Masterpieces of Popular Vocals

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

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  • This Mono pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound good, play quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early pressing will put Ella in the room with you – more than anything else, 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.”

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. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Our last shootout was early 2019. 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…)

Frank Sinatra-Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands

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  • This original Blue and Green Reprise Stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime
  • On the right system this is about as close as you get to hearing Sinatra singing live in your listening room, with the added realism of a live Vegas show
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.”

*NOTE: On side three, a mark makes 10 light ticks at the end of Track 3 and 10 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 4.

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two-disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich, and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

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

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Dindi, or, Sinatra Is a Genius

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If you like romantic music you would be hard pressed to find a better album than this one. The song Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars perfectly encapsulates the mood of the album.

Our favorite track here is Dindi. Sinatra is the king of lost loves, and the song Dindi offers him another opportunity for regret. Nobody does it better than Frank. It’s a cliche to say he wears his heart on his sleeve, but the man made a career out of it. If the cliche fits…

Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

We had a great time shooting out a big stack of these, as we’re just wild about Harry here at Better Records. Unfortunately, most copies out there are too dark and grainy to get all that excited about. Here’s a copy that tells a much different story —both sides have good energy, smooth and sweet vocals, and nice extension up top. Drop the needle on Turn On Your Radio or The Lottery Song and we bet you fall in love with this one!

What Shootout Winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above

Ken Is The Man

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century and many more).

This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. (With Ken Scott at the board at Trident Studios the sound has to be good, doesn’t it?) Side one is amazingly good from start to finish. On the two CD set of Nilsson’s greatest hits (which is excellent, by the way) almost all of side one from this album is used, as well as the best material on side two here, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World. In other words, this album has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote.

Nilsson Schmilsson and the album simply titled Harry are the other two superb Nilsson records that I highly recommend. Harry is my favorite of all his albums, maybe because it was so different from anything that I’d ever heard up to that point. A Little Touch… is also a personal favorite — standards done in the Nilsson style — is wonderful.

By the way, if the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is on the box, you should definitely check it out. Most of us here have seen it by now and it’s a ton of fun. (more…)

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This side one gets it JUST RIGHT. My notes read, “WOW! Master Tape Sound! So clear and unprocessed. Right amount of tubey magic. Dynamic and present like no other!” — hopefully that gives you a taste of just how much we loved the sound here. Side two is nearly as good but doesn’t have quite as much presence.  

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet behind him (featuring Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell!) doing standards. On the best copies, the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this! (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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There’s a reason Willie Nelson’s Stardust is on HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old Willie Nelson record. You wouldn’t have a clue how magical this recording can be if you dropped the needle on the average copy, a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be exactly the pressing that Harry Pearson recommends on his Super Disc list. The catalog number may be the same, but the sound won’t even hint at Super disc status. (Which, sad to say, most audiophiles don’t seem to notice.)

Get real. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record (and we had more than double that) you have very little chance of finding even one side with exceptional sound.

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 Super Disc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles are in a position to devote to such a difficult and frustrating project. The average copy of Stardust just plain sounds wrong, and finding one that sounds right is no mean feat. 

Nat “King” Cole’s – Love Is The Thing

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Love Is The Thing

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  • A lovely pressing of this audiophile favorite, with Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides to rival the best pop vocal recordings we know of
  • Nat himself sounds especially immediate and real, and the strings are much less of a problem here than they are on most pressings
  • If all you know of this album is the weirdly unnatural remix DCC did (on Analogue Productions vinyl too) this pressing will be nothing less than a revelation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nat King Cole’s collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. 1957’s Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair’s undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks.”

Love Is The Thing has always been one of the better Nat “King” Cole recordings we play. The music is sublime, and on the right copy the sound can be superb. Armed with a much larger variety of pressings to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, our recent shootout convinced us that it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the best copies of this very recording.

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the quality of relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the good sounding pressings. On some pressings that casual quality is not nearly as noticeable. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Mono Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Folks, this record came as a SHOCK — the first and ONLY mono pressing we have ever played that not only was competitive with the best stereo copies, but actually bettered them in some ways. Some IMPORTANT ways I might add. We’ve only played a handful of mono pressings of Clap Hands over the years, and for good reason — they’re exceedingly mediocre. On almost every one we’ve ever played Ella was distant, dull and lifeless. Feh! Who wants to play a record the sounds like that?

(Side two is pretty much what you would expect from a good mono, A to A+, better than average but hardly competitive with the best, or with this side one for that matter.)

What’s So Special About This Mono Side One Anyway? (more…)

Mel Torme With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides here are incredibly rich and smooth with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette is a vocal masterpiece, an extremely satisfying record achieved only by a fusion of an excellent voice, an excellent band, and excellent material.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Bethlehem pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)