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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.

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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?

Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

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

The notes I took during this shootout lay out just how impressed I was with the sound of this remarkable copy:

Wide stereo. Big Bass. Swingin’. Just the right amount of reverb. Tonal perfection. The stereo kills the mono (on this album, on the copies we played anyway).

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On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies — or, to be more precise, some sides of some copies can be dry — but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record — like the first volume, the 1955 mono recording — takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level. (more…)

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.

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame, a Forgotten Classic, and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. He was apparently quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are straightforward and unerringly melodic.

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The co-leader here is Danny Kirwan and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs the band ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering. Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

And Let’s Not Forget Christine McVie

It’s amazing to realize that this album was made by just four guys. Actually that’s not true. Christine McVie (known as Christine Perfect at the time) not only did the lovely artwork for the cover, but she sings uncredited background vocals on some of the songs. Her contribution to Station Man is especially lovely. She would officially join the band on their next album, a personal favorite of mine, Future Games. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record

More A New World Record

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Listening in Depth

 

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As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included. But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. This is the band’s MASTERPIECE in my humble opinion. For audiophiles ELO on LP doesn’t get any better.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Tightrope

Both sides start off with a uptempo rocker, and this side’s is Tightrope.

Watch your string tone. If it’s shrill or grainy you are going to find yourself in trouble on practically every song on A New World Record — they all have strings and lots of them.

You need richness in the lower mids, harmonic extension up top, and just plain highly resolving sound if the strings are going to sound right in the mix.

Note that sometimes the highs get better on a record as it plays. Check to see if you don’t have more top end by the second track, or even halfway through this one. Happens to us all the time. (more…)

Bola Sete – Tour De Force

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Bola Sete – Tour De Force

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

My favorite Latin jazz guitar record of all time! DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND, too.

This pressing is tonally correct from top to bottom. As the old saying goes, it wasn’t broke so don’t try to fix it. Afficionados of the guitar or Latin music will find this record very satisfying in all respects. A top recommendation from Better Records.

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Carlos Montoya – From St. Lous to Seville

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Carlos Montoya – From St. Lous to Seville

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

Ed Begley is the engineer here and he knocked this one out of the park. What an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Need a refresher course in tubey magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? This record is overflowing with it. Rich, clear, natural, sweet, overflowing with space and ambience, absolutely correct tonality — it’s all here.

The Rhythm Accompaniment is made up of three top players from New York. Sally Montoya noted at the time: “Carlos just recorded the first Flamenco jazz record for Victor, with Osie Johnson and Milt Hinton and Barry Galbraith on electric guitar. A most relaxed and informal session. The other musicians said it was unique in their experience.”

. A stunning Triple Plus side one backed with a better than Double Plus side two
. Flamenco Meets Jazz in this extraordinary recording, and it works
. The Three-Dimensional space and Tubey Magic are jaw-dropping on this copy
. An amazing Webster Hall Living Stereo All Analog recording from 1958 – nothing        else sounds like it

It’s certainly a unique record in my experience, with mind-blowingly good sound and engaging music.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1959 Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so big, full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone in the music industry seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Ted Heath – Shall We Dance

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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.

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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 – Basie Plays Hefti

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti

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

This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play.

Side one is rich, tubey and lively, right up there with some of the best pressings we played.

Side two tends to start out a bit hot but by the second track it’s fuller, smoother, and every bit as dynamic as anything on the album. The sound just keeps getting better from there, with the next track coming across especially big and clear.

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. Superb Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides – what a great Basie album this is!
. Basie Plays Hefti catches Basie’s band at the peak of their powers in 1958
. Rich, tubey, dynamic and clear, we know of no better vintage Basie album than this
. “The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti                       arrangements.”|

The liner notes tell the story of this album well; go to the bottom of this listing to read them.

Not Your Typical Vintage Basie Album

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days. Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

And of course we absolutely loved the music. I had a chance to see the Basie Big Band perform not long ago at Disney Hall and a fairly large chunk of the music and arrangements they play these days are Neal’s, practically half I would venture to guess. Meaning simply that Hefti’s music has clearly stood the test of time. Play this album and you’re sure to see what I mean.

Art Pepper – Today

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Art Pepper – Today

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

Side two is huge, rich and energetic like no other. Side one was nearly as good, with especially rich, Tubey Magical sound. Musically this is the best of Pepper’s later period, and exceptionally well recorded by Baker Bigsby. Today has been a personal favorite of mine for close to 30 years.

Side two of this copy is White Hot, which is where the extended ballad Patricia is, in our opinion the single most beautiful song Art Pepper ever recorded. It’s ten solid minutes of emotion, at the end of which you may be as exhausted as he no doubt was. The big finish for the song is unbelievable on this copy.

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There’s an interesting story behind this record which I’d like to relate in some detail, but it’s fairly long so I’ve put it at the end of this copy’s description. You can find it below under the heading The Story of Today.

By the second track on side one the sound is doing it all — it’s bigger, richer and more spacious, and there’s plenty of Tubey Magic to go around. Nearly White Hot.

Truly White Hot – -huge, with the most extension up top, the biggest bass, the most energy, the greatest dynamic contrasts, you name it, this side is doing it. Demo Disc Quality sound and then some. (more…)