Labels We Love – Verve

Oscar Peterson’s Best Recording? Sure Sounds Like It to Us

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

I’ve known this was a well-recorded album since I first heard the DCC Gold CD back in the 90s, which is excellent by the way.

If you happen to own the DCC vinyl pressing, buy the CD and find out for yourself if it doesn’t have better sound. The DCC vinyl will most likely be thickopaqueairless and tonally too smooth. That is the sound they tended to go for back in those days, and at the time I too bought into that mastering approach. I clearly had a lot to learn. Over the course of the next decade I learned how foolish I had been to fall for that kind of euphonic EQ.

Back to the Gold CD

It sounded great to me at the time, although I had nothing to compare it to. I was not an Oscar Peterson fan in those days. The CD may be very good, but it is unlikely to hold a candle to any of our Hot Stamper vinyl pressings.

I now realize that this album is clearly one of the best jazz piano recordings we’ve ever played. In its own way it’s every bit as good as the other landmark recording we talk so much about, The Three, from 1975.

This album checks off a number of important boxes for us here at Better Records:

The description for the amazing copy we found in our shootout more than a decade ago has been reproduced below.

The Right Sound from the Get Go

Side one starts out with a solid, full-bodied piano and snare drum, a sure sign of great sound to come. This side was richer and fuller than all the other copies we played. That rich tonality is key to getting the music to work. It keeps all the instrumental elements in balance. The natural top on this side is just more evidence that the mastering and pressing are top drawer. Great space and immediacy, powerful driving energy — this side could not be beat.

And side two was every bit as good! The sound was jumpin’ out of the speakers. There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course).

Ray Brown’s bass is huge, probably bigger than it would be in real life, but I can live with that. Once again, with this kind of extended top end, the space of the studio and harmonics of the instruments are reproduced brilliantly.

Testing with Oscar

Lately we have been writing quite a bit about how good pianos are for testing your system, room, tweaks, electricity and all the rest, not to mention turntable setup and adjustment.

Other records that we have found to be good for testing and improving your playback can be found here.


Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

  • These early Verve Stereo pressings are close to the BEST we have ever heard, with roughly Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on all FOUR sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This copy will teleport a living, breathing Ella Fitzgerald directly into your listening room like no album of hers you have ever heard
  • The First Lady of Song’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than on practically all the other stereo copies we played
  • The mono pressings were constistenly flat, dry and veiled – lesson learned, we will never bother with another one
  • The single disc pressing of volume 2 was ridiculously bright – based on this shootout, it seems clear that the original double album is the only way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book is an exquisite album, a classic in vocal jazz, and one of Fitzgerald’s best recordings.”


Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Volume Two

More Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • An excellent Verve Mono reissue with wonderful sound on all FOUR sides
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, this Top Title from 1957 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.


Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto / Getz-Gilberto on Japanese Vinyl

Hot Stamper Pressings of Bossa Nova Albums Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Japanese Pressings

Sonic Grade: C

This is a Minty looking Verve Japanese Import LP. It’s not competitive with the best domestic pressings, but you could definitely do worse. Trying to find domestic copies that aren’t trashed is getting harder every day, so if you’re a click and pop counter, this copy may be the ticket.

Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side 1 has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz.

Side two for me is even more magical. Getz fires up and lets loose some of his most emotionally intense playing. These sad, poetic songs are about feeling more than anything else and Getz communicates that so completely you don’t have to speak Portugese to know what Jobim is saying. Call it cool jazz with feeling.

A Must Own Jazz Record

We consider this album a Masterpiece. It’s a recording that should be part of any serious Jazz Collecton.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Further Reading

Count Basie – More Hits Of The ’50’s and ’60’s

More Count Basie 

More Jazz Recordings

  • An outstanding vintage Verve stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than most of the other copies we played
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically livelier and more dynamic than any Basie title you’ve heard (outside of our Hot Stamper pressings of course) – if you like your brass big, rich and powerful, you came to the right place
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound HUGE


Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy and Bess

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Louis Armstrong

  • Boasting FOUR outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, these vintage Stereo Verve pressings were giving us the sound we were looking for on this Ella and Louis classic – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with Ella and Louis front and center, this is the sound you want for their brilliant collaboration from 1958
  • If you’ve never heard exceptionally well recorded male and female vocals from the 50s, this is a great opportunity to have your mind blown
  • Two vocal giants came together to perform Gershwin’s timeless opera, revered by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What’s really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both.”


Letter of the Week – “All I can say is “Holy Cow”! I’m definitely a convert.”

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

I got my first Hot Stamper yesterday. Last night, I A/B-ed it with my current pressing of the same LP, which is a super-nice and very glossy VG++.

All I can say is “Holy Cow”! I’m definitely a convert. I have a very revealing headphone system, and this Hot Stamper is a stunning revelation! I went from listening to a video someone took on their phone at an Oscar Peterson concert, to sitting at a front table in the club! No exaggeration.

I am already scouring your website for my next purchases. I’m drooling over the Shelly Manne “Bells Are Ringing” – I have a copy of “West Side Story” with those guys that I love!

Many thanks, and I look forward to more great LPs from you all in the future!

Best regards,


Thanks for your letter. Stunning revelation is exactly what we were going for.


