*Our Record Overview – The Good

Chet Atkins In Hollywood

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

This Minty looking RCA Victor LP has an AMAZING SIDE TWO backed with a great side one. Side two is full of the tubey magic that’s missing from the Classic Records version and it has a wonderfully extended top end. Side one lacks some of the top end extension found on side two but the first track has that tubey Nashville sound that we love here at Better Records. The rest of the side is pretty damn good as well.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review!

If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense. Yet this is not an album of film music (though a handful of film themes turn up). Rather, it is exactly what the title indicates: Chet Atkins recording an album in a Hollywood studio, as opposed to the familiar haunts of Nashville. Here, he places his often affectingly lovely guitar licks in front of full, lush, sometimes inspired string arrangements by Dennis Farnon. Sometimes, Atkins appears all by himself, caressing “Estrellita” before the strings kick in, and his fingerpicking technique appears on a piquant treatment of “Armen’s Theme” (originally a pre-Chipmunks hit for Ross Bagdasarian aka David Seville). Farnon is particularly good when he hooks onto a lush string motif and repeats it seductively on the “Theme From Picnic” or follows Atkins’s guitar in a broad, surpassingly lovely treatment of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” — the two most gorgeous tracks on the record. For some, this record might fall under the category of guilty pleasures, but a pleasure it is, one of the great make-out records of its time. 

TRACK LISTING

Armen’s Theme
Let It Be Me 
Theme from “Picnic” 
Theme from a Dream 
Estrellita 
Jitterbug Waltz 
Little Old Lady 
Terry Theme from Limelight 
The Three Bells 
Santa Lucia 
Greensleeves
Meet Mister Callaghan

Albeniz / Falla / Granados / Spain / Reiner

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Spain has been an audiophile favorite for a very long time. Everybody should know it by now, what with both Chesky and Classic Records remastering it in the ’90s, dismally of course, as neither of these companies showed the slightest sense that they understood how lackluster, if not downright awful, the products of their efforts turned out.

No doubt Analogue Productions will see fit to ruin the recording the way they ruined Scheherazade.

Side One

The second piece on side one has very dynamic sound. There is the usual Living Stereo compression at work when the music is at its loudest but it does not seem to be nearly the problem that it often is on other RCA recordings.

Side Two

Similar sound. Again the second piece is big, rich, open and very clear.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Enrique Granados – Goyescas: Intermezzo 
Manuel De Falla – La Vida Breve: Intermezzo & Dance 
Manuel De Falla – Dances From “The Three Cornered Hat”

Side Two

Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Navarra 
Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Fete-Dieu A Seville
Isaac Albéniz – Iberia: Triana

AMG Review

Since its early beginnings in 1953, RCA’s Living Stereo sound has remained one of the most satisfying sound reproduction techniques, capturing the lush timbres and fiery characters of some of America’s greatest orchestras and conductors. This particular album features the music of Spanish composers de Falla, Albéniz, and Granados with the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. The orchestra brilliantly captures the sultry, sassy flair of El amor brujo. Together with soprano Leontyne Price — whose penetrating, throaty sound is ideally suited for this work — Reiner and the CSO deliver a performance that draws listeners in from the beginning and leaves them wanting more by the end.

Sarah Vaughan – After Hours on Emus

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this copy of After Hours put the living, breathing Divine One right between our speakers
  • With simple arrangements, featuring Mundell Lowe’s guitar and George Duvivier’s double bass, Vaughan’s soulful voice can take center stage
  • This copy was pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl – it plays as quietly as any copy we have ever heard
  • “…a quiet and intimate affair, with Vaughan more subtle than she sometimes was… some fine jazz singing.”

This early Emus Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

The Association – Goodbye, Columbus

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

This green label original pressing TROUNCED our other copies. Recorded by Bones Howe, the midrange is pure tubey magic! If you have the kind of system that brings out that quality in a recording, you will get a lot out of this one. It’s so good, it made me appreciate some of the instrumentals on the album which I had previously dismissed as filler. When you hear them sound this good, you can actually enjoy them!

You get rich, sweet, open, textured, natural, tonally correct sound here on side, A++ all the way! Side two is almost as good at A+, with some smear causing us to drop the grade.

