Labels We Love – Roulette

Sarah Vaughan – The Lonely Hours

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  • The Lonely Hours debuts with killer Hot Stamper sound – this copy took top honors with Triple Plus sonics on both sides
  • No other copy could touch this early Roulette pressing for size, space, clarity, dynamics and, most especially, vocal richness
  • With Benny Carter brilliantly handling the arrangements, we feel that this is a badly underrated album of Ms Vaughan’s from 1964, a glorious year for music
  • “Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.”

Wonderfully warm, big and clear, not to mention exceptionally dynamic, this copy shows the listener just how good the master tape must be.

Not only could no other copy touch it; as far as I can tell it’s the only copy with two sides good enough to put on the site!

Classic Records remastered this album back in the day, and I can see why: the average pressing on Roulette is borderline unlistenable. Of course we didn’t know that when we started this shootout. We had found a nice sounding copy and subsequently went on the hunt for more. Little did we know how wide the variation in sound quality we would find on the original Orange Label pressings. There was simply no denying that many of the copies we played were just too thin, shrill and pinched in the midrange to be of any interest to our Hot Stamper customers.

As mediocre as Bernie’s Classic cutting may be, it’s still better than the average Roulette original one might throw on the turntable. And you can forget the monos completely; they were by far the worst sounding of them all.


Sarah and Her Remarkable Pipes

Vaughan’s New York Times obituary described her as a “singer who brought an operatic splendour to her performances of popular standards and jazz.”

Fellow jazz singer Mel Tormé said that Vaughan had “…the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field.” Her ability was envied by Frank Sinatra who said that “Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor.” The New York Times critic John S. Wilson said in 1957 that Vaughan possessed “what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz.”

Vaughan’s vibrato was described as “an ornament of uniquely flexible size, shape and duration,” a vibrato also described as “voluptuous” and “heavy.” Vaughan was also accomplished in her ability to “fray” or “bend” notes at the extremities of her vocal range. It was noted in a 1972 performance of Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Bart’s “Where Is Love?” that “In mid-tune she began twisting the song, swinging from the incredible cello tones of her bottom register, skyrocketing to the wispy pianissimos of her top.”

Though usually considered a “jazz singer”, Vaughan avoided classifying herself as one. Vaughan discussed the term in an 1982 interview for Down Beat:

I don’t know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I’m not putting jazz down, but I’m not a jazz singer…I’ve recorded all kinds of music, but (to them) I’m either a jazz singer or a blues singer. I can’t sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing ‘Send In the Clowns’ and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all kinds of music.

Wikipedia

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lonely Hours
I’ll Never Be The Same
If I Had You
Friendless
You’re Driving Me Crazy
Always On My Mind

Side Two

Look For Me, I’ll Be Around
What’ll I Do
Solitude
These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
The Man I Love
So Long, My Love

AMG  Review

The Lonely Hours, Sarah Vaughan’s contribution to the genre of saloon song LPs, doesn’t have a stellar selection of material — although of course nearly anything recorded by one of America’s foremost jazz interpreters is worth hearing.

Add to that the special treat of Benny Carter — the seminal altoist who’d been contributing charts to the hottest big bands since 1928 — occupying the arranger’s chair, and The Lonely Hours becomes a very intriguing proposition. Carter’s refined arrangements and ensemble playing don’t exactly reinforce the isolation of the title, but Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.

For “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and “What’ll I Do,” she cleverly mirrors the comic frustration embodied in Carter’s flügelhorn/tuba ensemble.

The Lonely Hours is a solid match of vocalist and arranger in most respects, with only the quality of the material weighing it down slightly.

Harry “Sweets” Edison – Sweetenings

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  • Edison’s superb 1958 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The sound on this Roulette original is big, rich and LIVELY, with boatloads of Tubey Magic and three-dimensional space
  • It’s hard to imagine finding a copy with a better first side than this one, and side two is right up there with it
  • True, we did not have a big stack of copies for our shootout, but we recognize a killer pressing when we hear one
  • “Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison added something special to any date in which he took part, but these 1958 sessions he led for Roulette are especially enjoyable…. Edison’s trumpet swings effortlessly through a batch of standards and originals.”

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Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Slightly Classical

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  • ‘Sarah Slightly Classical’ debuts with KILLER sound – this copy took top honors with Triple Plus (A+++) sonics on both sides
  • No other copy could touch this early Roulette pressing for size, space, clarity, dynamics and, most especially, vocal richness
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “Vaughan cuts loose on numbers such as “Be My Love,” “Intermezzo,” “Full Moon and Empty Arms” and “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life.”

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Sarah Vaughan – You’re Mine You

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  • Vaughan’s wonderful 1962 album on the original Roulette stereo pressing makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are exceptionally low-distortion, solid and dynamic, with the natural, relaxed, analog warmth and richness missing from the Classic Records pressing (and most likely missing from whatever current reissue is on the market)
  • “This LP finds Sarah Vaughan backed by big-band and string arrangements from Quincy Jones that could easily have been used for a Frank Sinatra date. Vaughan’s voice is typically wondrous… In the repertoire are such tunes as “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “The Second Time Around” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”

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Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington – The Great Reunion

More Duke Ellington

More The Great Reunion

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Note that the second track on both sides is slightly smoother and more natural than the first. Listen for it! 

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Louis Armstrong singing and Duke Ellington’s band playing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

The Recordings of Count Basie – These Four Didn’t Make the Grade

More Count Basie

More That Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings by Count Basie that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame

Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records. 

Count Basie Albums with Hot Stampers

Count Basie Albums We’ve Reviewed

Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington – The Great Reunion

More Louis Armstrong / More Duke Ellington

More The Great Reunion

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one, this vintage stereo pressing was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • So big, so rich, so Tubey Magical, we doubt you have ever heard Louis Armstrong sound remotely as good as he does here  
  • We remember the Classic pressing as being a very good sounding record but make no mistake, this is a GREAT sounding one
  • “One of the best things about this configuration is the sound of the Duke’s piano – an underrated pianist, he seldom recorded in such an intimate context.”

Note that the second track on both sides is slightly smoother and more natural than the first. Listen for it! (more…)