Shootout Winners – 2014

Johnny Mathis – Warm

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

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.

The Ames Brothers with Esquivel – Hello Amigos

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

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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The Ames Brothers with Esquivel – Hello Amigos

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

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” upon it.

This recording is the very definition of The Sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, nor will any CD ever be able to capture what is in the grooves of this pressing.

1960 – It Was a Very Good Year

. By far the best sound we have ever heard for The Ames Brothers
. 1960 Webster Hall vocals in RCA Living Stereo sound at its best
. Huge, rich, smooth and natural, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
. Esquivel and His Orchestra bring some fun Exotica flourishes to these Latin tunes

For the audiophile of wide ranging taste, both the sound and the music should be lots of fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, I’d be hard pressed to think of another record that could do the job better than this one.

Perfect for demo-ing your stereo to anyone who thinks audio recording technology has improved in the last forty years. (more…)

Lee Konitz – Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh

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

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Lee Konitz – Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh

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

The 1955 mono sound by Tom Dowd on this White Hot 2-pack is DEMO DISC quality. The horns are breathy and clear, yet full and rich as can be. There may be a good reason that this pressing sounds as good as it does: it was remastered by one of the greatest mastering engineers of all time, George Piros.

Tom Dowd is the original recording engineer, and this one album should be all the proof you need that when it comes to jazz in mono, the guy is hard to beat. Rock in stereo, there the record is quite a bit more spotty (see, or better yet, listen to Cream, The Young Rascals, Delaney and Bonnie and too many others to list).

More albums engineered or produced by Tom Dowd (more…)

Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

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

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Ben Webster – The Warm Moods

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

Amazing sound and wonderful music on this lovely Ben Webster and Strings album recorded in 1961! I don’t think you could find a better sounding album of this kind of music. This is calm, relaxed jazz performed expertly by Webster backed by a small orchestra capably conducted by Johnny Richards.

More Ben Webster

The sound is TOP NOTCH. We’ve managed to acquire a number of these specific pressings over the years and this copy just could not be beat. It won our shootout hands down with its amazing transparency and remarkable separation between instruments. In addition, most copies we played weren’t nearly this rich or full-bodied.

Drop the needle on any of these great ballads and appreciate how relaxed, natural, balanced and warm the sound is. This is going to be a record you come back to over and over I imagine. It’s hard for me to picture this record ever getting old with such wonderful combination of material, performance, and sonics.

It’s not easy to find good sounding Ben Webster records in clean condition, so this is the perfect choice to add to your Hot Stamper jazz collection.

Please note – the labels on this pressing are reversed. The side one label appears on side two and vice versa.

Enoch Light – Reeds and Percussion

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

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Enoch Light – Reeds and Percussion

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

This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record (not that Heavy Vinyl BS) and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have? Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality.

But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is.

Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).

That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.

It took two copies to provide you with top sound on both sides. Clean stereo pressings are very hard to find. Most copies are mono, and most copies are beat, and that combination makes for some slim pickings indeed. This side two is not especially quiet but it’s the best we can find, and we hope that when you hear the glorious sound the surfaces will be easy to ignore. If not, send it back. (more…)

Ambrosia – How Novel Patterns Emerge

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Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

Ambrosia

When you sit down to play ten or twelve copies of an album, one right after the other, patterns in the sound are going to emerge from that experience, patterns which would be very likely to pass unnoticed when playing one copy against another or two over the course of the twenty or thirty minutes it would take to do it.

In the case of this album, the pattern we perceived was simply this: About one or two out of that dozen or so will have punchy, solid, rich, deep bass. (There is a huge amount of bass on the recording so recognizing those special copies is not the least bit difficult if you have a full-range speaker and a properly treated room.)
(more…)

Sinatra – Swingin’ in ’61

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

Of the five records Sinatra released in 1961 (Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!!; Come Swing with Me!; Ring-a-Ding-Ding!; Swing Along with Me; and I Remember Tommy), this is clearly one of our favorites. (And by the way, what’s with all the exclamation marks?)

Billy May deserves much of the credit for the “swing” that’s all over the album. His band is jumpin’, and on the best pressings — such as this one — the sound conveys the energy with virtually none of the grit and hardness you hear on so many of Sinatra’s other albums (Sinatra at the Sands comes immediately to mind, but there are far too many others).

