Labels We Love – Decca/London Phase 4

Bernstein – The Music of Leonard Bernstein / Rogers

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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  • A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – a true Orchestral Demo Disc from 1961
  • As I write this, dollar for dollar this is probably the best sound for the money on the site
  • The Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” sound superb here – big, rich and Tubey Magical
  • The performances are superb – energetic as befits most of the music, yet lyrical when the score calls for it
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and fairly quiet surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
  • Big speakers and loud levels are the sine qua non for the proper reproduction of this album

This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

If you have a system with the speed, power, and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best-sounding orchestral recording you’ve ever heard.

Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record!

Side two is where the some of the best orchestral action can be found, and it is presented here with SPECTACULAR AUDIO FIDELITY the likes of which you may have never experienced. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Music From The Great Movie Thrillers

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This is a BEAUTIFUL London Phase 4 LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It contains music from Hitchcock classics – “Psycho” “Marnie” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and “The Trouble With Harry”.

Bernard Herrmann released many LPs on London Phase 4, and this is one of the better ones. Included are new recordings of scores to five Alfred Hitchcock films. Psycho opens the LP, and Herrmann has arranged the music into a 14 minute “Narrative For Orchestra.” A 10 minute suite from Marnie follows, then the main theme from North by Northwest. Side 2 starts with three selections from Vertigo and ends with “A Portrait of ‘Hitch,'” based on motifs from the score to The Trouble With Harry.


OLD PHASE 4 NOTES FROM A LONG TIME AGO

[Some of this we still agree with and some we do not, so take it for what it’s worth.]

Phase IV, Are You Serious?

Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.

Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.

There are of course multiple mikes being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.

The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.

Satie / Parade – The Eccentric Erik Satie

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This contains various works by Satie as performed by Camarata, Bernard Herrmann, London Philharmonic and The London Festival Players.

Obviously these were Phase 4 recordings which have been compiled on this album from 1973. The sound is quite good: very transparent and lively. It does not have the tubey magic that the best of the Golden Age recordings so often have in abundance, but the tonal balance is correct and the overall sound is quite good.

This album contains many of Satie’s most famous works on one LP. I can’t imagine that you will find this music easy to come by on other pressings.

Satie, Ravel, Debussy / The Impressionists / Herrmann – Phase 4, its Strengths and Shortcomings

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

More Recordings on the London Phase IV Label

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Presenting an exceptionally rare and very good sounding Decca Phase IV pressing (with the textured cover, ooh!), the first to ever hit the site. We have been on the lookout for this album for years and somehow cannot find any clean copies, other than this one of course.

Not to worry; this one will do nicely. Three of the six works here have SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound. We went through them one by one and were rather surprised that the sound quality varied so much from track to track.

One might conclude from the variation in the sound that the album must be a compilation — so many of Herrmann’s albums are — but that is not the case, assuming the liner notes are to be believed.

Here’s what we heard, taken directly from our notes.

Side One

Satie / Gympnopedies I & II

A++ or better. Rich, smooth, sweet, big, natural, clear and very ANALOG. I don’t know when I’ve heard these famous works sounding better than they do here.

Debussy / Clair de Lune

A+, rich but a bit smeary, strings need more texture.

Debussy / Valse ‘la Plus Que Lente

No grade – Too murky.

Ravel / Five O’Clock Fox-Trot

A++ to A+++, with Demo Disc sound! So lively and clear, the sound will jump out of your speakers when you play this track! (more…)

The Insufficiently Dedicated Will Struggle Mightily with The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality.

Herrmann’s music taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!

Your Hard Work Pays Off

A recording of this size and scope will bring virtually any stereo system to its knees. This is the real Power Of The Orchestra! You had better have a top quality front end if you want to play this record properly, not to mention plenty of power and big speakers.

This is not the record for the Weekend Budget Audiophile. If you haven’t put in the years of effort and invested the tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and room treatments it takes to play records of this difficulty, your system is probably not up to the challenge this album represents.

If on the other hand, you have done the work and spent the money, this is the album that will show you what you have achieved. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Psycho and Other Film Scores

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

More Recordings on the London Phase IV Label

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  • An incredible sounding copy of this London Phase 4 title with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Especially noteworthy is the ’Psycho Narrative For Orchestra’, at 14 minutes the longest piece here – written purely for string orchestra, the string tone is Right On The Money, with biting violins and cellos that growl like the real thing
  • This London recording is yet another brilliant showcase for one of the great orchestral colorists, Bernard Herrmann
  • The London Phase IV recording approach allows powerful orchestral works such as these to explode right out of your speakers and into your listening room
  • Features works from Citizen Kane, Snows of Kilimanjaro, North by Northwest, Mysterious Island, Vertigo, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, The Three World of Gulliver, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Devil and Daniel Webster, and Psycho

(more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Our Four Plus Mind Blowing Shootout Winner

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This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

Side two here is BEYOND White Hot, earning a sonic grade of A++++! I don’t know that any other copy has earned such a high grade for side two but this one sure did. It blew our minds.

If you have a system with the speed, power and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best sounding classical recording you’ve ever heard. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record! Side two is where the real action is on this album, and it is presented here with SPECTACULAR AUDIO FIDELITY the likes of which you may have never experienced. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of…

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  • This early British London pressing has excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • On the better copies such as this one you can hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of size and spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings just can’t approach. The brass here is excellent, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice.) (more…)

Rozsa / Music From the Film Ben Hur – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This TAS List Super Hot Stamper pressing of one of the greatest and most famous Orchestral Blockbuster Soundtracks ever recorded more than lives up to our expectations for Decca Phase 4. This is Phase 4 done RIGHT.

As with all the best Herrmann releases, the huge size and scope you hear is the sound of orchestral music recorded in glorious ANALOG!

The sound is so clear, spacious and three-dimensional that you will feel as if your speakers have disappeared before your very eyes.

The layering of depth is really something to hear on this copy, with choirs of brass instruments located precisely in space, some further back, some off to the side of the soundstage. And what a soundstage it is, so wide and deep. Transparency – a quality you find on both sides of this copy — is what makes this all sound so REAL.

Opacity Vs. Transparency

Note that we have been especially anti-heavy vinyl in our recent commentaries for their consistently opaque character, the opposite of what is necessary in order to hear into the music, deep into the soundstage, to see and hear ALL the instruments, even the ones at the back. Try that with any Classic Record or Speakers Corner pressing. It’s records like this that show you precisely what you have been missing all these years if you have been collecting and playing releases from those labels and the others like them. (more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Hot Stampers Revealed! Get the Scoop Right Here

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If you have a system with the speed, power and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best sounding classical recording you’ve ever heard. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record! Side two is where the real action is on this album, and it is presented here with SPECTACULAR AUDIO FIDELITY the likes of which you may have never experienced.

Hot Stampers Revealed

Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy — all the best Decca and London copies (British only of course) are 1L on both sides. I suppose it’s only fair to point out that all the worst copies have 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound.

And here you thought I was actually being helpful. But we are being helpful. We’re telling you the truth. Stamper numbers only tell a part of the story, and they can be very misleading, in the sense that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. This is of course a subject near and dear to our hearts, and we discuss it at length in the commentary we call The Book of Hot Stampers. (more…)