Labels We Love – Riverside

Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

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These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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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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Cannonball Adderley – A Forgotten Jazz Classic

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

  • An exceptionally rare and amazing sounding early stereo pressing (that’s the mono you see pictured btw) – it boasts Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • These originals are by far the best way to go, in stereo of course, putting Cannonball’s breathy, melodic sax right between your speakers, with the rest of the band – including Sergio Mendes on keys – spread out around him
  • Truly an undiscovered gem in the Adderley catalog – the audiophiles here at Better Records were digging both the music and especially the superb sound
  • Another top quality recording from the superbly talented Ray Fowler, the house engineer for Riverside and the man behind many of the best Thelonious Monk and Cannonball Adderley recordings done for that great jazz label
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

I think I first heard this album on the original pressing about ten years ago. Of course I liked it immediately; samba jazz and pop are two of my favorite styles of music, from Getz Au Go Go to Astrud Gilbert, on to Antonio Carlos Jobim and ending with the bottled-sunshine Pure Pop of Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Wes Montgomery Trio – ‘Round Midnight

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  • This incredible 2-pack offers INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • We’ve known for many years that this is a very well recorded session – the original OJC pressing from the ’80s sounds great, but these reissues from the late ’60s seem to our ears to be even better
  • Surfaces are the problem, which explains the two pack — we can find you top quality sound, but that sound is going to be on vinyl we have no control over
  • 4 Stars: “Montgomery’s style, block chords and octaves, is already firmly in place, and he delivers lovely solos on ‘Round Midnight,’ ‘Whisper Not,’ and ‘Satin Doll. The choice of material, in fact, from classics like ‘Yesterdays’ to originals like Montgomery’s Jingles,’ never falters.

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Bill Evans – At Shelly’s Manne-Hole

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  • This superb live album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are Tubey Magical yet clear, with plenty of performance energy and a lovely musical quality that’s noticeably missing from many of the copies we’ve played over the years (and no doubt the Heavy Vinyl pressing)
  • 4 stars: “. . . a 1964 release that finds the entire band in classic form. . . Jazz is rarely as sensitive or as melodic as this. Another classic from Bill Evans and company.”

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Cannonball Adderley – African Waltz

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A Favorite from 1961

  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s close to it, this early Black Label stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves
  • ALIVE with musical energy, there’s also plenty of space for the players to occupy, a quality vital to this big group’s big sound
  • “The surging, compelling, thoroughly earthy sound of this orchestra, led by CANNONBALL ADDERLEY and including as impressive a roster of jazz stars as has ever been assembled, has already been responsible for a major breakthrough on the musical front… Quickly and enthusiastically accepted by a wide public, it leaped almost overnight into the bestseller category.

Vintage original covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – The Riverside Trios

  • This Milestone 2 LP set has outstanding sound on all four sides
  • We know of no better way to hear these legendary mono recordings – these are by far the best sounding pressings of both these albums we’ve yet to play
  • The 1979 transfers of tape to disc by David Turner are superb in all respects – this is remastering done right
  • 4 1/2 stars: “When Thelonious Monk first signed with Riverside Records in 1955, producer Orrin Keepnews thought that it would be a good idea for the unrecognized giant to record an album of Duke Ellington compositions and follow it up with a set of standards so as to discount his eccentric and forbidding image. The results were quite satisfying, trio performances that made Monk’s playing seem more accessible to the regular jazz audience without watering down his style.”

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Sonny Rollins / The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

The surfaces for old jazz records are always the problem. This one plays M– to EX++ and has some groove damage in the inner grooves — nothing too serious, but it’s definitely there. We played all the marks and only a few of them repeat, and not for long. I’ve never seen a clean quiet copy of a record like this in my life. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t come across them, at any price.  (more…)

Charlie Byrd – Mr. Guitar

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More Jazz Guitar

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  • Mr. Guitar makes its Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Big, rich and lively, this trio is having a blast and we think you will too
  • Features Keter Betts joining Byrd on bass and Bertell Knox’s “deft touch” on drums
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A delightful trio outing with an adroit and light feel… Byrd’s playing combines jazz swing with influences from both Spanish guitar and classical music on a session comprised of both Byrd originals and covers, usually of Gershwin and Ellington

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Wes Montgomery – In The Wee Small Hours (aka Fusion! Wes Montgomery with Strings)

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  • Montgomery’s wonderful 1963 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied, this reissue pressing had better sound than any original
  • As you can imagine, harmonically rich, clear, clean strings (or the lack of them) separated the winners from the losers pretty quickly
  • 4 stars: “As with his later albums, Montgomery’s guitar solos here are brief and melodic but the jazz content is fairly high even if the emphasis is (with the exception of “Tune Up”) on ballads.”

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