Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Lou Rawls – Live!

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Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

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  • Lou Rawls Live! is an amazing recording that really comes to life on the best Hot Stamper pressings
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is superb – Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights, but really, there’s not a bad track here
  • If you could only have one Lou Rawls album, no question it would have to be this one – everything that’s good about the man’s music is fully on display
  • 4 stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better. (more…)

Bola Sete – Autentico!

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  • Bola Sete’s wonderful 1966 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with excellent STEREO sound from first note to last
  • This LP was bigger, richer and clearer, with less smear and distortion, and more Tubey Magic, than most every other pressing we played
  • We have a devil of a time finding early pressings of this album in audiophile playing condition – the music is so good, but the surfaces of his records almost always have some issues…
  • 4 stars: “With the solid classical technique of Sete leading the way, this is a gently swinging set of mostly low-key Brazilian jazz (with a few livelier exceptions), as played by Sete’s New Brazilian Trio.”

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Coop! The Music Of Bob Cooper – Killer on the Right OJC Pressing

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout  
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one
  • An amazing 1958 All Tube Live-in-the-Studio Jazz recording by the legendary Roy DuNann
  • “Tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper’s only Contemporary album is a near-classic and one of his finest recordings … This set is an underrated gem.”

Another undiscovered gem, brought to you by the folks at Better Records who know a good sounding record when they hear one.

This is a superb Contemporary recording from 1958. Cooper is joined by top West Coast musicians like trombonist Frank Rosolino, vibraphonist Victor Feldman, pianist Lou Levy, bassist Max Bennett, and drummer Mel Lewis. On some parts of the Jazz Theme the group grows to be ten pieces. Normally this might present a problem for a recording engineer, but Roy DuNann is up to the task! If you want to hear the sound of brass recorded properly, Roy is your man.

Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

What do the better Hot Stampers pressings like this one give you?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the horns and drums, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Roy DuNann — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years. (more…)

Kenny Burrell with Gil Evans – Guitar Forms

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  • This STUNNING pressing offers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Gil Evans wrote the superb orchestral arrangements and Rudy Van Gelder captured them on lovely analog tape – what’s not to like? 
  • We’ve really been digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now – it may not be serious jazz, but it’s no less interesting and captivating for it
  • “His landmark 1965 collaboration with Gil Evans, Guitar Forms rivals anything the arranger did with Miles Davis. Indeed, the track “Lotus Land” has a bolero form very reminiscent of Sketches of Spain. Throughout, Burrell takes thoughtful, concise, and utterly musical solos, and even switches to acoustic classical guitar on “Prelude #2” and “Loie.””

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1965 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet, and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

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  • A Shootout Winning copy of this Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic and one of only a handful to hit the site in years
  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was close behind at A++ to A+++
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the best sounding
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing they sound rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

We recently shot out a short stack of these — not an easy record to find in clean condition, in stereo, on the earlier labels, at affordable prices these days, so we didn’t have the eight to ten copies we like to have for a full shootout — and found that the music on Quiet Nights was every bit as enchanting as we remember it.

The music is very much in the style of Sketches Of Spain and the sound is comparable to that album as well. This is Davis’ final official collaboration with arranger and conductor Gil Evans. The quintet on this album includes Miles Davis on the trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Victor Feldman on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Frank Butler on drums. (more…)

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Keep On Moving

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage Elektra stereo pressing is the only way to go
  • “People who liked Butter long ago usually don’t like what he’s become. I’ve only dug him over the past two years and I think he just gets better and better. This record, vocally oriented and produced by Jerry Ragavoy, is his best yet, hard-driving and very tight. ” – Robert Christgau (A)

I would have never guessed this band’s records could sound so good! We’ve been trying to find good sound for the Butterfield Blues Band with no luck for years, but we lucked into a seriously hot Red Label Elektra pressing here. There’s serious weight down low, nice extension up top, tons of tubey magic and surprising transparency to be found. Good luck finding better sound for this kind of bluesy rock and roll! (more…)

Frank Sinatra – No One Cares

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  • Sinatra’s 1959 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish on this original Capitol LP
  • On a copy this good, Frank will appear as living, breathing (albeit disembodied) person right in your very own listening room – we call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Jenkins gives the songs a subtly tragic treatment, and Sinatra responds with a wrenching performance.”

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Elvis Presley – Moody Blue

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is a superb copy of Elvis’s 1977 famous Moody Blue album 
  • Considering the blue vinyl, this copy plays exceptionally well, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • Presley’s final studio album, released just a month before his death – not his best but there are a number of songs worth hearing here
  • “For all of its slapped-together feel, however, Moody Blue held up. The title song, authored by Mark James (who’d previously written “Suspicious Minds”), was just about as good a single as Elvis released in the 1970s, topping the country charts earlier in 1977; additionally, he did a superb reinterpretation of the George Jones hit “She Thinks I Still Care.”

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Paul Revere and the Raiders – The Spirit of ’67

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More Sixties Pop Recordings

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  • A superb sounding copy with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, the right sound for America’s answer in 1966 to those pesky Brits and all their chart-topping songs
  • 4 stars: “The Spirit of ’67, Paul Revere and the Raiders’ third gold-selling, Top Ten album to be released in 1966, marked the triumph of the group’s in-house writing team of lead singer Mark Lindsay, Paul Revere, and producer Terry Melcher… Paul Revere and the Raiders were riding high.”

This vintage Columbia 360 pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

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  • An outstanding copy of this classic Jazz Vocal album, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • I defy you to find a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that can hold a candle to this one, sonically or musically
  • A wonderful collaboration between a horn player and a singer, perhaps the greatest one of all time
  • 5 stars: “John Coltrane’s matchup with singer Johnny Hartman works extremely well. Hartman was in prime form on the six ballads, and his versions of ‘Lush Life’ and ‘My One and Only Love’ have never been topped. Classic, essential for all jazz collections”

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — two giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning. (His mastering, not so much.)

Hats off to Rudy Van Gelder! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. Not all of them, you know, or should know, but try telling that to the average jazz-loving audiophile. (more…)