Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Johnny Cash – The Sound of Johnny Cash

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Big, rich, tubey and open, this is some of the best sound Columbia achieved for its country records in the ’60s
  • The vocal presence and freedom from coloration will put a very real sounding Johnny Cash front and center in your listening room
  • “What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona.”

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Tony Bennett – I Wanna Be Around…

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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  
  • This is an excellent vintage 360 stereo pressing, with the all important midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “As the studio album followup to Tony Bennett’s breakthrough record, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, I Wanna Be Around had a lot to live up to, but since San Francisco was a culmination of Bennett’s development, and not a fluke, I Wanna Be Around turned out to be almost on a par with its predecessor… A worthy successor.”

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Sarah Vaughan – The Lonely Hours

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  • The Lonely Hours debuts with killer Hot Stamper sound – this copy took top honors with Triple Plus sonics on both sides
  • No other copy could touch this early Roulette pressing for size, space, clarity, dynamics and, most especially, vocal richness
  • With Benny Carter brilliantly handling the arrangements, we feel that this is a badly underrated album of Ms Vaughan’s from 1964, a glorious year for music
  • “Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.”

Wonderfully warm, big and clear, not to mention exceptionally dynamic, this copy shows the listener just how good the master tape must be.

Not only could no other copy touch it; as far as I can tell it’s the only copy with two sides good enough to put on the site!

Classic Records remastered this album back in the day, and I can see why: the average pressing on Roulette is borderline unlistenable. Of course we didn’t know that when we started this shootout. We had found a nice sounding copy and subsequently went on the hunt for more. Little did we know how wide the variation in sound quality we would find on the original Orange Label pressings. There was simply no denying that many of the copies we played were just too thin, shrill and pinched in the midrange to be of any interest to our Hot Stamper customers.

As mediocre as Bernie’s Classic cutting may be, it’s still better than the average Roulette original one might throw on the turntable. And you can forget the monos completely; they were by far the worst sounding of them all.


Sarah and Her Remarkable Pipes

Vaughan’s New York Times obituary described her as a “singer who brought an operatic splendour to her performances of popular standards and jazz.”

Fellow jazz singer Mel Tormé said that Vaughan had “…the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field.” Her ability was envied by Frank Sinatra who said that “Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor.” The New York Times critic John S. Wilson said in 1957 that Vaughan possessed “what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz.”

Vaughan’s vibrato was described as “an ornament of uniquely flexible size, shape and duration,” a vibrato also described as “voluptuous” and “heavy.” Vaughan was also accomplished in her ability to “fray” or “bend” notes at the extremities of her vocal range. It was noted in a 1972 performance of Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Bart’s “Where Is Love?” that “In mid-tune she began twisting the song, swinging from the incredible cello tones of her bottom register, skyrocketing to the wispy pianissimos of her top.”

Though usually considered a “jazz singer”, Vaughan avoided classifying herself as one. Vaughan discussed the term in an 1982 interview for Down Beat:

I don’t know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I’m not putting jazz down, but I’m not a jazz singer…I’ve recorded all kinds of music, but (to them) I’m either a jazz singer or a blues singer. I can’t sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing ‘Send In the Clowns’ and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all kinds of music.

Wikipedia

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lonely Hours
I’ll Never Be The Same
If I Had You
Friendless
You’re Driving Me Crazy
Always On My Mind

Side Two

Look For Me, I’ll Be Around
What’ll I Do
Solitude
These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
The Man I Love
So Long, My Love

AMG  Review

The Lonely Hours, Sarah Vaughan’s contribution to the genre of saloon song LPs, doesn’t have a stellar selection of material — although of course nearly anything recorded by one of America’s foremost jazz interpreters is worth hearing.

Add to that the special treat of Benny Carter — the seminal altoist who’d been contributing charts to the hottest big bands since 1928 — occupying the arranger’s chair, and The Lonely Hours becomes a very intriguing proposition. Carter’s refined arrangements and ensemble playing don’t exactly reinforce the isolation of the title, but Vaughan sounds excellent on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” “These Foolish Things,” and “If I Had You,” lightly caressing the notes.

For “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and “What’ll I Do,” she cleverly mirrors the comic frustration embodied in Carter’s flügelhorn/tuba ensemble.

The Lonely Hours is a solid match of vocalist and arranger in most respects, with only the quality of the material weighing it down slightly.

Thelonious Monk – Monk.

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  • This wonderful Black Print 360 Columbia pressing impressed us, earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or better on both sides and playing about as quietly as any stereo original we’ve found
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from 1964 is no exception
  • The piano has real weight, the bass definition is wonderful, Rouse’s sax is full-bodied, and the overall sound is Columbia to a “T”: warm, sweet, and rich
  • The Thelonious Monk Quartet of 1964 is well featured on this excellent set… Easily recommended to Monk fans, this set is just further proof that he never made an unworthy recording.”

*The last track on this side gets a little crackly and plays Mint Minus Minus to EX++.

We’re big Monk fans here at Better Records and we wish we could get more records like this up on the site. Unfortunately, clean, vintage pressings of Monk’s music have become increasingly difficult to find, and even when you can track them down, they rarely play as quietly as this one, and of course, this being a Hot Stamper, they rarely sound as good as this one. (more…)

Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

More Nat King Cole

More Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this wonderful collaboration from 1962 
  • Two masters come together here to create a compilation of timeless arrangements still appreciated by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • It’s tough to find top quality sound for Nat King Cole – here’s your chance to hear just how good he sounded on this All Tube Recording from the early ’60s
  • “Cole is in prime form on such songs as “September Song,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “Serenata.” Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.”

The better pressings of this unique collaboration between Nat King Cole and George Shearing put Cole’s voice right up front with lovely breath and natural texture. On the better copies such as this one, the Nat’s vocals are full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the soundfield is open and transparent. If you want a great sounding male vocal LP in your collection, this one will do the trick nicely. (more…)

Perez Prado (and Better Records) Implore You to Turn Up the Volume

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Another in the long list of recordings that sounds its best when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right from top to bottom.

If you like the sound of percussion instruments of every possible flavor, including some you have never tasted before, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of them than this. (more…)

Dean Martin – Sleep Warm

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  • Martin’s superb 1959 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed, this is what vintage analog is all about, that smooth, tonally correct sound that never calls attention to itself and never gives you the sense that someone tried to “fix” it
  • One of the man’s few recordings for Capitol with audiophile potential (and rare in unmarked condition) – it features arrangements by the great Pete King and an orchestra conducted by none other than Frank Sinatra
  • 4 stars: “Martin brought more attention to the sessions than usual, and the sympathetic string arrangements supported his romantic vocals, making this one of his best album releases.”

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Ted Heath – Shall We Dance – Absolutely Amazing Sound (and We Love the Music Too)

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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.

More Big Band Jazz

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…)

Harry “Sweets” Edison – Sweetenings

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  • Edison’s superb 1958 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The sound on this Roulette original is big, rich and LIVELY, with boatloads of Tubey Magic and three-dimensional space
  • It’s hard to imagine finding a copy with a better first side than this one, and side two is right up there with it
  • True, we did not have a big stack of copies for our shootout, but we recognize a killer pressing when we hear one
  • “Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison added something special to any date in which he took part, but these 1958 sessions he led for Roulette are especially enjoyable…. Edison’s trumpet swings effortlessly through a batch of standards and originals.”

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Roy Orbison – Orbisongs

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Excellent sound throughout with Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides. This superb pressing is especially Analog Sounding – lively, warm, with rich bass and breathy, clear vocals. Features one of Orbison’s greatest legacies, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” in stereo no less, and it sounds incredible here.  (more…)