Top Arrangers

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book #2

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  • This STUNNING stereo pressing of the Harold Arlen Song Book earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, or close to them, on both sides
  • One of the best copies to hit the site in a long time, Ella is incredibly rich, Tubey Magical and breathy throughout
  • Check out all the great songs here: Come Rain Or Come Shine, It’s Only A Paper Moon, One For My Baby, Get Happy, I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues, Over The Rainbow, and more
  • 5 stars: “Of all of her Songbooks, the Harold Arlen and Duke Ellington sets are the most jazz-oriented.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Lightly

More Ella Fitzgerald

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this original Bow Tie Verve Stereo pressing is going to be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Lovely All Tube sound from 1958, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by one of our favorite arrangers, Marty Paich 
  • Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo – these were the days when Ella was on top of the world
  • “The bright, sunny optimism of Fitzgerald’s style comes through in several tracks, including ‘If I Were a Bell’ (which also includes several remarkable variations on the melody), and ‘Teardrops From My Eyes’ (which alternates between rock and jazz beats—not a big leap back then!)”

When you are lucky enough to find an album chock full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is excellent, with space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – September of My Years

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • An especially Tubey Magical Male Vocal recording, but that sound is only found on the best Blue Green original Reprise stereo pressings – like this one
  • These sides are exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – Frank is right in the room with you on this one
  • 5 stars: (“One of Frank Sinatra’s triumphs of the ’60s”) and Grammy Album of the Year for 1967

It’s not easy to find good sounding copies of any of Sinatra’s albums, but we managed to find a few very good copies of this one, an album that earned the Grammy Album of the Year for 1967 and Five Big Stars in the venerable All Music Guide. The music is indeed hard to fault. Finding the right pressing of the recording of that music is another thing entirely. That’s where we come into the picture. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Sinatra title surprised us with its DEMO DISC sound
  • Clearly one of the better sounding Reprise-era Sinatra pressings we have ever played
  • Credit must given to the extraordinarily inventive arrangements of Nelson Riddle and the All Tube engineering of Lee Herschberg
  • “Sinatra’s singing is relaxed, confident, and surprisingly jazzy, as he plays with the melody of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and delivers a knockout punch with the assured, breathtaking “Summer Wind.”

We cannot recommend this pressing highly enough. If you want to know what the best sounding Sinatra records sound like, this is your chance. Folks, in my opinion it simply does not get any better than a killer White Hot Stamper of Strangers In The Night.

These originals are the only way to go for ’60s Sinatra, but finding them in good shape on quiet vinyl is no picnic and only a few of them actually sound the way we want them to. It’s a real treat to be in the presence of the Chairman Of The Board, in his prime, working his magic — but only an exceptional copy like this one has the power to put him right in the room with you. (more…)

Sergio Mendes And Brazil ’66 – Crystal Illusions

More Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

More of our favorite Sixties Pop albums

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  • Amazing sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, making this the best copy to hit the site in over SEVEN years!
  • The sound onb both sides here is jumping out, with more Tubey Magic, more space, more extension top to bottom, and more detail than any other copy we’ve ever played; the soundstage is HUGE as well!
  • Yes, it’s a recording that has some problems, but the best copies are able to overcome most of them, and that’s precisely what we are offering here: a White Hot copy that gets the sound of this music as right as it’s going to get
  • “Dave Grusin is right there with a lush, haunting orchestral chart when needed; Lani Hall is thrust further into the vocal spotlight, as cool and alluring as ever.. Weird and overblown, but wonderful.” – All Music

Two KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sides make this the BEST sounding copy of Crystal Illusions to ever hit the site.

If you are not familiar with Sergio and his magical band, this might not be the place to start. Try the first two albums or Stillness if you want to hear the best material recorded with the highest quality. This is a second tier album in the Sergio canon, and priced accordingly. There are of course some truly great songs on this one, just as there are on every Brasil ’66 album. I would draw your attention especially to the Otis Redding classic Dock of the Bay. Fans will no doubt find much to like here; others maybe not so much. If you get a thrill out of FINALLY hearing a famous album sound the way you always wished it could, this copy is for you!

What you’re looking for on Crystal Illusions is a copy that’s not thin, dry, harsh and edgy! If you own this album you know exactly what I am talking about. Most copies sound like CDs in that respect. And most Brazil ’66 CDs sound just as bad as you might think they would. Believe me, I know, I’ve bought practically all of them. Thank god for the treble control on my car stereo. (more…)

Harry Nilsson – A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

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  • Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end, making this THE copy to own of this wonderful Harry Nilsson – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A lusciously Tubey Magical Top 100 album with orchestral arrangements by the superbly talented Gordon Jenkins
  • One of our favorite Nilsson releases (of which there are many) – it’s The Ultimate latter-day standards album
  • If you could only have one album of standards from the Great American Songbook, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
  • “This is a must have disc pure and simple as it is the best standards album any contemporary artist has ever recorded. All the ingredients were woven together for a remarkable vision.”

