Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Harry Belafonte / Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Wrong About Harry Again?

More Harry Belafonte

Live and Learn, Right?

  • This early Black Label RCA pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
  • A very large group of musicians will transport themselves directly into your listening room, Harry included, all backing him live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • The palpable presence and performance energy of the man himself are really something to hear, and a copy this good lets you REALLY hear it
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

NEWSFLASH:

We’ve long known that some copies of the album are mastered with the polarity reversed. This is one of those copies.

But the crazy news we have today is that this copy of the records sound just fine without adjusting the system polarity, better than any other copy we played.

It sounds a bit better with your polarity reversed, but it is still our Shootout Winner even with the polarity wrong.

I would never have believed that to be the case in the past, but my theory is that the new studio we built has reduced distortions and problems to such a degree that polarity issues are less of a problem now than they might have been in the past.

As I say, it’s just a theory, and as time goes on we will revisit this idea with other recordings that we know to have polarity issues, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we find. (more…)

Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

More Recordings by Bill Porter

More Living Stereo Titles Available Now

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

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to give them a second go around. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.


For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

All the copies we played were stereo. We’ve had very poor luck with mono pressings of Living Stereo recordings and tend to avoid them.

Produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville, 1960, with Bill Porter engineering, this is superb countrypolitan pop by the man who practically invented it.

Jim Reeves is lucky to have had the Bill Porter and his staff of RCA engineers from the era on his team. Although we love to do these vintage Hot Stamper shootouts, finding clean copies of these albums is getting harder every day.

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Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 1 – RCA 1957 Living Stereo Is Hard to Beat

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  • Both sides of this vintage Victrola pressing are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and three-dimensional space around the musicians
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • I used to think that the Classic was better than the Victrola, but that was a long time ago, and I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on practically any modern remaster, by Classic Records or anyone else
  • The Classic will be quieter though – we had a devil of a time finding Vics pressings with audiophile quality vinyl

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

1957 stereo, can you imagine?

Here is a complete list of Living Stereo Classical titles we have available on the site at this time. On our blog you can find reviews for the hundreds of others we’ve auditioned over the years.

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What Do You Mean by “Boxy” Sound?

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Album Reviews of the music of Tchaikovsky

Many Golden Age classical records simply do not sound good, and this is one of them. We have never heard a good sounding copy of LSC 2216, and we’ve played quite a number of them over the decades we’ve been in the business of selling them. (LSC 1901, with Monteux conducting, is no better.)

A copy came in a while back so I figured it was time to give it a spin and see if there was any reason to change my opinion. Hey, maybe this one had Hot Stampers! Can’t say it wouldn’t be possible. Unlikely, yes, impossible, no.

So here’s what I heard. No real top above 6k, hardly any bottom, but with a very wide stage – the textbook definition of “boxy sound.” (Dry and thin too, on a vintage RCA pressing no less!)

If you are a fan of Living Stereo pressings, have you noticed that many of them – this one for example – don’t sound good?

If you’re an audiophile with good equipment, you should have. But did you? Or did you buy into the hype surrounding these rare LSC pressings and just ignore the problems with the sound?

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But wait a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how bad these records sound.

Maybe not this guy, or the “In Groove” guy, but there has to be at least some group of audiophiles, however small their number might be, with decent equipment and two working ears out there, right? (Excluding our customers of course, they have to know what is going on to spend the kind of money they spend on our records. And then write us all those enthusiastic letters.)

I would say RCA’s track record during the ’50s and ’60s is a pretty good one, offering potentially excellent sound for roughly one out of every three titles or so.

But that means that odds are there would have to be a lot of dogs in their catalog. This is definitely one of them. (more…)

Suppe et al / Overture Overture / Agoult

More Classical and Orchestral Music

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Decca engineered Living Stereo album – both sides of LSC 2134 earned our top grade of A+++
  • This 1957 Decca recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Cyril Windebank was the engineer — you may remember him from SXL 2012, the legendary recording of Peer Gynt with Fjelstad
  • The most energetic performances we heard, with sound like nothing else we played – Agoult’s overtures are in a league of their own
  • Classic Records did this title back in the ’90s, and was as mediocre and unsatisfying as most of their sorry releases
  • “Suppé certainly has a knack for a good tune, well suited to even the most unpolished of brass band arrangements – the characterful orchestral playing, however, brings these neglected works to life with aplomb.”

