Labels We Love – OJC – But Not on These Titles

Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

  • A superb vintage Contemporary stereo pressing of this exceptional Art Pepper release from 1960 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you buy only one Large Group Hot Stamper jazz record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to blow your mind
  • And that’s doubly true if you own any modern reissue (really, almost any reissue at all to be honest) – this is the kind of sound no later pressing from ANY era can compete with
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that too often cause the originals to be opaque and uninvolving
  • A personal favorite – 5 stars: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

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Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Is the OJC Really 100x Worse?

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

The OJC versions of Contemporary Records are typically thin and somewhat opaque, as well as tizzy up top, the kind of sound one often hears on CDs (and that CD lovers for some reason never seem to notice).

Some OJC pressings, however, can be excellent when you chance upon the right copy. The pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid-’70s (until they were bought by Fantasy) are almost always superior to the OJCs, but these rules of thumb break down so badly and so often that the only workable approach is just to play as many different copies of the album as you can get your hands on and simply let them sort themselves out sonically.

This of course is exactly how we conduct our shootouts. We make a lot of mistakes, but when all is said and done, we rarely fail to come up with the goods, the goods being phenomenal sounding pressings of important music, pressings that are dramatically superior to any others.

Although we’ve liked the OJC of Jazz Giant in the past, last time around the OJC versions were quite a bit smaller and less energetic than our “real” Contemporary stereo pressings. They were a big step down from our killer shootout winner.

The notes read “100x better” if that tells you anything (!)

A clear case of Live and Learn.

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Sonny Rollins and The Original Jazz Classics Series – Not a Good Match!

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

Pictured is OJC 029, one of the earliest Sonny Rollins titles they picked to remaster.

Too bad they didn’t do a very good job with it.

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to ever be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best. (more…)

Thelonious Monk ‎/ Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington on OJC

Some OJC Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t – This One Doesn’t

This title badly needed to be mastered with tubes, but that didn’t happen.

It’s another case of an OJC with Zero Tubey Magic.

You must as well be playing the CD.

I suppose if you have a super-tubey phono stage, preamp or amp you might be able to supply some of the Tubey Magic missing from this pressing, but then all your properly mastered records wouldn’t sound right, now would they?

FURTHER READING

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

More Count Basie

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A KILLER piano trio recording with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this original Pablo LP
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than the other copies we played
  • A different, more compact sound for Basie, joined here as he is by two of the most sympathetic sidemen in jazz: Ray Brown on bass and Louis Bellson on drums
  • “[T]he main joy of this set is hearing Basie stretch out on such numbers as ‘If I Could Be with You,’ ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ and ‘The One I Love,’ tunes he did not play much with his orchestra in this later period.”
  • Steer clear of the OJC of this title – it’s thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want

It’s a joy to hear Basie perform as a frontman, stretching out on tunes that were no doubt dear to him. Veterans of hundreds of sessions, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson are just as interesting as Basie, high praise. Recorded by the legendary engineer Ed Greene (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba) — that accounts for the exceptional sound.

Naturally we pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days, having had very good luck with a great many of them. When we dropped the needle on a copy of this one a few years back we were amazed at the sound. My post-it, still on the record, reads “SUPERB DEMO DISC.” It certainly is.

This album was part of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City that Pablo undertook with Basie later in his career. Basie had recorded a piano trio record with the same gents the year before For the First Time and must have enjoyed himself enough to give it another go.

The best copies are big and rich, and present you with a solid, weight, clear piano like few piano trio recordings you have ever heard.

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Gene Ammons ‎– The Happy Blues on OJC

Some OJC Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t

This One Doesn’t

Typical bad OJC sound – thin and modern, lacking in the Tubey Magic that makes vintage pressings so musically involving.

This album is fairly common on the OJC pressing from the ’80s, but we found the sound of the OJC pressings we played seriously wanting. They have the kind of bad reissue sound that that plays right into the prejudices of most record collectors and audiophiles for whom nothing but an original will do. They were dramatically smaller, flatter, more recessed and more lifeless than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we played.

