Mono or Stereo? Stereo!

Sonny Rollins – Alfie

  • This Sonny Rollins classic finally returns to the site boasting superb sound on both sides of this original Impulse stereo pressing
  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse Title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson as it is for Sonny Rollins
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins attempts to capture the textures of life through his incisive and energetic playing, his coherent improvisations, and variations on musical themes.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny Rollins, this Impulse from 1966 surely belongs in your collection.

This album is on the TAS Super Disc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album decades ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

What makes this album so great? For starters, great players. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly, I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason, he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course, any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns, in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously.

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Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

  • A Parsley, Sage… like you’ve never heard, with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage 360 Stereo pressing
  • Their best recording, a Top 100 album and a Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars
  • Especially smooth, present, breathy vocals – this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • Having played them by the hundreds, we’ve found that midrange presence and resolution are precisely what go missing on The Modern Heavy Vinyl Reissue — if those qualities are important to you, vintage vinyl is the only solution to your problem
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles’ Revolver or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests.”
  • Fans of this Folky Duo should definitely find a place for this 1966 release, which is also their best sounding album
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Vince Guaraldi – Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Reviews and Commentaries for Vince Guaraldi

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

    • An outstanding copy of this classic audiophile favorite with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet for a vintage vinyl pressing on Fantasy Deep Groove vinyl too
    • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
    • Sublime, practically magical jazz trio sound (and music!) that belongs in every audiophile’s collection
    • If you made the mistake of buying any pressing made in the last forty years, on any label, here is your chance to finally hear this wonderful music sound the way it was meant to
    • And if this strikes you as too much money to spend on the album, don’t buy an LP, buy Hoffmann’s Gold CD, it’s wonderful
    • 5 stars: “Here is Vince Guaraldi’s breakthrough album — musically, commercially, in every which way… The whole album evokes the ambience of San Francisco’s jazz life in the 1960s as few others do.”
    • An absolute Must Own – for sound and music, this is our pick for The Best Vince Guaraldi Album of All Time

This album checks off a number of important boxes for us here at Better Records:

    1. It’s a Jazz Demo Disc (on the right stereo pressings)
    2. It’s the Best Sounding Vince Guaraldi album we know of
    3. It’s a Jazz Masterpiece, and, lastly,
    4. It’s a Personal Favorite of yours truly

Great energy for this jazz classic. This quality cannot be emphasized enough — it’s critically important to the music.

The best copies really get the bottom right. They bring out the contribution of the bass player better, the bass being essential to the rhythm of the music. On these pressings, the bass is so tight and note-like, you can see right into the soundstage and practically watch Monte Budwig play.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazillian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” or “Manha de Carnival.”

If you happen to have a friend with that title in his collection, ask to take a peek at it. I’ll bet it’s pristine. Bad records don’t get played much. Some audiophiles have complained that we spend too much time bashing Heavy Vinyl, but if ever a record deserved it, it’s that one. It’s a failure as a remastering and an insult to the analog buying audiophile public at large. Searching the web, I am glad to see that no one seems to have anything nice to say about it, as of this writing. No one should, but that has not deterred the reviewers and forum posters in the past.

The piano is solid, mostly clear and not hard. Not many copies present the piano this way — correctly in other words. The amazing snare of Colin Bailey in the right channel is LIVELY and fun like you’ve never heard before.

There is no sacrifice in fullness, richness or Tubey Magic in the presentation, and that is the right sound for this music.

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The Doors – Strange Days

More of The Doors

  • This excellent copy of Strange Days boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • An outstanding-sounding pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Hot Stampers
  • Demo Quality sound for so many classics: “When The Music’s Over,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Love Me Two Times,” and more
  • “… if The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, then The Doors’ answer was Strange Days. This experimentation can be heard in the very first notes of the title track, as Ray Manzarek’s spacey keyboards set the tone for Morrison’s eerie, distorted warning, ‘Strange days have found us.’ It’s the perfect introduction to a perfectly strange album.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Doors, this early pressing from 1967 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 Tubey Analog sound can be, this copy will can do just that.