After our first big shootout for this album many years ago we were so blown away by what a great copy could do that we immediately added it to our Rock & Pop Top 100 list and have never once regretted doing so. It’s the only Nilsson album to make the cut. Even more unusual, considering it was recorded in 1973, it’s actually one of the better sounding orchestra-backed male vocal albums that we know of. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Swing With Me!

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  • This outstanding Capitol stereo pressing boasts incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • On this superb pressing you’ll hear Billy May’s arrangements – just brass, no strings or winds – blasting behind Sinatra like never before
  • This was Sinatra’s final swing session with Capitol and on a pressing as good as this one you can tell he and the band are having a blast
  • “…his intense, speedy energy gives the album an edge that distinguishes the record… it [has] enough genuine gems to make it necessary.”

We love doing the work that it takes to find Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun. This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find gems like this one. But hey, that’s what we do. We love it when a record with music this good can be found with sound like this.

Believe me, these Capitol pressings don’t usually sound like this. From the very first notes you hear Billy May’s colorful arrangments come to life in a way you are very unlikely to have heard before. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

We were fairly impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out on Heavy Vinyl in 2001.

Since then we have learned a thing or two. Their version is decent, not bad, but by no stretch of the imagination can it compete with any Hot Stamper pressing found on our site.

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and their layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the critically important piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself. (more…)

Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti

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  • The first copy to hit the site in years and boy does our Shootout Winner here have STUNNING sound – it earned Triple Plus (A+++) grades from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If all you’ve ever heard is the Roulette original (or the wacky MoFi, or whatever current Heavy Vinyl pressing is being made, this LP is guaranteed to be a REVELATION
  • Basie Plays Hefti catches Basie’s band at the peak of their powers in 1958, and in this All Tube Recording you get every bit of the magic they made in the studio
  • “The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti arrangements. Hefti had been one of the main architects of the new Basie sound of the ’50s… “Cute” (heard here in its initial recording) became a standard.”

This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play. The liner notes tell the story of this album well. Click on the tab above to read them.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days. Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too.

And of course we absolutely loved the music. I had a chance to see the Basie Big Band perform not long ago at Disney Hall and a fairly large chunk of the music and arrangements they play these days are Neal’s, practically half I would venture to guess. Meaning simply that Hefti’s music has clearly stood the test of time. Play this album and you’re sure to see what I mean. (more…)

Sinatra – Swing Along With Me – A Top Sinatra Title

More Frank Sinatra

  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grades
  • These vintage stereo sides are As Good As It Gets — rich, smooth and full-bodied with wonderfully present vocals and all of the Tubey Magic that’s missing from most copies
  • This album is very tough to come by in stereo in anything but beat condition, let alone with this kind of sound
  • “Twelve of the most uninhibited Sinatra things ever recorded!”
  • “Recorded with Billy May, Sinatra Swings was Frank Sinatra’s first straight swing album for Reprise Records. In terms of content and approach, the record is remarkably similar to his final Capitol swing effort, Come Swing with Me.”

Also known as Sinatra Swings.

Five for Five in 1961

Of the five records Sinatra released in 1961 (Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!!; Come Swing with Me!; Ring-a-Ding-Ding!; Swing Along with Me; and I Remember Tommy), this is clearly one of our favorites. (And by the way, what’s with all the exclamation marks?)

Billy May deserves much of the credit for the “swing” that’s all over the album. His band is jumpin’, and on the best pressings — such as this one — the sound conveys the energy with virtually none of the grit and hardness you hear on so many of Sinatra’s other albums (Sinatra at the Sands comes immediately to mind, but there are far too many others). You may recall that Billy May was the arranger for some of Sinatra’s best Capitol work, and certainly the three swingingest: Come Fly with Me, Come Dance with Me and Come Swing with Me.

This is 1961, and tubes and ribbon mics are in charge of the live-in-the-studio proceedings. With a vintage original pressing such as this one, you hear the kind of sound they heard. (And if you play the record at ear-splitting levels you will hear even more of that sound. Can you imagine how loud this band was playing?)

We were especially impressed with the large dynamic swings of the arrangements. And the fact that the best pressings never get aggressive even during their most dynamic passages. (more…)