The lesson? Not all reissues are created equal. Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their biases and reliance on inadequate sample sizes.

You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. The methods they have adopted do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them they will never have to worry about discovering that inconvenient truth.


FURTHER READING

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Benny Carter / Swingin’ the ’20s – Skip the OJC

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

This album is fairly common on the OJC pressing from 1988, but recently we found the sound of the OJC pressings we played seriously wanting. They have the kind of bad reissue sound that that plays right into the prejudices of record collectors and audiophiles alike, the kind for whom nothing but an original will do.

They were dramatically smaller, flatter, more recessed and more lifeless than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we played. (We tend to like those by the way.)

The lesson? Not all reissues are created equal. Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their biases and reliance on inadequate sample sizes.

You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. The methods they have adopted do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them, they will never have to worry about discovering that inconvenient truth.

DCC

This is one of the all time great Contemporary recordings. DCC was going to do this on CD at one time; I loaned Steve Hoffman an OJC LP back in the ’90s which he promptly fell in love with.

In the ’90s there were a great many more OJC titles I liked the sound of then than I do now, a classic case of Live and Learn.

To quote a very wise man named Ronny Lane, formerly with The Faces:

I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was younger

Unfortunately DCC went out of business, and Analogue Productions, the people doing the new jazz reissue series on 45 RPM heavy vinyl, wouldn’t recognize a top title like this one if it bit them in the ass.

And if they did remaster it, their version wouldn’t sound good anyway. How could I possibly know that? Easy. None of their stuff ever does, which is why you can find all of their reissues in our Hall of Shame.

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The Curtis Counce Group – Vol. 2: Counceltation

More Curtis Counce

  • Outstanding sound on this Contemporary Yellow Label pressing with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout
  • Another Classic Roy DuNann recording, this one is from 1957 and it is going to be very hard to beat for audiophile sound
  • Counce is a wonderful bassist and here he’s joined by Jack Sheldon, Harold Land, Carl Perkins and Frank Butler; I think you’ll be very impressed with how good this music from the late ’50s still sounds today
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Bassist Curtis Counce led one of the finer West Coast-based groups of the 1950s, a quintet that was greatly underrated… This excellent music falls somewhere between hard bop and cool jazz.”

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John Coltrane / Soultrane – The Original OJC Sucks

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

The early OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad, but in the opposite way.

The OJC is thin and bright, and the modern reissue (I’m guessing, based on playing scores of them) is probably thick, veiled, overly smooth, lacking in space and boosted in the bass — because that’s the sound that audiophiles record buyers seem to like these days.

Without the excellent sounding ’60s and ’70s reissues that we are still able to find in audiophile playing condition, all that we would have available with which to do our shootouts would be the originals. At the big bucks those records go for nowadays, shootouts would simply be impossible.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job on these later pressings!

And brickbats to George Horn, who seems to be the guy who cut the original OJC pressings. We like a lot of his work, but in this case he’s let us down.

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The Original Jazz Classics Series Got Off to a Bad Start with Concorde

Here Are Some Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

These Are Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

OJC-002! Fantasy’s second release in the series, but not a very good one.

The copy (or copies; who can remember?) we’ve auditioned in the past did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is not likely to be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed — but we’re pretty sure the OJC pictured here will always fall short of the mark.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.  Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed to you as an audiophile.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

Credits

Bass – Percy Heath
Drums – Connie Kay
Engineer – Van Gelder
Piano – John Lewis
Supervised By – Bob Weinstock
Vibraphone – Milt Jackson

Notes

Recorded in 1955.


What’s Number One? This Milt Jackson record.

I may have played it many years ago — I’ve played OJC’s by the hundreds at this stage of the game — but I don’t remember anything about it.

Horace Silver on piano? Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder?

Hey, maybe it’s a good one and the OJC series did get off to a good start.

If I find one and it sounds good, I will admit my error and put this very listing in our We Was Wrong section.


FURTHER READING

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

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