Top Arrangers

Frank Sinatra – Swing Easy! And Songs For Young Lovers

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • This superb compilation of Sinatra’s two 1954 releases makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two, and the vinyl is about as quiet as we can find it
  • Drop the needle at the start of side one and you will soon find a living, breathing Frank Sinatra standing between your speakers
  • Exceptionally lovely All Tube sound from 1954, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by the legendary Nelson Riddle
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sinatra plays around with the melodies without leaving them behind, delivering each line with precision. It ranks as one of his most jazzy performances, as well as one of his most fun and carefree records.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • This killer 2-Pack offers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too for a stereo pressing of this vintage
  • Exceptionally lovely All Tube sound from 1961, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by the legendary Nelson Riddle
  • Ella’s way with this material won her the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, her 7th Grammy
  • “The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on ‘Don’t Be That Way,’ ‘What Am I Here For,’ ‘I’m Gonna Go Fishin,’ ‘ and ‘I Won’t Dance.'”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. This is about as quiet as we can find them – this is one of the lucky few that play this well.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Frank Sinatra / Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

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. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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  • A superb pressing of Ella’s wonderful 1967 release with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing everything right– it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than nearly almost everything else we played
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “Whoever decided to put pianist Marty Paich and Ella Fitzgerald together in the studio in 1966 deserves a bit of credit for the great music on Whisper Not. Together, Fitzgerald and Paich deliver a dozen beautifully sung, carefully arranged standards.”

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Deodato / Prelude – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

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Yet Another Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it.

Both sides are especially full and rich. The congas are present in the mix and very full-bodied — this allow them to really drive the rhythmic energy of the music. We know this because the copies with congas that were veiled or thin never seemed to get up go. The bass on these two sides was some of the best we heard as well.

The top is most often the problem with these CTI pressings. Both sides here seem to give you all the top end that was on the tape.

There is wonderful transparency and openness to the soundstage, as well as less congestion in the loudest parts. Also Sprach (2001) is on side one of the album and it is KILLER here.

Both sides are also surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction. (more…)

Frank Sinatra / Sinatra At The Sands – The Ideal Audiophile Pressing

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If you’re the kind of audiophile who doesn’t want to do the work required to find a top quality vintage pressing on his own, or buy one from us, this is actually a very good sounding record and a good way for you to go.

It’s ideal for most audiophiles.

Ask yourself three questions:

Do you want the expense and hassle of finding a nice original stereo copy?

Do you want to invest in proper record cleaning equipment to restore the glorious sound of the original’s 50-plus year old vinyl?

Do you want to spend the time (decades) and money (tens of thousands of dollars) to build and tweak a top quality analog playback system?

If you don’t want to do these things, you are not alone.

In fact, you are clearly in the majority, part of that enormously tall, fat bulge right in the middle of the bell curve. As the quintessential audiophile record lover, a big part of the mass of the mass-market, Mobile Fidelity has made the perfect record for you.

It’s quiet, it’s tonally correct, and on the mediocre equipment you will use to play it back with, it does not seem to be especially veiled, opaque or compressed.

It is indeed all of these things, and many more, but you will have no reason to suspect that anything is wrong with it.

More precisely, you will have no way to know that anything is wrong with it.

We know exactly what’s wrong with it, but that’s because we are very serious about records and audio, as serious as they come. Who digs deeper than we do?

Now that you have failed to note its many shortcomings, the only thing remaining is for you to go to an audiophile forum and write your review, telling everyone how much better it is than whatever crappy pressing you owned and will be trading in soon. (This assumes you owned anything at all. I would be surprised if the average audiophile has a vintage copy of the album to compare with the new one, but no doubt some do.)

If you want to hold the pressings you play to a higher sonic standard, we are here to help.

If setting a low bar is more your style, Mobile Fidelity has been making records for you for more than fifty years. As long as you keep buying them, they’ll keep making them. They’ve been setting a very low bar for as long as I can remember, and the fact that they are still around is positive proof that their customers like it just fine that way.

FURTHER READING

This record has middling sound, and naturally we have a section for records of that quality.

Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality

Pressings with Middling Sound Quality 

Pressings with Mind-Blowing Sound Quality 

Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music 

Toto – Self-Titled

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  • This copy of Toto’s debut boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Toto’s albums have the kind of analog sound we love here at Better Records – they’re rich, huge and present, with tons of Tubey Magic and wall to wall spaciousness
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • 4 stars: “Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. Singles like “I’ll Supply the Love” made the charts, and “Hold the Line” hit the Top Ten.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it!

Our Recent Shootout

This shootout got off to a very rocky start; we were on the verge of giving up after playing two very bad, sub-generation side ones, cut at The Mastering Lab just like all the rest, but so bad even the CD might be better. If you have an awful copy, we feel your pain.

But Copy Number Three showed us the real Toto sound: the kind of sweetness and warmth we had been hoping to hear and fearing might not exist. Sure, Toto IV has killer sound, but that’s no guarantee that the first album would be recorded (or mastered or pressed) as well. In the world of audio — vinyl, equipment, what have you — there are no guarantees. The average 180 gram remastered audiophile pressing should be all the proof you need. Good intentions don’t count for much in this business or anywhere else for that matter.

Enough about bad audiophile records. Copy number three also had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, gritty or strident, no mean feat for a pop record from this era. Like all the best rock records, the good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. (The clarity and tremendous dynamics seem a tad more modern, which is a good thing, right?)

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Frank Sinatra – Moonlight Sinatra

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  • You’ll find nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last on this elusive favorite from Ol’ Blue Eyes – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for years – this is one of the few copies to ever hit the site
  • Master engineer Lowell Frank correctly captured the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing
  • “Driven by a set of lush, sparkling Nelson Riddle arrangements, