Labels We Love – Verve

Louis Armstrong – I’ve Got The World On A String

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  • This superb Verve stereo pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from the first note to the last
  • These two sides are big and rich, yet clean, clear and present, with virtually none of the midrange edginess that plagues so many copies
  • If you were buying records in the ’90s, you might have picked up the Classic Records pressing, and if you did, we guarantee this Verve reissue (the first pictured) is dramatically superior in every way
  • “Armstrong finds the essence of each tune, bending and projecting them with his patented joie de vivre and gravel-voiced warmth every time.”

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skills interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959.

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The Oscar Peterson Trio – Put On A Happy Face

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original Verve stereo pressing
  • The transparency of a killer analog pressing such as this has the power to transport you to the front row of a small ’60s jazz club – what a thrill!
  • These live sessions produced four LPs worth of material, with The Trio and The Sound of the Trio being the most famous of the four
  • “The Oscar Peterson Trio’s 1961 live sessions at Chicago’s London House are considered among their finest recordings… Essential Jazz Classics.”
  • If you’re a fan of Live Jazz Piano Trio recordings, this is a Verve from 1966 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bill Evans – Trio ’64

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More Jazz Piano Recordings

  • Bob Simpson engineered along with Val Valentin, two of the greats in our world – these guys are responsible for an awful lot of our favorite audiophile quality recordings
  • 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)
  • The vinyl on these early Verve pressings is the problem – so hard to find them in audiophile playing condition
  • 4 stars: “Evans’ nimble and emphatic syncopation is not only ably supported, but framed by [bassist Gary] Peacock’s expressive runs and [drummer Paul] Motian’s acute sense of timing. “A Sleeping Bee” is one of the collection’s most endearing selections as the groove playfully scintillates surrounding some hauntingly poignant chord changes [while] “Always” captures a similar effervescence as the instrumentalists ebb and flow in synchronicity.
  • If you’re a fan of Bill Evans, this is a Must Own trio release from 1964. The complete list of titles from 1964 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ray Brown / Milt Jackson

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this early Verve stereo pressing
  • Both sides here are big and lively, both of which are key elements for any album arranged by the-bigger-the-better Oliver Nelson
  • A lot of Verve records from this era are poorly mastered, but this one sounds just right to us
  • Big sounding ’60s jazz with lively arrangements from Oliver Nelson and Jimmy Heath. Clark Terry’s trumpet and flugelhorn contributions play a major role in the festivities. This is cool, swinging ’60’s jazz at its best!
  • The Allmusic Guide awards this album 4 1/2 stars, and that sounds about right to us
  • If you’re a fan of the jazz stylings of Milt Jackson and Ray Brown, this is a Classic from 1965 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Hello Love

  • Ella’s 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Mono sound from first note to last
  • The sound is relaxed, full-bodied and lively, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1957 and 1959 recording dates of these sessions
  • Skip the stereo pressing on this title – none of the copies we played could hold a candle to this killer mono LP
  • “The album focuses on well-known songs not included in Fitzgerald’s epic Songbooks project, and several of the songs are tunes that she had recently recorded in duet with Louis Armstrong.”
  • 4 stars: “A fine gem among the diamonds of Ella Fitzgerald’s late-’50s period with Verve… Wrapped in the strings of Frank DeVol’s orchestra, Fitzgerald is a bewitching presence singing these dreamy standards…”

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Jimmy Smith / Bashin’ – The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith

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More Oliver Nelson

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  • An outstanding copy of this Big Band Jazz classic led by Jimmy Smith with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you own only one Jimmy Smith album, make it this one – with Oliver Nelson’s arrangements ferociously blasting away, at good loud levels the first side here has the power to swing like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “On the first half of the program, Smith was for the first time joined by a big band. Oliver Nelson provided the arrangements, trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods have a solo apiece, and “Walk on the Wild Side” became Smith’s biggest hit up to that point.”

This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube-mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy does.

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…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book

  • With superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this Verve stereo original LP, we are fairly certain you could not possibly have heard Ella Fitzgerald sound better than she does on this very record
  • The huge, rich orchestral sound captured so beautifully by Val Valentin is always one of the highlights of these songbooks
  • By the time this one came out in 1964 Ella had already recorded 18 LPs of songbooks – this was the last, going out on a high note
  • Some of the Mercer Classics here are Too Marvelous For Words, Day In-Day Out, Laura, Skylark, Midnight Sun, I Remember You
  • Once you hear Ella sing Skylark on this album, you will have a very hard time sitting through Linda Ronstadt’s rendition of it on Lush Life
  • AMG raves “this is one of the best of Ella Fitzgerald’s songbooks. Fitzgerald’s assured and elegant voice is a perfect match for Mercer’s urbane lyrics and Nelson Riddle’s supple arrangements…”

When you are lucky enough to find a album that sounds as good as this one, full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is outstanding, with huge amounts of space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald / Like Someone In Love

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this stereo pressing simply could not be beat
  • Ella’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than it is onthe other copies we played
  • An album that is beyond difficult to find with decent surfaces and undamaged inner grooves – most copies we get in are just trashed
  • “Most of the songs are veteran standards, Stan Getz’s warm tenor helps out on four tunes, and her voice was so strong and appealing during this era that all of her recordings from the mid- to late ’50s are enjoyable and easily recommended.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some ticky vinyl. This is about as quiet as we can find them. Like Someone in Love is five times rarer than Clap Hands, and twice as likely to be noisy.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The space is huge and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra — especially on side two — is not brash for once.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald / Ella Swings Lightly – Skip the Mono with Two Extra Songs Per Side

Exceptionally lovely All Tube sound from 1958, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by our man, Marty Paich. Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo – these were the days when Ella was on top of the world.

When you are lucky enough to find a album that sounds as good as this one, full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is outstanding, with huge amounts of space and the kind of midrange richness that might just take your breath away.

Skip the Mono

Like other albums from the ’50s, this one is much more common in mono than stereo, and, somewhat surprisingly, actually has two more songs per side. We found the sound of the mono pressings we played seriously wanting, with way too much compressor distortion when Marty Paich’s band gets going — or should we say tries to get going, because the constricted sound won’t let the band open up and swing the way it wants to.

We’re glad to say that this is a problem the best stereo copies did not have. The mono can be rich and full-bodied; on a mid-fi system it would probably sound just fine, because mid-fi stereos are rarely any good at projecting huge, three-dimensional, life-size images of a musical group this large.

On today’s modern stereos it leaves a lot to be desired, and for that reason, we say Skip the Mono.

For records that we think sound best in mono, click here. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

  • Our Shootout Winning stereo copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this is As Good As It Gets, folks!
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ – but clearly the best sounding
  • Fitzgerald’s performance on this album won her the Award for Best Vocal Performance, her 7th Grammy (!)
  • “The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on “Don’t Be That Way,” “What Am I Here For,” “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” and “I Won’t Dance.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some light crackle underneath the music. The record itself looks exceptionally clean and well-cared for, but it clearly does not play as quietly as we would have hoped.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)