Bones Howe produced and engineered the show here; Bones is a man who knew his way around a studio as well as practically anybody in the ’60s. He’s the one responsible for all the tubey magic of this recording and so many others from the era, including the Association’s masterpiece, Insight Out. That’s his sound. Those of you who appreciate that sound will find much to like here. If, on the other hand, you prefer the sound of a band like, oh, Dire Straits, a group with a dry, processed, transistory approach to recording, the sound of this LP is unlikely to move you as much as it moved us here at Better Records. (more…)

The Curtis Counce Group – Landslide

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

This very nice looking Contemporary Yellow Label LP has the BREATH OF LIFE! Both the sax and the trumpet sound superb – you can really hear the air moving through the instruments. The clarity and transparency are superb, and the tonality is Right On The Money. The generous extension up top lets the cymbals really come to life.

Jack Sheldon is absolutely amazing and completely original on trumpet here. Check out his stellar work on the first track, Landslide. Not only that, but the sound of his instrument is wonderful — you’ll never hear a trumpet sound so rich and full on a Rudy Van Gelder recording, that’s for sure! (more…)

Louis Armstrong – The Essential Louis Armstrong

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

We’re always on the lookout for Louis Armstrong records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. Far too many of his recordings are poorly recorded, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

We assume most audiophiles got turned on to his music from the records that Classic Records remastered back in the mid-’90s, For those of you who were customers of ours back then, you know that I count myself among that group. (more…)

America’s Debut – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

TUBEY MAGICAL practically MASTER TAPE SOUND on side one! A good sounding copy of this album is a real treat; a superb sounding copy like this one is an EXPERIENCE! We’ve been playing this album for years but I cannot recall a copy with a more extended top end than the ones here. The transparency is off the charts. Side one is natural, relaxed, musical, sweet, tonally correct from top to bottom and overflowing with Tubey Magic.

These green label Warner Brothers originals — like most records — are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top to provide harmonics for the guitars. On the average copy the guitars are veiled and dull.

Equally problematic is smear, the loss of transient information. The best copies have guitars that are being played by fingers, with the subtle plucking of same naturally followed by the note produced. So many copies just present you with the note. You don’t really notice what’s missing until you hear a good pressing and suddenly you are aware of the players and their fingers making these sounds. This is one of the main qualities that we listened for to separate the winners from the also-rans. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

Amor!: The Fabulous Guitar of Luiz Bonfa – Reviewed in 2005

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

Atlantic Black Label LP with lovely sound! This is a famously rare and collectible jazz record by the amazing Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa. 

1958, the year this record was made, was a very good year for high quality recordings of all types of music. 

Click here to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1958 and here to see the records from 1958 that we’ve reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, more than 100 in fact.  (more…)

Joe Newman Quintet Jive At Five – Killer Trumpet Jazz from 1960

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  • Jive At Five arrives on the site with killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This hard to find Prestige Swingville LP is big, spacious, swinging with energy and absolutely jumping out of the speakers
  • 4 stars: “…[this music] is very much in the Count Basie vein. That fact is not too surprising when one considers that the quintet includes three members of Basie’s men: trumpeter Joe Newman, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess and bassist Eddie Jones. Joined by the complementary pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Oliver Jackson, Newman and his friends swing their way through four vintage standards and a couple of the leader’s original blues…”

Jive at Five is one of my all-time favorite jazz trumpet albums. This Shootout Winning Prestige reissue might very well turn you into a big fan as well.

I highly recommended this album back in the day. Hearing it now as a much older man, having played thousands of jazz records in the ensuing decades, and thankfully being able to hear it on much better equipment than I had back then, I realize both the music and sound (can’t forget that!) have stood the test of time very well indeed.

This is what a good jazz trumpet album should sound like, miles from the squawky, muted microphone-distorted horn sound so many audiophiles seem to revere. I’m guessing you know who I’m referring to. Miles Davis was surely a genius and a brilliant innovator, but his horn sound from the sixties on was never as relaxed, smooth and natural as it is on this wonderful Joe Newman Quintet album from 1960.

Joe was one of Basie’s long-time band members, a fiery soloist with an unerring sense of swing. This album ably demonstrates those qualities. The guy is passionate but he never gets lost in his own solos; he keeps the melodies and the swing front and center. (more…)