Labels We Love – Original Jazz Classics (OJC)

Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

More Jackie McLean

  • You’ll find seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage reissue – impossibly quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides have close to the best condition grade we give out, Mint Minus – there may not be another record on the site with vinyl that quiet!
  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even more of the most subtle nuances of this superb sextet’s recordings
  • McLean’s sax is joined on the first side by Curtis Fuller on trombone and Webster Young on Trumpet
  • 4 stars: “Although not quite as intense as McLean’s later Blue Note dates, the ballad renditions show just how mature and original a soloist he was even at this early stage.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jackie’s, this is a Top Title from 1957 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Phineas Newborn, Jr. – A World of Piano!

More Phineas Newborn, Jr.

More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

  • This copy of Newborn’s first album for Contemporary boasts seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the most musically impressive jazz piano recordings we’ve played in years – Newborn’s improvisational skills are operating at a very high level
  • The team of Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer insure that everything you want in an Audiophile Quality piano trio recording is here
  • If you don’t have any Phineas Newborn albums in your collection, this is definitely the place to start
  • 5 stars: “Phineas Newborn’s Contemporary debut (he would record six albums over a 15-year period for the label) was made just before physical problems began to interrupt his career…. He performs five jazz standards and three obscurities by jazz composers on this superb recital…”

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Art Pepper – Which Is Better: Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

More of the Music of Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it has been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn‘s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they’re just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies.

When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound, on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second.

Of all the people who should know better…

Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans

More Bill Evans

  • Two incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, making this one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • These three guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track
  • “With the unmatched pair of former Miles Davis drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Sam Jones (no relation), Evans was emerging not only as an ultra-sensitive player, but as an interpreter of standards second to none.”

Everybody Digs Bill Evans. These three guys — Sam Jones is on the bass and Philly Joe Jones on the drums — are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

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Coleman Hawkins – Night Hawk on OJC

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

The best copies of a certain small, select group of reissues sound like the vintage jazz albums they are attempting to emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of Night Hawk we simply have never seen an original stereo copy clean enough to buy, so we have no actual, physical evidence for what an original would sound like.

That said, having critically auditioned literally thousands of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few decades, including hundreds recorded by Rudy Van Gelder like this one, we’re pretty confidant we know what the good ones are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of the very pressing we are offering here.

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Gene Ammons – Blue Gene

More Gene Ammons

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of – it’s huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and bluesy jazz energy like no other
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all
  • “Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, ‘classical.'”

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1958 All Tube Analog recording by Rudy Van Gelder on Prestige can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

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Wes Montgomery / Boss Guitar – Killer on Vintage OJC

More of the Music of Wes Montgomery

This Is a Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressing

This is one of Wes Montgomery’s best albums from his prime ’60s period, if not THE best. Rich and full-bodied but clear and spacious, the 1963 All Tube Analog sound is perfect for Wes’s organ trio format. 

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

George Horn

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

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The Mastersounds – Swinging With The Mastersounds

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • The Mastersounds’ 1960 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet Red Vinyl too   
  • These sides are doing everything right — full, clear, and solid, with the Tubey Magical Midrange that can only be found on recordings from this era
  • If you’re a fan of the Modern Jazz Quartet, you may feel as I do that the Mastersounds’ Montgomery brothers on vibes and bass play this kind of smooth jazz much better than the often-sleepy MJQ
  • “Swinging With the Mastersounds is accurately titled; its six tracks are all standards, and all are taken at a gentle, loping tempo and spin out sweetly…”

This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s and ’80s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today. (more…)

Thelonious Monk / Brilliant Corners

More Thelonious Monk

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • An outstanding copy of Brilliant Corners, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied and present yet still clear and spacious – we guarantee this copy sounds better than any pressing you’ve heard, and should beat the pricey originals hands down
  • With masterful horn playing from Sonny Rollins and Clark Terry, and a rhythm section that can actually keep up with Monk – made up of Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers – this is a Must Own for any music loving audiophile
  • 5 stars: “Brilliant Corners may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it.”
  • If you’re a fan of Mr. Monk, this All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Brilliant Corners is a good example of a record most audiophiles probably don’t know well but should.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1957 All Tube Analog recording can be, this superb copy should be just the record for you. Talk about Tubey Magic! The liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

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Standard Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound…

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from.

On that basis we awarding side two of this copy the award for The Best Sound on Standard Coltrane. No other pressing of the album could do what this side two was doing. And the good news is that side one was nearly as good, making this the first and best copy to ever hit the site.

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