Older Reviews – Vocals

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

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

The sound is EXTRAORDINARILY rich, smooth, full-bodied and natural on both sides. We have never heard What’s New sound like this.

With two White Hot sides this pressing gets two critically important elements of the recording more right than any copies we have ever heard: the strings in the orchestra, and, even more importantly for obvious reasons, Linda’s voice. Both sides give you a much more natural sounding Linda than you have ever heard. She’s fuller, sweeter, breathier, less spitty (some tracks more than others) and just plain less artificial than any others we played.

We’ve criticized the engineer George Massenburg on this site in the past, but with this copy we almost want to take it all back.

What he gets right on this recording is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with various jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio. The sound stretches far to Linda’s left, far to her right, as well as back far behind her in a huge semi-circle. She is of course singing in a vocal booth, with her vocal placed front and center in the soundstage.

As an aside, George Massenburg went on to record the Trio album with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. The analog sound he produced was shockingly rich, smooth and sweet — and in 1987 no less! (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Look To Your Heart

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

Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, with a side two that is right up there with it – outstanding sound quality from first note to last. This copy was the fullest, richest and smoothest, with the best bass and most natural vocals of any we played. Recorded from 1953-1955, this mono collection of singles and such gives us Old Blue Eyes in his Capitol-period prime.

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.

This Hot Stamper pressing has the kind of ’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems as if no one can even remaster a recording like this anymore, if our direct experience with scores of such albums counts as any sort of evidence.

Steve Hoffman is the guy that can get the closest in this regard, but the difference between The Real Thing and even the best of his Remasters is not the slightest bit hard to hear. (more…)

Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – At The Blue Note

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

A superb copy with top quality sound throughout. This album has the same track listing as the rare ten-inch ‘The Divine Sarah Sings’ but with a few extra tracks included. (more…)

Julie London – Lonely Girl

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

A Knockout recording of female vocal with guitar: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, seriously good Double Plus (A++) on the second. Julie is in the room with you – intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. For late night listening this is surely one of the best Sultry Female Vocal recordings ever made – you won’t believe how real the sound is.

After hearing this amazing copy in our shootout we felt that it might be a bit too noisy to list, but another scrub cleaned it up nicely and now it’s about typical for an exceptionally clean copy of the album. No marks play — the noise one hears is mostly just the vinyl of the day.

I bought this very record in 1998. It took me close to twenty years to be able to clean it and play it right! (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Swing With Me! – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Hall of Fame.

I discovered that some of these later Capitol reissues can really sound good about ten years ago. They’re cheap when you find them because collectors don’t want them and audiophiles as a whole think that cheap reissues always sound bad. But here at Better Records we don’t really deal too much with record collectors per se. We deal with that tiny minority of audiophiles who want real music that actually sounds good. (The majority of audiophiles want Patricia Barber records and they can have her.)

So we love finding great Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun.

This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find the gems like this one. Buy hey, somebody’s got to do it. I guess it might as well be me since nobody else wants the job. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – The Voice

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound, this killer 6 Eye mono LP is full of the analog warmth and sweetness missing from the Classic reissue and probably anything else pressed in the last twenty five years – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • Featuring most of his best Columbia material, here is the Tubey Magical Midrange missing from the Classic reissue – theirs was not a bad record per se, but without the presence, breathiness and intimacy of the younger Sinatra’s vocals reproduced faithfully, boredom will likely set in before the first side comes to an end
  • 4 stars: “…the focus is on the ballads, and the dozen represented here constitute a bumper crop of classics, all resplendent in the singer’s richest, most overpowering intonation and most delicately nuanced work.”

In our experience, these Mono early Columbia pressings (either on the 6 Eye label or earlier solid red) are the only ones with any hope of having the Midrange Magic that is fundamental to the sound of Frank’s early Columbia LPs, a midrange that is clearly missing from the Classic Records heavy vinyl pressing. The Classic is clean and clear and tonally correct — like a CD. Without the warmth and sweetness of analog and, in this case, tube mastering, the sound just isn’t “the real Frank.” (more…)

Frank Sinatra – The Voice – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This is a Six Eye Mono Original Columbia pressing. These originals have the midrange magic that is missing from the Classic Records heavy vinyl pressing.

In our experience these Six Eye Mono Original Columbia pressings are the only ones with any hope of having the Midrange Magic that is fundamental to the sound of Frank’s early Columbia LPs — and is clearly missing from the Classic Records heavy vinyl pressing. The Classic is clean and clear and tonally correct like a CD. Without the warmth and sweetness of analog and, in this case, tube mastering, the sound just isn’t “the real Frank”. (more…)

Jimmy Witherspoon – Blues For Easy Livers – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Stunningly natural sound on this great Jazz / Blues / Male Vocal album! We’ve been picking these up when we find ’em clean — no mean feat, I assure you — and this copy did just what we were hoping for! This is one of the better sounding Male Vocal LPs to hit our turntable in recent months and I bet the same will hold true for you if you take this copy home. Side one rated A++, side two was even better at A+++ and both sides were even relatively quiet for an old Prestige LP. 

Side one is BIG and spacious with wonderful presence. The vocals sound just right, the sax sounds wonderful and the transparency is superb. The bass is a bit over the top, but we’ll take a copy with slightly bloated bass over one that is lean and thin (as many are) anyday. We gave side one an A++.

Side two is even better, giving you everything that was great about the first side but tightening up the bass a bit. We rated it A+++ and I just don’t think you could find one that sounded any better. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Songs for Swingin’ Lovers – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

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

This is a Minty Capitol Black Label original LP with No Bar Code. They don’t come any better than this! It is amazingly quiet for an old Capitol, with excellent sound throughout.

Many of the Sinatra Capitol Black Label releases do not sound good. They’re full of harmonic distortion, much like The Beatles’ records from that era. This copy is the exception. It’s full of life and clearly made from a good tape.

Sinatra pressings like this one benefit from better mastering, with those occasionally shrill upper mids under control while keeping the rich, warm sound of Sinatra’s voice intact. (Many reissues are flat and compressed, not to mention thin, grainy, and irritating.)  (more…)