Records that Sound Best in Mono, Not Stereo

Julie London – Julie

More Julie London

More Julie

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • This outstanding vintage Liberty stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a Julie London album too (don’t get me started)
  • In-the-room presence, preternaturally breathy vocals, and boatloads of wonderful Tubey Magic
  • This amazing sleeper of a record belongs right up at the top of Ms. London’s oeuvre (25 albums strong) along with Julie Is Her Name – high praise indeed
  • 4 stars: “Usually put into a torch song setting, this release allows London to shed that garment and become jazzy. Instead of being sultry, she becomes dazzling and sparkling. She also becomes more adept at phrasing and timing and takes a risk or two in the tradition of a jazz singer.”

The great Jimmy Rowles plays piano, handled the arrangements and fronts the big group here, taking the music in a wonderfully jazzy direction that suits Julie’s vocal style perfectly. (more…)

Dinah Washington – Unforgettable

More Dinah Washington

xxxxx

  • An outstanding vintage mono pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely breathy vocals – this All Tube Mastered pressing has the right sound for this music
  • Although this is a stereo recording, the goofy stereo mix sticks Dinah way out in one channel, ruining any sense of being in her presence as a performer, so our early mono here is the only way to go
  • “The songs focus on love, and they’re distinguished by Washington’s ability to mingle loss and resignation with the promise of the future and a steely determination to make it happen. Ultimately Washington’s art is the romance of experience itself, its enduring truths and possibilities etched in her unforgettable voice. — Stuart Broomer

This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

More Billie Holiday

More Music For Torching

xxxxx
xxxxx

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

You’d be hard pressed to find a female vocal album from the 1950s with sound comparable to this one. We just finished up a big shootout for the sublimely titled Music For Torching, and this was clearly one of the better pressings we played. If you love smoky jazz vocals the way only Lady Day can sing them, we think you’ll be absolutely blown away to hear her sound this warm, rich and present. 

The formula is simple: Take one of the best female vocalists in the game, back her with a stellar crew of jazzmen and set them loose to knock out incredible versions of classic torch songs — It Had To Be You, A Fine Romance, Come Rain Or Come Shine and so forth. The good news is that the performances turned out to be some of the best ever recorded by this extraordinary singer, and fortunately for us audiophiles, the mono sound turned out to be dramatically better than we would have expected from Norman Granz’s Verve label in 1955. (more…)

Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phil Urso – Picture Of Heath – A Killer Copy from 2005

More Chet Baker / More Art Pepper

More Picture Of Heath

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This is an exceptionally nice original Pacific Jazz Black Label Mono LP with SUPERB SOUND. Pure Pleasure just did a 180g reissue of this album, but the real thing is THE REAL THING! This copy has the PRESENCE, the DYNAMICS and the LIFE of real jazz. I can’t think of a more fun west coast jazz session that sounds as good outside of the best Contemporary records. This one gets a top recommendation. 

Nat King Cole – Unforgettable

More Nat King

More Unforgettable

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

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

Our shootout winner here had the clearest, most natural vocals, with a living, breathing Nat King Cole front and center. Hard to believe some of these songs date back to 1946, with the most recent being from 1954. No matter; whatever the limitations of the recording technology, they knew enough of what they were doing to get Nat’s voice consistently right for practically every track. 

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the best copies; on other pressings you often don’t notice that casual quality.

Warmth and sweetness were nearly as important, the distinctive and unmistakeable hallmarks of vintage All Tube Analog. Each of these qualities combined to make the music on these sides as thoroughly involving and enchanting as any album of its kind we have ever offered.

The Hunt

Naturally we’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think it would be. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.

If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the ’60s. Many of Nat’s albums from that decade are over-produced, bright, thin and shrill. (more…)

Julie London – About The Blues

More Julie London

More About The Blues

xxxxx

  • About The Blues with KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last; we rarely have this title on the site 
  • Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout
  • 4 stars: “About the Blues … may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths…”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.   (more…)

Shelly Manne & His Men – More Swinging Sounds

More Shelly Manne

More Swinging Sounds

xxxxx

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

This Contemporary Yellow Label MONO LP is West Coast Jazz at its best! 

One quality of this side one that really took us by surprise was how DYNAMIC it is. The second track gets loud in a way that only one or two out of a hundred records does. (This is about the number of records we play in a week and I would have to say that no other record this week was more dynamic, hence the rough estimate above.) 

As you can imagine there’s not much going on at the frequency extremes, high or low; we have yet to hear a Mono recording from 1956 that boasts full bandwidth sound, but the middle sure can be awfully nice!

Side One

A+ to A++, with rich, smooth, lovely West Coast jazz sound. The horns can get a bit hard when loud.

Check out the dynamics on track two — Wow!

Side Two

A+ to A++, clean and lively. Zero smear and nearly as dynamic as side one. Track two, more than fifteen minutes long, is richer than track one by the way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Moose the Mooche 
The Wind 
Pint of Blues

Side Two

Tommyhawk 
Quartet

Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

More Billie Holiday

More Music For Torching

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this is a killer copy of one of Billie’s best
  • Not only that, but this pressing plays as quietly as any we can find – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • A superb recording of jazz standards with a great lineup and Billie in top form, as well as Tubey Magical sound, with especially breathy vocals
  • Great versions (and lovely sound) for It Had to Be You, Come Rain or Come Shine, A Fine Romance, and too many more to list
  • “The overall feeling on this 1955 recording… is strictly after-hours: the party is long over but a few close friends remain for nightcaps and, is that the sun peeking through the windows?” — Allmusic

You’d be hard-pressed to find a female vocal album from the 1950s with sound comparable to this one. We just finished up a big shootout for the sublimely titled Music For Torching, and this lovely copy was clearly one of the better pressings we played. If you love smoky jazz standards the way only Lady Day can sing them, we think you’ll be blown away to hear her sound this warm, rich and present. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

xxxxx

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

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono. (more…)

Julie London – Julie Is Her Name – What a Record!

More Julie London

More Julie Is Her Name

xxxxx

 

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

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a given recording to a level we’ve never experienced before and had no idea could even exist. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

  • Beyond White Hot stamper sound on side one of this Turquoise Liberty Mono pressing – the sound is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • Julie is in the room with you – intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • For late night listening this may be the best Sultry Female Vocal recording ever made
  • “…one of the purest, most subtle lounge albums of all time (not to mention one of the best vocal jazz albums ever).”

This side had breathy resolution that was hard to believe, along with size and immediacy that no other side of any copy could touch. Phenomenal. (more…)