Mono or Stereo? Mono!

Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • A superb recording of jazz standards with a great lineup and Billie in top form – plenty of Tubey Magical richness and naturally breathy vocals as well
  • Great performances for classics such as It Had to Be You, Come Rain or Come Shine, A Fine Romance and too many more to list
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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?”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 8 light ticks at the end of Track 2, Come Rain or Come Shine.

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.

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.

Both sides are blessed with the kind of mid-’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you!

Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems as if no one can even remaster a recording like this anymore, if our direct experience with scores of such albums counts as any sort of evidence. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’

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  • An outstanding Double Album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • The best sounding tracks here can hold their own with ANY Miles Davis vinyl we’ve ever heard, and that’s a whole lot of Mile Davis albums
  • 5 Stars: “This two-LP set combines a pair of classic albums by the Miles Davis Quintet of 1956, the group that also featured John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. …the music has plenty of variety and does not sound rushed. Davis’s beautiful muted statements made these two of his most popular albums.”

*NOTE: On sides one and two, a bubble makes 6 very soft thumps on Track 1, It Never Entered My Mind (side one), and Trane’s Blues (side two). On side four, a mark makes 15 light stitches at the beginning of Track 3, When I Fall In Love.

You might be surprised that a reissue can beat the originals, but one play of this pressing should be enough to remove all doubt.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB. (more…)

The Yardbirds – Roger The Engineer

  • A stunning copy with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet import vinyl too
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this Psych Classic by the band come alive
  • Over, Under, Sideways, Down – the big hit off the album – sounds great here in MONO
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the Yardbirds’ best individual studio album, offering some of their very best psychedelia.”

This is one of the few Mono albums that really justifies the claims made for the superiority of mono in general. Just listen to the vocals on side one: they’re right up front and centered the way they should be on any good pop song. On the stereo version, they’re off to the left and way down in level. They have no power over there! It robs the song of its focus.

Even worse, the stereo remaster by Edsel has no bass. It’s a joke next to the mono. It’s doubtful we would ever buy one again. What a waste of good import vinyl.

Edsel did a great remastering job of the mono mix here. What do we hear on this pressing that’s different from most of the early pressings? A smoother, sweeter, lower distortion midrange and top end. And really punchy solid super low distortion bass. The transparency of this pressing is clearly superior to anything we have ever played. (more…)

Handel / The Water Music Suite / Van Beinum

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This exceptionally rare original London mono pressing not only has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides, but boasts a performance that is practically unmatched since its recording back in 1958!

This is Handel played with excitement and passion, worlds away from the draggy and listless performances with which you may be more familiar. (We like both Szell on London and Dorati on Mercury but try finding them with good sound and in good condition. It ain’t easy.)

Side One – The Water Music

A++ Rich textured strings are the first of many sonic qualities to catch your ear, followed soon enough by big, rich, solid brass, the kind of brass that mono recordings seem to capture so well.

And no smear to the transients. That alone makes it an exceptional vintage golden age recording.

As one would expect, the frequency extremes are not what they can be on a modern recordings. The midrange, however, is glorious. Also dynamics are better.

The life of the music comes through here brilliantly! A top top performance.

Side Two – The Royal Fireworks

A++ again, but different. The sound here is richer and tubier, with a more extended top end, but a bit smeary on the strings compared to side one. The sound is transparent, and the strings never get steely or edgy, with no shrillness or hardness whatsoever, which means you can really turn this one up and enjoy the hell out of it from the front row center seat you’ve purchased.

So musical and lively, this is music that belongs in any music lover’s collection. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Close To You

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  • This early mono pressing of Sinatra’s 1957 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Rich, sweet, and completely free of phony EQ, this record will put a living, breathing Sinatra standing right there between your speakers
  • Early pressings of Sinatra recordings from 1957 do not come much cleaner than this one in our experience
  • 4 stars: “…one of Frank Sinatra’s most gentle and intimate albums… has a delicate, lovely quality…”

*NOTE: On side two, the last one-eighth inch of Track 1, With Every Breath I Take, is lightly to moderately swooshy.

Superb Sinatra sound! His voice here is perfection. (more…)

John Coltrane – Soul Trane

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  • This Prestige “stereo” pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • It may say stereo on the cover, but this album is pure, glorious MONO, with sound that is full-bodied, relaxed, Tubey Magical and tonally correct
  • Here is the palpable jazz energy, the life of the music, that’s sure to be missing from whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl pressing is being stamped out these days
  • “… a classic of the 20th century jazz canon and an essential point of reference in Coltrane’s own tumultuous career…. this is the album on which Coltrane first emerged as the primary innovator of the jazz world, wielding an astonishing technical virtuosity and a blinding vision of the possibilities of the tenor sax.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


This is a mono recording that has supposedly been reprocessed into stereo. Rudy Van Gelder did the mastering, and my guess is he decided to leave the sound mono and simply not tell anyone. Who can blame him? He engineered it in mono, so why fix what ain’t broke because they printed the cover and the label with the word “stereo” on them in order to generate more sales?

We’re lucky he did. The OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad. Without these excellent ’60s and ’70s reissues, all that we would have available to do our shootouts with would be the originals. At one to three thousand dollars each for clean copies, few of which could ever be found anyway, that makes for a shootout whose costs could simply never be justified.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job! (more…)

The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man – What to Listen For

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Want to hear what the best copies of Mr. Tambourine Man can do? Play Chimes of Freedom, one of the best sounding tracks on side two, if not THE best. Listen to how breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn’s vocals are. Byrds records almost never sound like that.

I Knew I’d Want You is another one that sounds amazingly Tubey Magical on the best pressings. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – A Swingin’ Affair!

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This is a very nice looking original Capitol Grey/Black Label LP. As for sonics, the record starts off a little problematically but things really start cookin’ by track two when the sound becomes sweet and warm. By the way, this Capitol Label was only used from 1956 until 1957. This record plays Mint Minus Minus about as quiet as any early Capitol pressing you’re likely to ever hear.

The record was number one in the UK for 7 straight weeks! (more…)

Jackie McLean Quintet/Bill Hardman – Jackie’s Pal

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  • A superb copy of Jackie’s Pal with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, with a true Mint Minus side one
  • Dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1956 sounds
  • Another top jazz recording from Rudy Van Gelder – big, bold and lively, just the right sound for this music
  • “… no one could execute complex melodic lines with the speed and precision of Bill. He was a human “bebop machine,” a player who could improvise for hours on a single chord and not run out of ideas…”

(more…)

Frank Sinatra – Close To You – Sounds Great in Mono

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

This nice looking Capitol Rainbow Label pressing has SUPERB SINATRA SOUND! His voice is PERFECTION. Rich, sweet, and completely free of phony EQ (Mobile Fidelity take note!), this record will put a living, breathing Sinatra between your speakers. Normally I’m not a big fan of these slower, ballady Sinatra records, but he’s so good here, it’s difficult to find fault with music and sound like this. (more…)