Labels We Love – Verve

Astrud Gilberto – Look To The Rainbow

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  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two and a side one that’s close to it 
  • This kind of spacious, warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever – you have to go back to 1966 to find it
  • Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced, Gil Evans did most of the arrangements, Rudy Van Gelder and Val Valentin engineered – what’s not to like?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This was a beautiful bossa nova record of Astrud Gilberto’s vocal stylings… “

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Louis Armstrong – I’ve Got The World On A String

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two!
  • Both sides here are incredibly big and full yet still very clean and clear with excellent bass and none of the edginess that plagues the average copy
  • Fairly quiet throughout (w/ caveats, see below) — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Armstrong finds the essence of each tune, bending and projecting them with his patented joie de vivre and gravel-voiced warmth every time.” 

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have  some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skills interpreting  The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?). (more…)

Getz Au Go Go – A Bossa Nova Classic

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  • Truly superb sound for this incredible recording, Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Amazingly present, immediate and REAL — musically and sonically, this is one of our favorite jazz albums
  • This is an incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and decent surfaces, which is the main reason it’s been years since we did the shootout
  • 4 stars on Allmusic: “Highly recommended for all dimensions of jazz enthusiasts.” [We would of course give it the full 5 Stars]

This Stan Getz record has the kind of LIVE JAZZ CLUB SOUND that audiophiles like us (you and me) dream of. More importantly, this ain’t no Jazz at Some Stupid Pawnshop — this is THE REAL THING. Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Kenny Burrell and the lovely Astrud Gilberto, the living embodiment of Cool Jazz, are coming to a listening room near you.

This is about as good a copy as has ever hit the site. Fans of cool jazz — in point of fact, some of the coolest jazz ever recorded — take note. 

Cool Jazz Is Right (more…)

Mel Torme – Swings Shubert Alley – Another Reissue that Kills the Original

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  • Both sides of this Mel Torme vintage masterpiece boast Double Plus (A++) grades and play fairly quietly
  • One of our all-time favorite Male Vocal albums that’s just mindblowing on a copy like this
  • Big and spacious with amazing richness and warmth, this is Vocal Demo Disc like few others
  • 5 stars: “The overall mood… is unrestrained enthusiasm, and it makes for an excellent record.”

We are HUGE fans of this album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble!

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Mel is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Swings Shubert Alley is one of our very favorite male vocal albums, and a great copy like this will show you why — the audiophile quality sound and swinging jazz vocal music are simply hard to beat.

1961 – It Was a Very Good Year (more…)

Billie Holiday – All Or Nothing At All

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I expected our amazing sounding original to win the shootout, but it didn’t!

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The reprocessed fake stereo copy here is to be avoided at all costs. It sounds as bad as any fake stereo record I can remember playing. What were they thinking?

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish, on quiet vinyl to boot 
  • This is one of the best sounding Billie Holiday records we have ever heard – it’s even a clear step up from the originals we had on hand
  • This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)
  • “… features some of Billie Holiday’s top Verve performances from the mid-’50s… she runs the emotional gamut from summery optimism to pathos-rich musings. Befitting her perennial after-hours mood, the majority of songs here feature Holiday in a low-down mood of the highest order.” – All Music

Naturally, the highest quality vocal reproduction has to be the main focus on a Hot Stamper pressing for any Billie Holiday record we would offer. Her voice should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and present.

In addition to being tonally correct and natural, the pressings we offer must also be highly resolving. With the right room and the right equipment, properly set-up and adjusted of course, you will hear everything that these vintage recordings have to offer, including the three-dimensional space of the studios in which the various sessions were recorded, under the auspices of Norman Granz.

The Sound of the Original

The original Trumpet Player Verve mono we had on hand to play suffered from an EQ problem we run into frequently in our shootouts for vintage vocal albums. Actually, to be clear, there were two main problems in the case of All or Nothing At All: a boosted midrange and occasional sibilance issues. (more…)

Getz Au Go Go and Its Live Jazz Club Sound

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  • Truly superb sound for this incredible recording, Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first 
  • Amazingly present, immediate and REAL — musically and sonically, this is one of our favorite jazz albums
  • This is an incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and decent surfaces, which is the main reason it’s been years since we did the shootout
  • 4 stars on Allmusic: “Highly recommended for all dimensions of jazz enthusiasts.” [We would of course give it the full 5 Stars]

This Stan Getz record has the kind of LIVE JAZZ CLUB SOUND that audiophiles like us (you and me) dream of. More importantly, this ain’t no Jazz at Some Stupid Pawnshop — this is THE REAL THING. Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Kenny Burrell and the lovely Astrud Gilberto, the living embodiment of Cool Jazz, are coming to a listening room near you.

This is about as good a copy as has ever hit the site. Fans of cool jazz — in point of fact, some of the coolest jazz ever recorded — take note. (more…)

Jobim and Ramone – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Credit engineer PHIL RAMONE for correctly capturing the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, flutes, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing. I used to think this recording erred on the bright side, but not the Hot Stamper copies. They are tonally Right On The Money.

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When the balance lacks lower midrange the sound gets lean, which causes the strings to seem brighter than they really are, a not uncommon problem with some of the pressings we heard.

We had quite a batch of these to play, including imports, originals, reissues (all stereo), and one lone mono, which was so ridiculously bad sounding we tossed it right out of the competition and into the trade pile.

For those of you playing along at home, we are not going to be much help to you here in finding your own Hot Stampers. Every version had strengths and weaknesses and all are represented in the three listings we are putting up today. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley – A Certain Sadness…

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley – A Certain Sadness…

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

LOVELY SOUND AND EXCELLENT MUSIC on this unusually quiet, exceptionally good sounding Verve T-Label LP. We compiled enough of these to do a shootout and this was one of the better copies, earning A++ grades for both sides. It’s full of energy with big time immediacy and wonderfully breathy female vocals. The organ sounds gorgeous!

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This is a very enjoyable album but the typical copy may leave you a bit cold. The vocals tend to be drenched in reverb and it takes an exceptionally lively copy to help the vocals break free. This one has all the warmth, all the transparency and all the top end extension you need to let these sweet, simple songs work their magic.

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson




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  • Our Shootout Winning stereo copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this is As Good As It Gets, folks!
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ – but clearly the best sounding
  • Fitzgerald’s performance on this album won her the Award for Best Vocal Performance, her 7th Grammy (!)
  • “The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on “Don’t Be That Way,” “What Am I Here For,” “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” and “I Won’t Dance.”

See all of our Ella Fitzgerald albums in stock

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some light crackle underneath the music. The record itself looks exceptionally clean and well-cared for, but it clearly does not play as quietly as we would have hoped.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald on Record – These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings by Ella Fitzgerald 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 in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

Ella Fitzgerald Albums with Hot Stampers

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed