Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

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.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review!

If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense. Yet this is not an album of film music (though a handful of film themes turn up). Rather, it is exactly what the title indicates: Chet Atkins recording an album in a Hollywood studio, as opposed to the familiar haunts of Nashville. Here, he places his often affectingly lovely guitar licks in front of full, lush, sometimes inspired string arrangements by Dennis Farnon. Sometimes, Atkins appears all by himself, caressing “Estrellita” before the strings kick in, and his fingerpicking technique appears on a piquant treatment of “Armen’s Theme” (originally a pre-Chipmunks hit for Ross Bagdasarian aka David Seville). Farnon is particularly good when he hooks onto a lush string motif and repeats it seductively on the “Theme From Picnic” or follows Atkins’s guitar in a broad, surpassingly lovely treatment of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” — the two most gorgeous tracks on the record. For some, this record might fall under the category of guilty pleasures, but a pleasure it is, one of the great make-out records of its time. 

TRACK LISTING

Armen’s Theme
Let It Be Me 
Theme from “Picnic” 
Theme from a Dream 
Estrellita 
Jitterbug Waltz 
Little Old Lady 
Terry Theme from Limelight 
The Three Bells 
Santa Lucia 
Greensleeves
Meet Mister Callaghan

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.

Side One

The second piece on side one has very dynamic sound. There is the usual Living Stereo compression at work when the music is at its loudest but it does not seem to be nearly the problem that it often is on other RCA recordings.

Side Two

Similar sound. Again the second piece is big, rich, open and very clear.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Enrique Granados – Goyescas: Intermezzo 
Manuel De Falla – La Vida Breve: Intermezzo & Dance 
Manuel De Falla – Dances From “The Three Cornered Hat”

Side Two

Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Navarra 
Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Fete-Dieu A Seville
Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Triana

AMG Review

Since its early beginnings in 1953, RCA’s Living Stereo sound has remained one of the most satisfying sound reproduction techniques, capturing the lush timbres and fiery characters of some of America’s greatest orchestras and conductors. This particular album features the music of Spanish composers de Falla, Albéniz, and Granados with the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. The orchestra brilliantly captures the sultry, sassy flair of El amor brujo. Together with soprano Leontyne Price — whose penetrating, throaty sound is ideally suited for this work — Reiner and the CSO deliver a performance that draws listeners in from the beginning and leaves them wanting more by the end.

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.

Perez Prado – “Prez”

More Perez Prado

More Living Stereo

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  • A Shootout Winning copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this bad boy is a HUGE step up from anything Perez Prado record you have ever heard, guaranteed 
  • With Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation like you will not believe; this copy is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience
  • The driving, syncopated, heavily percussive arrangements add immensely to the fun, with the timbre of every scratcher and drum rendered in glorious Technicolor sound
  • This is Vintage All Tube Analog at its best – the magic hidden in the grooves of the record really comes through on this pressing

This SUPERB sounding copy of Prez has a lot in common with the other Living Stereo / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Henry Mancini, Esquivel, Arthur Lyman, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Ted Heath, Martin Denny and a handful of others. Talk about making your speakers disappear, these records will do it! (more…)

Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos

More Living Stereo

More Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos / Solti

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

This White Hot Stamper Plum Victrola pressing has GORGEOUS Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may have never heard. Yes, it’s that good! Recorded in England by Decca in 1959, with Solti at the helm of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the music herein was originally released on the album Venice, LSC 2313, with a lovely die-cut cover. Six years later, still clearly in the Golden Age of Tubes, it was reissued on Victrola, and it would be hard to imagine it sounding any better than it does here. (We keep a noisy Venice as a ref but it sure doesn’t sound like this pressing.) 

At one time we had a copy of this record that we felt suffered from reversed absolute polarity, but we found no such problem with this copy — it sounds amazing! (more…)

Beethoven / Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman in Living Stereo

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman

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This rare RCA Shaded Dog has SUPERB SOUND as well as a top performance. Super Hot Stampers for both sides means that this pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades. Unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings (Rubinstein’s come immediately to mind in this regard), the brilliant soloist featured here is not overly spotlighted, hence the more credible “concert hall” sound. The piano is part of the orchestra, allowing all the contributions of the musicians to be heard clearly, with each of the orchestral sections laid out beautifully across an especially huge and deep Orchestra Hall stage.

The spaciousness and three-dimensionality of the recording here is also exceptional. Through the efforts and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording never comes at the expense of a tonally correct and natural sounding piano. The piano is clear, never lost in the space of the huge hall the way it would be on an EMI from the ’70s for example. (All that weird SQ washed-out sound is just not our thing, sorry.) 

There may be other performances of merit, but I know of no recording of this music with better sound. If you are demonstrating naturalistic recorded sound, not bombastic Hi-Fi Spectacularity, this pressing truly qualifies as a DEMO DISC. (more…)