Labels We Love – Prestige

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 reference 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.

What to Listen For 

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, some were opaque and recessed, and they would lose a lot of points for those shortcomings. We want our Hot Stamper pressings to sound like something RVG recorded in 1961, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless have to offer.

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all, by the thousands in fact.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Smear is common to most records, and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

The Players and Personnel

Bass – Ron Carter 
Drums – Gus Johnson 
Piano – Tommy Flanagan 
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder 
Tenor Saxophone – Coleman Hawkins 
Tenor Saxophone – Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis

Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

More Miles Davis

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miles, this All Tube MONO Recording from 1955 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1955 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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. (more…)

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.

(more…)

Sonny Rollins – David Turner Was Taking Care Of Business in 1978

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

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

The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder

This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct

The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound.

David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of Tubey Magic, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting chains that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressings around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with best copies.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

Eric Dolphy – Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here.

More of the Music of Eric Dolphy

Do the originals sound as good as these ’70s pressings?

Not a clue. Never ran into a clean one in my life.

Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here. The flute is equally gorgeous. Amazing that they could record a live jazz concert this well in 1961.

Although this is only our second Hot Stamper listing for the album, I’ve known about Dolphy’s legendary Copenhagen Concert for close to thirty years. When an audiophile hears a bass clarinet reproduced the way it is on this record he is very unlikely to forget it.

With the hundred-plus changes to the system and room I’ve made over that span of time the reproduction of the bass clarinet has only gotten more real.

It’s proof positive that everything in audio can get dramatically better with constant effort and attention to every aspect of sound. From the room to the electricity to the right cleaning techniques, everything can come together to make that instrument sound like it is in the room with you, a room that sounds like you imagine a jazz club might sound in 1961.

What a thrill. It’s what we audiophiles live for. It’s what keeps us going in this hobby.

If you know people who used to be into audio and aren’t anymore it’s because they just never got to the point where they were doing it right.

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.

(more…)

Jackie McLean Quintet/Bill Hardman – Jackie’s Pal

More Jackie McLean

  • Dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1956 sounds
  • Another top jazz recording from Rudy Van Gelder – big, bold and lively, just the right sound for this music
  • “… no one could execute complex melodic lines with the speed and precision of Bill. He was a human “bebop machine,” a player who could improvise for hours on a single chord and not run out of ideas…”

(more…)

John Coltrane / Lush Life – Should You Collect the Original Pressing on this Title?

No. Which means we was wrong about Lush Life.

A classic case of Live and Learn. Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album.

By far.

(more…)

Sonny Rollins / Tenor Madness – On the Often Wonderful Prestige Trident Blue Label

  • This KILLER Prestige not-very-stereo pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to its on both sides
  • Like many other Prestige “stereo” reissues, if there is any left-right information, you would never know it without checking it on a pair of headphones
  • In other words, this ’50s mono recording has been mastered in the ’60s to sound like it’s supposed to sound – there’s absolutely nothing artificial or modern here, which makes this a very special pressing indeed
  • Again and again the notes read “solid, big and rich,” and that’s the kind of sound fifty year old records give you, in spades
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny’s, this is a Top Title from 1956. The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

More Jackie McLean

  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono Recording Chain sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even the most subtle nuances of the sound of this superb sextet
  • 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.

(more…)