybody should know it by now, what with both Chesky and Classic Records remastering it in the ’90s, dismally of course, as neither of these companies showed the slightest sense that they understood how lackluster, if not downright awful, the products of their efforts turned out.

No doubt Analogue Productions will see fit to ruin the recording the way they ruined Scheherazade. (more…)

Chet Atkins – Caribbean Guitar

More Chet Atkins 

More Caribbean Guitar 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This RCA Living Stereo LP has an A++ side two! It’s rich, warm and sweet with great transparency and clear transients — if it had just a bit more top it would be right up with the very best copies. Side one is not quite up to the same standards, and is very noisy. The vinyl plays about Mint Minus Minus on side two, but its a rare copy that plays any quieter.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

This is one of Chet Atkins’ best albums. Sonically it’s right up there with The Other Chet Atkins and the Hollywood album. It seems like Bill Porter just doesn”t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Everything the guy touches is GOLD! (more…)

Lena Horne & Harry Belafonte – Porgy and Bess

More Harry Belafonte / More Lena Horne

More Porgy and Bess

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound for both sides of this wonderful Living Stereo album – as you would expect, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
  • Both sides are big, lively and present with lovely breathy vocals from the two principals (who sing solo on all but two of the tracks)
  • A brilliant Living Stereo recording from 1959, which plays as quietly as we can find them – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “The first of Belafonte’s duet albums with female performers, this one paired two attractive black American singers at the peak of their respective talents.”

A Living Stereo knockout! We often forget to spend time with records like this when there are Zeppelin and Floyd records to play. We’ve always enjoyed Belafonte At Carnegie Hall, but when we’ve dug further into his catalog we’ve been left cold more often than not. However, when we finally got around to dropping the needle on a few of these we were very impressed by the music and BLOWN AWAY by the sound on the better pressings.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology. If you’re a Harry Belafonte fan, a Lena Horne fan, a Gershwin fan, or just somebody who enjoys classic material performed with gusto and soul, this is a record that belongs in your collection.

1959 Tubes?

You just can’t beat ’em. (more…)

The Reiner Sound – Reviewed in 2010

More Maurice Ravel

More Rachmaninoff / The Reiner Sound / Reiner / CSO

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Wow, the first nice Reiner Sound on Shaded Dog to make it to our site. Why? Because the few copies we’ve run across that looked decent enough to clean and play were just too noisy to enjoy. Not many copies have survived the bad turntables of their day with all their top end and inner grooves intact, but we’re proud to say that this one has! 

This former TAS List record really surprised us on two counts. First, you will not believe how DYNAMIC the recording is. Of all the classical recordings we’ve played lately I would have to say this is THE MOST DYNAMIC of them all. (more…)

Ballet Music From The Opera on Shaded Dog (LSC 2400)

More Living Stereo

More Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

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This Super Rare, Highly Collectible copy of LSC 2400 has vintage RCA Golden Age sound, for better and for worse. Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s got a heavy dose of Living Stereo Tubey Magic. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the richness of the sound here.  

And the hall is HUGE — so spacious and three-dimensional it’s almost shocking, especially if you’ve been playing the kind of dry, multi-miked modern recordings that the ’70s ushered in for London and RCA. (EMI is super spacious but much of that space is weird, coming from out of phase back channels folded in to the stereo mix. And often so mid-hall and distant. Not our sound, sorry.)

Side One

Big and lively. The Tubey Magic colorations are a bit much for us, with too much tube smear on the strings and brass to earn more than a single plus.

Side Two

Even bigger and more spacious, with some smear from compression of course, but the quiet passages are magical.

More Classic Records Bashing

Classic Records ruined this album, as one would have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than this pressing, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance. In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided.

Most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of this quality. If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque – Reversed Polarity Copy!

More Ottorino Rossini

More La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler

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

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock — the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can’t reverse your phase, this is not the record for you! 

Are they all that way? I have no way of knowing. I run across a clean quiet copy like this about every ten years. If any of you out there own this record and yours is not reversed phase let me know what your stamper numbers are, I’d be very interested.

This has always been a favorite title with audiophiles. It’s full of lovely orchestral colors, much like The Nutcracker. As usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops are accorded superb sound.