It’s 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 anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

The Beatles – The White Album

More of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides, this British pressing is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other White Album you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with unacceptable flaws
  • They are simply not enjoyable on high-quality equipment, unlike this copy, which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)

Gerry Mulligan – The Concert Jazz Band

More Gerry Mulligan

  • This early Verve Stereo pressing was doing practically everything right, with both sides earning stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Huge space, size and clarity, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1960 recording dates of these sessions – the “big band” sound here is really jumping out of the speakers
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “My idea is not so much that we are a big band with a small-band feel, but that we have a big-band feel in the way that a big band ought to be.” – Gerry Mulligan.
  • “Mulligan stages a thrilling musical spectacle in which fierce rivalry, song-like harmony and refined counterpoint play the main roles.”

If you’ve never heard a good All Tube Recording of the baritone sax, buy this record — it will blow your mind!

Huge amounts of ambience fill out the space the extends from wall to wall (and all the way to the back wall of the studio), leaving plenty of room around each of the players.

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days, this record will surely be an unqualified Sonic Treat.

We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog sound found here. (Or your money back.)

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.

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Miles Davis / Thelonious Monk – Miles & Monk at Newport

More Miles Davis

More Thelonious Monk

  • This original 360 Stereo pressing boasts stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) live jazz sound from first note to last, just shy of our Shootout Winner – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over practically every other copy we played
  • The energy and presence are wonderful – Monk’s piano has real weight and the brass sounds just right
  • “[The Miles Davis Sextet’s] rapid version of ‘Ah Leu Cha’ is thunderous and ‘Straight No Chaser’ swings like mad.”

Of special note on the Monk side is the excellent work of Frankie Dunlap on drums, and of course Charlie Rouse is always interesting. Add to those top players someone you wouldn’t normally associate with Monk — Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, here proving that he’s every bit the bop jazz musician that these other guys are.

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The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

  • A STUNNING copy of Yellow Submarine, with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Without a doubt the hardest single side of any Beatles album to find with good sound is side two of Yellow Submarine, and here’s a copy that is As Good As It Gets
  • This pressing is clean, clear, solid and energetic – just the right sound for this classic Beatles music
  • The only place to find the All-Time Classic Hey Bulldog, as well as All Together Now and It’s All Too Much
  • “All You Need Is Love” debuted in a true stereo mix on LP for this album.”

This is a very difficult album to find good sound for; many pressings are almost unbearably gritty and harsh. Fortunately, these two sides have no such problems. The overall tonality is rich and full-bodied, and there’s plenty of presence and energy as well.  (more…)

Beethoven / Symphony No. 9 / Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • An early London pressing of this definitive performance by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande that was doing just about everything right, earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The sound here is wonderfully rich, lively and musical yet still clear and spacious, making this a Must Own pressing of Beethoven’s 9th – you will be hard pressed to find any other in its league (a subject we discuss in the listing below)
  • “…the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play very well, facing every challenge with musical integrity that reveals to the listener that emotional engagement with the score is far more meaningful than virtuosity for its own sake.”

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Dynasty

More Charles Mingus

More Jazz Recordings

  • An original 6-Eye Stereo copy with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This pressing is rich and tubey, yet still clear and spacious, with a notably solid and articulate bottom end that does a superb job of captureing the beauty of Mingus’s double bass
  • Bucketfuls of studio ambience, and Tubey Magic to die for – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Be careful though – a record with this kind of sound will make all your Heavy Vinyl pressing sound as washed out, lifeless and veiled as we know them to be, news that may come as quite a shock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mingus Dynasty is still an excellent album; in fact, it’s a testament to just how high a level Mingus was working on that an album of this caliber could have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
  • If you’re a fan of jazz from the Golden Age of the ’50s and ’60s, this Columbia from 1960 undoubtedly belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t? — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. 

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s 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.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

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