Shootout Winners – 2016

Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

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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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.)

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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.

Peggy Lee – Guitars A la Lee

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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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.

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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?

Jesse Belvin – Mr. Easy

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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Jesse Belvin – Mr. Easy

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

Zero distortion. zero smear, huge amounts of space and breathy rich vocals – what’s not to like? Marty Paich and Art Pepper lend a hand, and with Al Schmitt behind the board the sound is 1960 Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its finest.

More Living Stereo

If you know anything about this record you know that it is practically impossible to find in clean condition. The mono pressings are much more common but we did not care for their sound in the least.

We consider ourselves lucky to have found one with this kind of sound, because side one is getting everything so right we simply have no faults to make note of.

Notice especially how rich and textured the strings are on Marty Paich’s arrangements.

Side two was clearly not as good, hence the lower sonic grade. We could have called side two A++ but we felt that a more conservative approach might be a wiser choice in this case.

Al Schmitt

Al Schmitt recorded and mixed Mr. Easy for RCA back in 1960 and on side one of this very copy it should be clear to all that he knocked it out of the park.

We know his work well; he happens to have been at the controls for many albums with audiophile quality sound: Aja, Hatari, Breezin’, Late for the Sky, Toto IV, as well as some we can’t stand (the entire Diana Krall digital-echo-drenched catalog comes to mind).

The guy’s won 13 Grammy Awards, that ought to tell you something.

Ted Heath – Shall We Dance

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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Ted Heath – Shall We Dance

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

One of the best sounding records we have ever played, the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band. Both sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard. Three elements create the magic here: Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

More Big Band Jazz

Years ago we wrote in another listing “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album like no copy we have ever played.

DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes. (more…)

Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

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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Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

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

Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this killer piano trio recording. It’s a joy to hear Basie perform as a frontman, stretching out on tunes that were no doubt dear to him. Veterans of hundreds of sessions, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson are just as interesting as Basie, high praise. Recorded by the legendary engineer Ed Greene (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba) – that accounts for the exceptional sound.

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Naturally we pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days, having had very good luck with a great many of them. When we dropped the needle on a copy of this one a few years back we were amazed at the sound. My post-it, still on the record, reads “SUPERB DEMO DISC.” It certainly is.

This album was part of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City that Pablo undertook with Basie later in his career. Basie had recorded a piano trio record with the same gents the year before “For the First Time” and must have enjoyed himself enough to give it another go.

The best copies are big and rich, and present you with a solid, weight, clear piano like few piano trio recordings you have ever heard.

Steer clear of the OJC on this title; it’s thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want.

Hampton Hawes – Vol 2: The Trio

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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Hampton Hawes – Vol 2: The Trio

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

This Triple Plus (+++) pressing from ’55/’56 mono tapes is EVERYTHING that’s good about mono. The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. This killer pressing has the best sound and the best music we have ever heard on any Hampton Hawes album.

More Hampton Hawes

There is nothing to fault in the sound of side one of this pressing , and side two was nearly as good – what a record!

Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades.

George Horn

George Horn was doing brilliant work on Contemporary recordings all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

Fremaux Conducts the Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3

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“I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.”

  • One of Saint-Saens’ greatest masterpieces returns to Better Records with true Demo Disc sound
  • Huge, lively, spacious, dynamic – both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it
  • What this copy did better than practically any other was show us just how rich, smooth and Tubey Magical 1973 EMI sound could be
  • “The whole work is a magnificent and fantastical symphonic machine that’s an apotheosis of the orchestral technology of the late 19th century.”

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

The legendary Stuart Eltham engineered this recording for EMI in 1973. You may know his work better from a longtime audiophile TAS List favorite, Massenet’s Le Cid (1971), again with Fremaux conducting the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. (more…)

Oliver Nelson’s Masterpiece from 1962

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For those of you who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true. (more…)

1958 – A Great Year for Recorded Music

 

  • This early pressing on the rainbow label earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades for its wonderful sound
  • Both sides here are BIG, rich and Tubey Magical, yet clear and not the least bit thick or opaque
  • Turn down the lights and drop the needle to hear a living breathing Nat King Cole singing right in your very own listening room
  • “Highlights include “The Very Thought of You,” “But Beautiful,” “This Is All I Ask,” “For All We Know,” and “The More I See You”.

See all of our Nat King Cole albums in stock

We are HUGE fans of the album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved are hard to fault.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with loads of Tubey Magic. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy.

Midrange Magic to Die For

This Rainbow Label Capitol LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the DCC reissue (and no doubt any others that will be coming down the pike). As good as some think that pressing is, this one is dramatically more REAL sounding. (more…)

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

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  • The best copy to hit the site in close to two years, with both sides rating at or near our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Huge, spacious and three-dimensional with plenty of rich Tubey Magic – who knew it could sound this good?
  • 75% of the songs on both sides are absolute Little Feat Classics. What other album can boast such consistently good songwriting?
  • Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Fran Tate (the future Mrs. Billy Payne) contribute the lovely background vocals
  • “If Dixie Chicken represented a pinnacle of Lowell George as a songwriter and band leader, its sequel Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the pinnacle of Little Feat as a group, showcasing each member at their finest.”

See all of our Little Feat albums in stock

It’s getting mighty hard to find clean copies of practically all the pre-Waiting For Columbus titles.

The good news we have to offer this time as opposed to last is that we can now clearly say that Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the best sounding album of the first four the band recorded. We think the songs are great too; we would hope that goes without saying. Waiting For Columbus — their live masterpiece and inarguably the definitive recording statement by the band — has at least one song from this album on each of its four sides. That ought to tell you something. If only we could find good sounding copies! But enough about that album. Let’s talk about this one. (more…)