Labels We Love – Scepter

Dionne Warwick – Very Dionne – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides of this original Scepter pressing, with QUIET VINYL no less. Folks, don’t expect to see records like this coming to the site too often. We can’t find them anymore in this kind of clean condition, so if you like the lovely Ms Warwick, consider taking this one home and giving her (the record, not Dionne) a spin on your table.

Side one is LOVELY — the bass is tight and punchy, the strings have lots of texture, and the background vocals are clean and clear. The grit and grain that plague the average copy are practically nowhere to be found here. The midrange is full of that old analog Tubey Magic, the kind that has completely disappeared from the modern record, (even the modern reissue of a vintage record!). The sound is so open and transparent, you hear directly into the soundfield.

Notice how the limiter on Dionne’s microphone is working overtime. She is practically shouting into it but it never seems to get much louder! Still the energy and the passion come through clearly. That’s the sign of a well-recorded vocal track. (more…)

Dionne Warwick – Soulful – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

There’s a reason this record is on the TAS list, but you’d never know it by playing the average pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Dionne Warwick record. You would never even know how magical this recording is by playing a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be the pressing that Harry Pearson is recommending on his Super Disc list. The catalog number is the same; the sound is not. Unless you have at least half a dozen copies of this record — and we had more than double that — you have very little chance of finding even one exceptional side.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover. Without at least the right stampers, the amount of work required to find a copy that deserves a SuperDisc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles could ever devote to such a difficult and frustrating project.

Beyond all that, Scepter vinyl is quite problematic. A sealed copy that we cracked open for our shooutout was so noisy, it didn’t even make it past the first round. It takes a lot of work to find a copy of this (or ANY) album that’s truly a Super Disc; just picking up the titles from Harry’s list certainly can’t guarantee good sound. (more…)

Dionne Warwick – Make Way for Dionne Warwick – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

AMAZINGLY GOOD White Hot Stamper sound on side two – WOW! I cannot recall ever hearing Dionne sound better than she does on this side two. Her voice is so clear and present, so natural and real, the truest way to describe the sound here is simply to say that the sound is natural, natural in a way that not three out of a hundred female vocal recordings sound. 

But side one is a DISASTER — veiled, smeary and murky, with noisy vinyl thrown in for good measure.

Thank goodness we are the kind of record dealers / audiophiles who know that the two sides of a record often sound vastly different, otherwise why would we ever have bothered to play side two?

We recently reviewed a Dionne Warwick record for the site and had this to say, comments that apply equally well to this album.

Just played a Linda Ronstadt album that she did with Nelson Riddle earlier today and I can tell you one thing, the sound of that album and this one are on opposite sides of the recording spectrum in terms of naturalness. On a scale of one to a hundred, Linda scores about a two, and Dionne scores 90, maybe more. It’s a JOY to hear a record with this kind of sound.

Play this one for your audiophile friends who own and respect the recordings of Dianna Krall, Patricia Barber and the like. Be sure to repeat the phrase “boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to” whenever there is a pause in the music or conversation.

You might also want to ask them if they think the invention of digital reverb was such a good idea after all.

If they’re good analog buddies that you want to keep being your buddies you might not want to say anything at all. Just keep quiet and let their own ears shame them. This is the record that can do it. (more…)

Dionne Warwick – Dionne!

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Compiling the strongest material from the first four albums — all produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David — somehow, against all odds if you stop to think about it, this Columbia record club exclusive pressing ended up being mastered exceptionally well, obviously from superb tapes.

This Double Allbum 2-pack is the first of its kind here at Better Records. One copy we played had three amazingly good sides out of four, with a very weak fourth side, and another copy had three no-better-than-decent sides with a shootout winning White Hot side 4. Together the four LPs have the four best sides we have ever listed, with 2 White Hot sides and 2 Super Hot sides. You would need a VERY big stack of copies to find four sides with anything close to the sound of this set.

We’ve played more than our share of bad sounding Dionne Warwick compilations over the course of the last thirty years, so imagine our surprise when so many tracks here were competitive with the best originals we’ve heard.

Which means that the future owner of these records will get to hear classics such as Anyone Who Had a Heart; Don’t Make Me Over ; Wishin’ and Hopin’; and Make It Easy on Yourself, not to mention the nineteen other songs on the album, all of them with SUPERB SOUND.

Of course the pressings we played were all over the map; they always are. You know right away if you’ve got a bad one on the table: The voices get screechier as they get louder (somewhat of a problem on even the best copies), the overall image is small, flat and opaque; the midrange dark, veiled and smeary.

We are of course including all the bad sides so that you can hear how bad the average side really is. Side four of the first set and side three of the second set were two of the worst sides we heard in the entire shootout. They’re positively painful.

There’s plenty of Tubey Magic on these recordings. The good pressings show you a rich, breathy, unbelievably emotional Dionne Warwick. The bad ones dry up her vocals, smear away her breath and take the heartache right out of her voice. (more…)

You Know What’s Shocking About a Record Like This?

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What’s shocking about a record like this is the fact that the instruments you hear behind and to the side of Dionne Warwick are REAL instruments, and for the most part they are not really being processed much, they are simply being recorded. How many times do you hear a pop album with sound like that? Rarely in our case, and we play them by the hundreds.

Just played a Linda Ronstadt album that she did with Nelson Riddle — you know the one —  and I can tell you one thing, the sound of that album and this one are on opposite sides of the recording spectrum in terms of naturalness. On a scale of one to a hundred, Linda scores about a two, and Dionne scores 90, maybe more. It’s a JOY to hear a record with this kind of sound.

Play this one for your audiophile friends who own and respect the recordings of Dianna Krall, Patricia Barber and the like. Be sure to squeeze in the phrase “Boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to…” whenever there is a pause in the music or conversation.

You might also want to ask them if they think the invention of digital reverb was such a good idea after all.

If they’re good analog buddies, ones that you want to keep being your buddies, you might not want to say anything at all. Just keep quiet and let their own ears shame them. This is the kind of record that can do it.