Further Reading


Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto / Getz-Gilberto

More Bossa Nova

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • A vintage Verve Stereo pressing of this Brazilian-flavored cool jazz classic with a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to a superb Double Plus (A++) side one
  • An impossibly difficult album to find in audiophile playing condition – we sunk a lot of time and dough into finding this copy, and it ain’t all that quiet, but it’s about as quiet as we can find them on vintage vinyl
  • If you want to hear this music right, the only way we know to do that is to get hold of as many copies as you can, clean them and play them and hope for the best, our business model in a nutshell
  • These sides have wonderful transparency and lovely presence – Astrud’s vocals sound breathy and Getz’s sax is full bodied, with fast transients
  • 5 stars: “This music has nearly universal appeal; it’s one of those rare jazz records about which the purist elite and the buying public are in total agreement. Beyond essential.”
  • You may be surprised to learn that the right reissues of this album consistently win the shootouts, something we’ve know for many years
  • Not that it does us much good, as they are so hard to find that our last shootout was, I kid you not, 2012
  • If I were to compile a list of The Best Non-Classical Albums from 1964, this album would obviously have to be on it

We have been trying to find great sound (on reasonable surfaces) for this album for years — I kid you not — which is why this is one of only a very small handful of Hot Stamper versions to hit the site in, oh, about ten years.

We have fired up this shootout multiple times since 2012 and been left empty-handed each and every time until the last go-around. We have sunk an insane amount of dough into trying to get a few killer copies because we love the music so much, but we just haven’t had much to show for it. If you love this Brazilian-flavored cool jazz as much as we do, you might want to snap this one up because who knows when or if we’ll find another one.


Stan Getz – Live and Learn

More of the Music of Stan Getz

Hot Stamper Pressings of Bossa Nova Albums Available Now

A classic case of We Was Wrong.

Many years ago we had written these silly lines in a review:

Of course, you would never know this is a good recording by playing the average domestic copy. This Japanese LP is one of the few pressings that can show you that this wonderful smoky night club jazz LP really can have Demo Disc sound.

Ridiculous, right? Well, at the time we believed it. Now our understanding is quite a bit more sophisticated, in the sense that the Japanese pressing is clearly better than many originals, but certainly not all of them.

More importantly, there are amazing sounding domestic reissues of the album that we’ve auditioned over the last ten years or so that really blew our minds and helped to set an even higher standard for the sound of Getz Au Go Go.

Our old story:

Way back in 2005 I discussed this very subject when listing a sealed copy:

There are pressing variations for this title on Japanese vinyl, and there’s no way to know what this one sounds like but all of them are better than any other pressing I know of. As I played the open copy we have listed on the site (1/12/05) I couldn’t help but marvel at the quality of the sound.

These days we would crack open a sealed one, clean it up and shoot it out with any others we could lay our hands on, because finding a copy with sound like this is a positive THRILL.

I’m no fan of Japanese pressings as readers of this Web site know very well, but the Japanese sure got this one right!

The domestic copies of this album are mediocre at best — there’s simply no real top end to be found on any Verve pressing I have ever heard.

The top end is precisely where the magic is! Astrud Gilberto’s breathy voice needs high frequencies to sound breathy.

Gary Burton’s vibes need high frequencies to emerge from the mix, otherwise you can hardly hear them.

And Stan Getz’s sax shouldn’t sound like it’s being played under a blanket.

The only version of this album that allows you to hear all the players right is a Japanese pressing, and then only when you get a good one.

That was our understanding in 2005, after being seriously into audio and records for 30 years, as a professional audiophile record dealer for 18 of them. Clearly we had a lot to learn, and we were on the road to learning it, having embarked on our first real Hot Stamper shootout just the year before. (We had been doing them less formally since the ’90s of course. It was only in 2004 that we were able to do them with the requisite scientific protocols in place.)

In 2005, we simply did not have the cleaning system or the playback system capable of showing us what was wrong with the sound of the Japanese pressing we were so impressed by at the time.

And we couldn’t clean and play the standard Verve pressings right either.

We were unable to move forward. The technologies we needed to get to the truth had not been invented yet.

The Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years are are responsible for allowing us to get the domestic pressings — originals and reissues — to sound much better than the Japanese imports we mistakenly thought were superior.

When I got started in audio in the early- to mid- ’70s, the following important elements of the modern stereo system did not exist:

  • Stand-alone phono stages.
  • Modern cabling and power cords.
  • Vibration controlling platforms for turntables and equipment.
  • Synchronous Drive Systems for turntable motors.
  • Carbon fiber mats that sit on top of massive metal turntable platters.
  • Highly adjustable tonearms (for VTA, etc.) with extremely delicate adjustments and precision bearings.
  • And there wasn’t much in the way of innovative room treatments like the Hallographs we use.

And one of the most important revolutions is not a playback technology per se, but makes much better playback possible:

  • Modern record cleaning machines and fluids.

A lot of things had to change in order for us to reproduce records at the level that is required for us to do our record shootouts and be confident about our findings, and we pursued every one of them about as far as time and money allowed.

Practically every one of the 5000 listings on this blog is a testament to the changes brought about by those hard-won advancements.

For a further discussion of these issues, please click here.

Further Reading

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie in Stereo

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • This vintage Verve Stereo pressing boasts a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to a superb Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early stereo pressing will put Ella in the room with you – it lets her performance come to life
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.” [It is definitely not underrated by us, we think it’s the best record the lady ever made]
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear like no other
  • We’ve discovered a number of titles in which one stamper always wins, and here are some of the others
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this title from 1961 belongs in your collection.

Folks, if you’re in the market for one of the most magical female vocal recordings ever made, today is your lucky day.

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. 

It is clearly a Vocal Demo Disc of the highest quality. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)