More Frank Sinatra

This is 1961, and tubes and ribbon mics are in charge of the live-in-the-studio proceedings. With a vintage original pressing such as this one, you hear the kind of sound they heard. (And if you play the record at ear-splitting levels you will hear even more of that sound. Can you imagine how loud this band was playing?)

We were especially impressed with the large dynamic swings of the arrangements. And the fact that the best pressings never get aggressive even during their most dynamic passages.

MORE RECORDINGS FROM 1961


AMG Review

Recorded with Billy May, Sinatra Swings was Frank Sinatra’s first straight swing album for Reprise Records. In terms of content and approach, the record is remarkably similar to his final Capitol swing effort, Come Swing with Me. In fact, Capitol thought the album, originally titled Swing Along with Me, was so close in its sound and title that they sued Sinatra. The record label won the suit, and the singer had to change the name of his Reprise album to Sinatra Swings.

Of course, that didn’t change the actual content of the record. Even though the tone was similar, there were some differences from Come Swing with Me — the ballads have strings, there are saxophones on the record, and the material is more lighthearted on Sinatra Swings, much like the songs on Come Fly with Me.

The restored sense of humor makes Sinatra Swings preferable to Come Swing with Me, even if it doesn’t have the concentrated precision of the first two Sinatra/May sets.

Frank Zappa Big Band Jazz Fusion Masterpiece

Waka/Jawaka

 

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  • This copy is an absolute KNOCKOUT, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • A Top 100 Title, and deservedly so: the sound is HUGE – big, rich, punchy, lively and clear
  • The size and power of a big band, Zappa style, with White Hot Stamper sound? There is (almost*) nothing like it
  • Rolling Stone raved that it’s “…some of the best material he’s done in years.”

See all of our Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention albums in stock

(*Other than The Grand Wazoo, which can have sound every bit as good but is not the equal of Waka/Jawaka musically.)

What an incredible album. I know of no other music like it in the world. It’s not big band, it’s not rock, it’s not jazz, it’s a unique amalgamation of all three with an overlay of some of Zappa’s idiosyncratic compositional predilections (say that three times fast) thrown in for good measure.

In our opinion it’s nothing less than Zappa’s MASTERPIECE, the summation of his talents, and a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection. (We say that about a lot of records audiophiles don’t know well, but we’ve been doing it for most of our 27 years in this business and don’t see much reason to stop now.)

The Secret

Most copies, especially the WB brown label reissues, are dull and smeary with not much in the way of top end extension, failing pretty miserably at getting this music to come to life. This copy gets as much of what we like about the sound to actually come through the speakers as any copy we have ever played, and that makes it a very special copy indeed.

Not long ago we discovered the secret to separating the men from the boys on side one. On the lively, punchy, dynamic copies — which are of course the best ones — you can follow the drumming at the beginning of ‘Big Swifty’ note for note: every beat, every kick of the kick drum, every fill, every roll — it’s all there to be heard and appreciated. If that track on this copy doesn’t make you a huge fan of Aynsley Dunbar, I can’t imagine what would. The guy had a gift.

Big Swifty!

The 17-plus-minute-long Big Swifty is a suite in which each section slowly, almost imperceptibly blends into the next, so that you find yourself in a completely new and different section without knowing how you got there — that is, until you go back and play the album and listen for just those transistions, which is what makes it worth playing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times.

Big Swifty is a jazz suite with amazingly innovative work by Sal Marquez on trumpet. He single-handedly turns this music into a work of GENIUS. I can’t imagine a more talented player. Zappa on guitar is excellent as well. Aynsley Dunbar plays his ass off, only falling short when it comes time to do his drum solo on Waka/Jawaka. The interplay of each of these rock musicians is in the tradition of great jazz artists.

And since the drumming throughout this record is so crucial to the music itself, a copy that really gets that right is one that gets everything right.

A Desert Island Disc

What more can I say? If you love Zappa you need this record. If you want to expand your musical horizons and hear big band like you’ve never heard it before, this is the record for you. I’ve listened to this album literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. It gets better every time I play it.

Blue Labels and Reissues

By the way, the Blue Label originals are quite a bit better than the later Warner Brother reissues. I would avoid any reissues for Zappa’s albums; we’ve never heard a good one. And that includes the Classic Records reissue of Hot Rats.