When this 1957 recording was first released, you could only buy it in mono, under the title Overtures… In Spades! It would be two years before the stereo pressing was available through RCA. There are two covers and I believe we have Shaded Dog pressings with both. This copy, our Shootout Winner, has the first cover you see in the listing.

Everyone needs a good album of Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the RCA Shaded Dog pressings could not be equaled.  (more…)

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed Inaccurately in 2006

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Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do nowadays, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality  cleaning equipment and our much improved playback quality made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.

A lot of records that I used to like because they were cleaner and brighter — later Red Seal Living Stereos, some OJC jazz, some reissues of rock — sounded much better when my system was darker and less revealing. There are a lot of Live and Learn entries about these records, and this is one from 15 years ago that could (probably, the record is long gone and not around to be played) not be more wrong.

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Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler – Our Shootout Winner from 2004

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Pareisienne

In 2004 we wrote:

 11S/ 10S are the best stampers for this amazing DEMONSTRATION QUALITY record!

I think that information still holds up. I can also tell you that 5S/5S has never impressed us much.

M-/ E+++. Side 1 plays nearly NM without a pop! Side 2 opens with a half inch scratch. But think about it — isn’t one side about the right amount for this kind of music? Do you really need to play side 2 after hearing side 1? This copy gives you a good portion of the music with AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND.

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Four mics and two channels and it blows away 90% of all the classical recordings ever made.

Some old record collectors and tube equipment lovers [not so much anymore] say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it. (And this record proves that sometimes old records just sound like old records.)


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records (more…)

Carlos Montoya – Flamenco Concert

More Carlos Montoya

More Living Stereo

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200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • The overall sound here is incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical with tons of space and plenty of energy; Montoya’s guitar is really jumping out of the speakers!
  • “Montoya is credited with having transformed flamenco guitar music into a separate music style, beyond being a traditional dance accompaniment. He adapted flamenco to other genres of music to create his own recognizable style, becoming an international star.” – Wikipedia

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Gilbert and Sullivan Overtures – Wonderful on Living Stereo

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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SUPERB sound on BOTH sides, with side two earning our coveted White Hot Stamper sonic grade for the kind of rich, sweet Living Stereo sound that we audiophiles love. The sound is nothing short of amazing on the White Hot side. This is a Top Shaded Dog in every way.   

That lovely texture on the strings tells you that the pressing itself is partly responsible for the superb sound — the lack of smear being a pressing issue, not a mastering or recording one. For naturalness, this one earns a score of ten out of ten.

The hall is HUGE: spacious and open as any you will hear, but not at the expense of richness or fullness. The orchestra is solid and full-bodied, yet the woodwinds and flutes soar above the other sections, so breathy and clear.

How did the Decca (recording) and RCA (mastering) engineers succeed so brilliantly where so many others have failed, failed right up to this very day?

Who knows? It’s still a mystery that has not been explained, to my satisfaction anyway.

Essential Music – And No Singing

The music of Gilbert and Sullivan belongs in any serious classical collection. This is without a doubt the best way to get the most Gilbert and Sullivan music with the best sound. And no singing.

If for some reason you don’t have a good recording of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Overtures, you are really missing out. This is some of the most wonderful music ever composed. It’s the kind of music that will immediately put you in a good mood. Here the Overtures are played to perfection. For music and sound, this one is hard to fault.

As the liner notes say, “…immense charm, good-natured energy and the ‘rightness’ that announces the influence of a superb musical command.”. (more…)

Liszt in Living Stereo – Rich, Rosiny Lower Strings Like These Are to Die For

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

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The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for.

Find me a modern record with that sound and I will eat it.

And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. No one alive today can make a record that sound like this. To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have fully grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: compared head to head they are simply not competitive.

After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples, both the boutique and major labels of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful or as lifelike as this RCA from the old days. (This is actually a later pressing; in some ways it sounded more tubey and rich than many of the Shaded Dogs we played against it.)

Fortunately for us record lovers and collectors, we at Better Records are not trying to make a record sound the way these sides do, we’re just trying to find ones that do, and folks, we found some very, very good sides here. (more…)