Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Donald Byrd – Electric Byrd

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this later Blue Note pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both of these sides are clean, clear and natural sounding with a lovely bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Donald Byrd’s transitional sessions from 1969-1971 are actually some of the trumpeter’s most intriguing work, balancing accessible, funky, Davis-style fusion with legitimate jazz improvisation. Electric Byrd, from 1970, is the best of the bunch, as Byrd absorbs the innovations of Bitches Brew and comes up with one of his most consistent fusion sets of any flavor… indisputably challenging, high-quality fusion.” – 4 1/2 Stars

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Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner Corner of the World, Vol. 2

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The presence is superb — turn it up good and loud and you’ll be right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys, circa 1960  
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)

Jimmy Reed – Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall

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  • Jimmy Reed makes his debut on this site with this stunning copy of Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall
  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR sides of this killer album
  • A surprisingly good recording – this early stereo pressing is wonderfully big and rich, with natural tonality and more three-dimensional space than any other copy we played
  • It took us years to find enough early Vee-Jay stereo (and mono) pressings that played quietly in order to do this shootout, and here is the winner in all its glory!
  • 5 stars: “… In some ways, it almost does make for a greatest-hits compilation, as it contains most of Reed’s most popular tunes… it was highly popular and influential, making the Top 50 at a time when few blues LPs charted.”

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Edmundo Ros – Ros On Broadway – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Edmundo Ros and his orchestra don’t command much respect these days from the general record buying public. As for audiophiles, it’s doubtful that many even know who he or they is/are. But we at Better Records are going to change that, starting with this very record, because it’s one of the best sounding records we have ever heard. Stampers just do not get any HOTTER than these! 

From the perspective of a level playing field, I cannot think of a single rock record that sounds as BIG and DYNAMIC, nor one that is as spacious and clear, as is the side two of this London Blueback. As good as the best German pressings of Dark Side of the Moon may be, shockingly good in fact, this recording is clearly more exciting and lifelike, with instrumental timbres that are uncannily accurate.

Over the years we’ve played a lot of Edmundo Ros records on London — you name it, Blueback, Whiteback, Phase 4 — but I sure never heard one sound like this until we did this shootout! (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people, front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — performing with one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals that are at the same time not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts. (more…)

Milt Jackson – Bags & Flutes

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  • This original Atlantic stereo pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days (as well as the early mono pressings) – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album from 1959, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • “Jackson is partnered alternately with Frank Wess and Bobby Jaspar — two of the leading pioneers that helped bring the flute into the mainstream of jazz. For these performances, the rhythm section blends and balances superbly, creating supple, meaty, hard bopping grooves for Jackson’s limitless capacity for invention and for the stellar, swinging performances of Jaspar and Wess.”

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Paganini – Kreisler / Concerto In One Movement / Campoli – Reviewed in 2019 and 2008

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  • This exceptionally rare early London pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and includes a wonderful performance of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • The Decca engineers captured the correct amount of detail in the bowing and fingering – it’s not overdone as it is in so many records that many audiophiles prefer, with the mics much too close to the strings

This is a WONDERFUL sounding violin concerto recording. It has TUBEY MAGIC as well as MUSIC to die for. What”s most interesting about the sound is how well the violin is integrated into the orchestra. On most RCAs, just to pick one golden age label to use as an example, the violin is typically hugely oversized and placed far in front of the orchestra. Not so here. The violin is of a whole with the orchestra, which makes for a much more natural and relaxed presentation. (more…)

Donald Byrd – Royal Flush

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  • A superb sounding copy of Royal Flush, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or very close to them 
  • Remarkable Tubey Magical richness, as well as the kind of immediacy and transparency that few copies have – all qualities essential to reproducing both the trumpet and the baritone sax with exceptional fidelity
  • Byrd’s trumpet sounds wonderful here, with just the right amount of bite
  • “Donald Byrd was at his peak as a straight-ahead hard bop band leader in the early ’60s, turning a series of remarkably solid, enjoyable sessions for Blue Note. Royal Flush is no exception to the rule.”

If you like your jazz to sound BIG, BOLD and DYNAMIC, this is the record for you my friend. This one’s got that jumpin’-outta-the-speakers quality — but never in a forced or phony way — that we love so much about the better copies of Dexter Gordon’s One Flight Up.

Play Shangri-La on side two and prepare to be blown away. Billy Higgins is busting out some seriously heavy staccato snare drum work, and on a copy with superb presence like this one, those big snare thwacks are gonna hit you right in the gut and leave you begging for mercy.

I defy anyone to find a Heavy Vinyl Blue Note reissue with this kind of life and energy. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700

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  • Stunning sound for this WB Gold Label original with both sides finishing top of the pile — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • When the three of them sing good and loud on these tracks, not only can you hear them belting it out, you FEEL it too
  • The “breath of life” is alive and well on these old LPs, the best reason for the truly serious audiophile to stay committed to analog, for now and probably far into the future
  • Features their classic version of Leaving On A Jet Plane, a Number One smash that still holds up after more than 50 years(!)

We went through a big stack of Gold Label originals and various Green Label reissue pressings, in stereo of course, and this easily qualifies as the best copy we played all day.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If these three gifted singers don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing across from you — left, right and center — toss your copy and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the midrange is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you really can’t even imagine it. It’s a bit shocking to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully, sounding so much like live music.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we must constantly strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest. (more…)

Milt Jackson Quintet – That’s The Way It Is

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides of this is a killer live jazz album from Shelly’s Manne-Hole
  • Big, rich and real, with the kind of relaxed Tubey Magical sound that not many live albums achieve
  • Wally Heider engineered and he knocked it out of the park – You Are There, and even better, it’s 1969
  • “This is not experimental jazz. It’s beyond that, or as they say in New York, outside that. This is solid, rooted, sweet-smelling earth of an enduring style, as played by masters.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of this record last year and could hardly believe how good it sounded. So rich, so tubey, so big and clear – this is one of the best Impulse records we have played in a very long time. It’s clearly another “sleeper” discovered by your friends here at Better Records. Who else is finding vintage albums with this kind of sound and music? (more…)