Our Hall of Fame

Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me

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

Hearing this kind of Tubey Magical, tonally correct, rich, sweet, spacious sound is nothing less than a THRILL. The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

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We’ve been through dozens of Columbia albums from the ’60s over the last year or two since we discovered how good the Marty Robbins titles on Columbia can sound. Most of the popular vocal and country albums we play have an overall distorted sound, are swimming in reverb, and come with hard, edgy, smeary vocals to boot.

To find an album with freakishly good sound such as this involves a healthy dose of pure luck. You will need to dig through an awful big pile of vinyl to uncover a gem of this beauty.

Side Two

Like any good Elvis or Nat “King” Cole record, the quality that is far and away the most important is that the vocals must be full-bodied, rich and smooth. Without that sound you might as well be playing a CD. This is precisely what side two here gives you – Tubey Magical Richness in spades. (more…)

Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

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

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

All the copies we played were stereo. We’ve had very poor luck with mono pressings of Living Stereo recordings and tend to avoid them.

Produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville, 1960, with Bill Porter engineering. This is superb countrypolitan pop by the man who practically invented it.

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Jim Reeves is lucky to have had the Bill Porter and his staff of RCA engineers from the era on his team. Although we love to do these vintage Hot Stamper shootouts, finding clean copies of these albums is getting harder every day.

What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are recorded with remarkable fidelity. Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days.

There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and any of you out there who pick this one up are guaranteed to get a real kick out of it!

Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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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.

Side One

A+ Hot Stamper sound, It has some of the all-too-common veiling we heard in our shootout compared to the best copies we played. Willie’s voice is not quite as breathy here on track one but it seems to get better as the record plays. Not quite as rich and full as the best but still quite nice.

Side Two

The sound is natural and smooth but somewhat opaque. We grade side two A+.

Vinyl Condition

Mostly Mint Minus, very nice! Click on the Sonic Grade tab for more specific information.

Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

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

This Chess reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology (1965 in this case), with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the mid- ’80s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the too-often bad modern mastering of today.)

See all of our Little Milton albums in stock

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these White Hot sides.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be.

This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on a good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make a good sounding record these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. It just seems to me that somebody should be able to figure out how to do it. In our experience that is rarely the case today, and has been that way for many years.

Johnny Mathis – Warm

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Johnny Mathis – Warm

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

Side one is killer sounding, with the All Tube Analog sound that Columbia was famous for. The vinyl is fairly quiet as well for a ’50s Columbia 6 Eye pressing. I don’t know how many unscratched, lightly-played Mathis records you’ve ever seen, but in our experience they are few and far between — hence the fact that this is the first one to make it to the site.

More Johnny Mathis

 

AMG Review

Johnny Mathis released Warm, his sophomore album, in 1957. The album is an example of the classic romantic mood that made Mathis a superstar. The lush, romantic Warm includes “My One and Only Love” as well as “A Handful of Stars,” “By Myself,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” “I’m Glad There Is You,” and “While We’re Young.” A classic Mathis album with a title track that ranks, with “Misty,” as one of his best.

Peggy Lee – Guitars A la Lee

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Peggy Lee – Guitars Ala Lee

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

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days this copy of Guitars Ala Lee will be an unparalleled Sonic Treat.

We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog magic found here.

See all of our Peggy Lee albums in stock

Some songs have a bit of ’60s midrange EQ, but most do not. What most do have is amazingly rich, sweet, Tubey Magical sound.

Side One

Bigger and clearer than any other side we played, with extension up top and down low that no other copy could touch. Who knew it could sound this good?

Side Two

Huge, rich and relaxed, this was also the best side two we heard, although, since side one sounds a touch better, we felt it was best to call this one just shy of White Hot.

Check out the energy and presence on the second track, Sweet Happy Life, which I understand was used in a Target commercial a few years back. This is the way it’s supposed to sound, with the instruments jumping out of your speakers.

Clean and Clear…

…yet rich and sweet, this copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes. You want that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Pop Vocals but manages to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: smear, lack of top end extension, opacity and blubber.

To be sure, the fault is not with the recording (I guess; again, not having heard the master tape) but with the typical pressing. Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so veiled or gritty?

The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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

This Columbia Six-Eye LP has TWO STUNNING SIDES, easily the best we heard in our entire shootout! This is a superb recording, and a copy like this is a true Demo Disc. The vocals are perfection, and every instrument sounds correct and REAL here, with the transparency and clarity to put you right there with the players.

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Side One

A+++, absolutely amazing! Stunningly clear and high-rez with no shortage of energy or tubey magic, this is As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) — which is very good indeed.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, an incredible sounding side in its own right. Side one might have a slight advantage in terms of transparency, but otherwise the sound here is very similar.

Background Story

An audiophile friend of mine played me this record on his big system in a huge dedicated sound room and the effect was glorious. The Hi-Lo’s are a white-bread vocal group from the ’50s that made a lot of forgettable easy listening albums. But one time they hooked up with Marty Paich and his Dek-Tette, which included players like Herb Gellar, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon — top West Cost jazz players all — and recorded this album of standards.

What really makes this album exceptional is the recording itself. The voices are uncannily real. When the jazz musicians take their solos the sound of their instruments is right on the money. You will have a very hard time finding better sound anywhere, especially considering how beautifully spread out the players are on such a wide and deep soundstage.

Marty Paich Is an Arranging Genius

The high point here is Then I’ll Be Tired Of You. The sound is so perfectly suited to the song — everything is exactly where you want it to be, and Marty Paitch’s arrangement is constantly surprising.

The first track on side one is very reminiscent of Art Pepper Plus Eleven, another Marty Paich arranging job that ranks with the best large jazz ensemble works ever recorded.

Doris Day – Hooray For Hollywood

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Doris Day – Hooray For Hollywood

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

This fairly rare, fairly clean Six Eye Columbia original Stereo pressing has TWO SUPERB sounding sides, each earning our Super Hot stamper sonic grade. Frank DeVol did the orchestral arrangements, and it sounds like he let Miss Day have some of the same ones he’d done for Sinatra. Don’t mess with success, right?

The vintage Columbia sound is overflowing with Tubey Magic — it’s about as Big and Rich as it gets! If you don’t mind some heavy-handed reverb, the kind found on practically every vintage Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole record ever made, you will find much to like here.

More Pop Vocal recordings

here’s a bit of an edge to the vocals that we think has something to do with the reverb interacting with the compressors of the day, but this is all part of the sound of the tape (we’re guessing) and not something that can be altered in the mastering.

Turn Up the Volume on Prez Prado

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Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this Prez Prado record is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve). (more…)

June Christy – Gone For The Day

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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June Christy – Gone For The Day

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

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for, but this copy gives you something you may never have heard on a vintage pressing before: real frequency EXTENSION, both high and low. Who knew an old record could have extended highs like these and such deep bass?

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

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(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back but that was all pre-upgrades. The sound is far better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Side Two

OFF THE CHARTS A Triple Plus Sound from start to finish. Rich and sweet and present like no copy we have ever heard. No copy out of the four originals we played earned more than a grade of A++, so this side two is a big step up over everything and the best sound we have ever heard for ANY June Christy record.

Side One

Not as tubey magical as the best we heard but earning lots of points for being present and clear. It has some of the top end you will hear on side two, which is also rare in our experience. With more richness and fullness, the kind side two has in spades, this would have been a real contender for side one. No side one earned a higher grade than A++ so this copy was actually not that far off the best we played. It’s this side two that had us gobsmacked and forced us to set a higher standard for the other copies. (more…)