Top Arrangers – Quincy Jones

Frank Sinatra / Count Basie – It Might As Well Be Swing

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It Might As Well Be Swing

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • These side are doing it all right — big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and present with lovely breathy vocals
  • “It Might as Well Be Swing, was a more structured, swing-oriented set than Sinatra-Basie, and in many ways the superior album… , what makes [it] more successful is the consistently high level of the performances. On their previous collaboration, both Sinatra and Basie sounded a bit worn out, but throughout this record they play with energy and vigor.” 

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Sinatra At The Sands on Dahlquist DQ-10s – My Neophyte Audiophile Mind Is Blown

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The story of our latest shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.  

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy”. I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy. 

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

This description is pretty close to what I thought I heard all those years ago

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This vintage stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Or so I thought at the time. (more…)

Ray Charles – Have a Smile With Me

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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
  • The richness in the vocals and the wonderfully Tubey Magical sound makes this copy especially impressive
  • It’s not easy to find a Ray Charles record from the Sixties that plays this quietly: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • AMG writes, “…He elevates the material with soulful vocals and good arrangements, particularly when the Raeletts back him up (as they do on half the tracks).”

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the female backup singers, the Raelets. sweet and clear) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record. We know, we hear practically all of them whenever we sit down to do one of these shootouts. (more…)

Peggy Lee – If You Go (1961)

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  • Stunning sound throughout with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grade on the second side and a solid Double Plus (A++) grade on the first
  • This vintage Capitol stereo pressing is rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical – we’re talking All Tube Analog from 1961 after all – with wonderfully sweet and breathy vocals 
  • “… the man writing the charts here is Quincy Jones, and he is only occasionally interested in underscoring the heartbreak with suitably sad music… Lee responds to the music with a world-weary tone, but an occasional swing in her step, as if this is not her first romance, nor her first one to go wrong.”

This vintage Capitol pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – What to Listen For

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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 which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are much too modern sounding, bright and gritty, and when they are we throw them right in the trade-in pile. (more…)

Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles

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  • One of the few copies to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER — Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound is incredibly rich, full and Tubey Magical with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • Robert Christgau noted that “Charles tried many times, but except for Modern Sounds, he never again assembled such a consistent album in this mode.”
  • “Charles’ voice is heard throughout in peak form, giving soul to even the veteran standards.”

Tom Dowd engineered on Ampex 3 Track through an All Tube chain (this is 1959 after all), Quincy Jones did the arrangements, and Ray sang the hell out of this great batch of songs — all the ingredients in a recipe for soul are here.

Top tracks on the first side: Let The Good Times Roll, It Had To Be You and When Your Lover Has Gone. (more…)

Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz

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  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and Count Basie backing up The Genius himself, this copy is As Good As It Gets! 
  • Most of this album is Ray stretching out with “some pretty mean and lean, cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter B-3 Hammond organ licks.”
  • Big and rich, clear and Tubey Magical, the 1962 sound of this vintage stereo pressing is just right; quiet vinyl too!
  • Allmusic notes: “…one of those instrumentals, a cover of the Clovers’ “One Mint Julep,” would give Charles one of his most unpredictable (and best) early-’60s hits.”.

This album has long been a personal favorite of mine. It features Ray on the organ playing with every bit as much soul as he sings with, and who sings with more soul than Ray Charles?

Both sides here are open and transparent with HUGE amounts of room-filling bass. (more…)

Sinatra At The Sands

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  • This superb 2 LP set boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides! 
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime – quiet vinyl too
  • “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.” – AMG

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 — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. (more…)