Older Reviews – Popular Vocals

Mel Torme & Buddy Rich – Together Again For The First Time – Reviewed in 2008

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This is a Century Direct-to-Disc featuring Mel Torme fronting the Buddy Rich Big Band. And it’s a pretty big band with four trumpets, three trombones, five saxes and a tuba! One of the best tracks is “Here’s That Rainy Day”, with guest soloist Phil Woods. The beginning is just Mel and Phil, a duet of sorts, with a lovely sense of melancholy.

However, both these men seem tired and the session doesn’t swing much. Or could it be that they’re playing it safe, afraid to make a mistake and then have to start the live-to-disc session over from the top? Hard to know, but that’s the problem with direct to disc recordings — avoiding mistakes, even engineering ones, can suck the life out of the music. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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Always On My Mind


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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this Columbia pressing was second to none. Side one has MASTER TAPE SOUND — super dynamic and OFF THE CHARTS presence and transparency!

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Wille belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band of industry session masters. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on Bridge Over Troubled Water to hear these guys doing what they do best. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Best of Ella Fitzgerald – Reviewed in 2005


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

Two Minty looking Deccalite Pink Label Promo LPs.

This is the best of Ella’s Decca material recorded between 1938 – 1955, the songs that made her a star.

For those of you who don’t know what Deccalite is, Deccalite is a material that Decca invented as an alternative to vinyl. It’s quieter than vinyl as a rule — and these pressings are extremely quiet — but it is not unbreakable. If you wack this record against a chair, it will shatter into pieces like an old 78. But most audiophiles takes good care of their records, so the risk of breaking an album like this is extremely small.

June Christy – The Misty Miss Christy – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

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

This very nice looking Capitol LP has SUPERB SOUND. It’s RICH, SWEET and full of TUBEY MAGIC. It could use a bit more top end but other than that it’s hard to imagine June sounding much better than she does here. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Just One Of Those Things – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

ONE OF THE MOST TUBEY MAGICAL MALE VOCAL RECORDS WE’VE EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF PLAYING! We shot this out against similar copies, earlier pressings, and a 180g reissue, and nothing was quite in a league with this. Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and let Nat serenade you from right between your speakers — he’ll be IN THE ROOM with you! (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book – Reviewed in 2005

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

This is a very nice looking Verve Strobe Label Double LP. The quality of the sound changes here not only from side to side but from track to track. We dropped the needle on various songs on each side and side three had the best sounding songs we heard. Every side had some great sounding songs, some with tubey magic and breathy vocals. How About Me and Cheek to Cheek on side two sound particularly good.  

AMG Review

These selections are perfectly suited for Fitzgerald’s voice and her romantic sensibility; they are happy, occasionally sad, and full of swinging rhythm. A few of these songs — “Cheek to Cheek,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and “Blue Skies” — will be most familiar; others, “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,” “Russian Lullaby,” and “All By Myself” are as memorable but perhaps less known… For fans who have enjoyed other songbook recordings, this is a must-have; for those unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s songbook work, this is an excellent place to start.

Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

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Whisper Not


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

THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST ELLA FITZGERALD RECORDS I’ve heard in a very long time! I’m telling you, this is Ella at her best! Having just played a lovely sounding copy of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, an album that tends to err on the bright side, I now realize that this album has the opposite problem — it’s a little bit smoother in places than it should be. Of course that’s a much more tolerable problem than the reverse.  

These are the comments for the last copy we had on the site.

For whatever reason, I’ve never stumbled upon a clean copy of this record. Consequently, I’d never heard it. But my local record store had one sitting in the bin one day in lovely condition, which presented me with the perfect opportunity to find out whether this album presented the early “good” Ella or the later “bad” Ella. Because sometime in the ’60s she started making bad records. I know. I’ve played them. Misty Blue comes to mind. Everything she ever did for Pablo comes to mind. Some of you out there have told me that you actually like some of her Pablo material, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for those recordings. In my opinion she had completely lost it by the time she hooked up with her old buddy Norman Granz in the ’70s.

On the cover of this record she looks a little frumpy, and I was afraid this album was going to be frumpy too. I’m glad to say that the opposite is true. This album swings with the best she’s ever recorded. A lot of the credit much go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. Ever since I heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record for Contemporary I have been a big fan. This album just solidifies my love for the guy.

A couple of high points on this record: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, the song Ella sang on her masterpiece, Clap Hands, is here rearranged for the players at hand, and the interpretation is fresh and moving. The song I Said No is filled with silly double entendres and is a hoot.

But I have to say those are two high points picked almost at random. Every track on this album is wonderful. I think this is one of her three or four best recordings ever. (Another is the Johnny Mercer songbook album.) (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie – Ella and Basie! – Reviewed in 2004

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

This early British import KILLS the Speakers Corner 180 gram reissue! I still like their version but this is what it should have sounded like: tonally much fuller and richer. The 180 gram copy suffers from the standard reissue MO — brighter is not necessarily better, and definitely not when you have a big band and a vocalist, as is the case here. I’ve never heard this album sound better and I doubt that it really can sound much better than this. This copy makes me want to turn it up as loud as the stereo will go and let those wonderful Quincy Jones arrangements come to life! (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis (2005)


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

This original Verve Black Label LP plays M-. Top recommendation! One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST.    


1. Can’t We Be Friends
2. Isn’t This a Lovely Day
3. Moonlight in Vermont
4. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
5. Under a Blanket of Blue
6. Tenderly
7. A Foggy Day
8. Stars Fell on Alabama
9. Cheek to Cheek
10. The Nearness of You

Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics


Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

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

Imagine the sound of a Hot Stamper Stardust, but instead of Pop Standards you hear Willie, his voice still in its prime, singing Christmas songs, backed by similarly tasteful and understated arrangements. That’s what you get on this copy of Pretty Paper in a nutshell.

Released just a year after Stardust in 1979, many of the same musicians are featured, as well as the same producer, the amazing Booker T.. And the most shocking thing of all is just how good the sound is.

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Next to Stardust I’d have to say this is the best sound Willie has ever had. It’s so rich, smooth and natural — in other words, analog sounding — that it puts to shame what has come to be expected from pop recordings over the course of the last thirty years.

Yes, records used to actually sound like this, as hard as that may be to believe after playing so many dismal sounding modern recordings, modern reissues and audiophile “product”. A good pressing of this album is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a high quality turntable these days. I find it hard to imagine that the CD would sound remotely as good.

Note that this record sounds even better when played loud, no doubt the result of having no trace of phony top end boost and very little processing throughout, unlike — you guessed it — much of the vinyl product being produced today. (And of course all digital releases, which should go without saying to anyone reading this commentary I suspect.) Many if not most pressings of the legendary Stardust album have some phony top added to the sound. The good ones — meaning the Hot Stamper copies — are the ones that sound more like this: natural up top and and throughout the midrange.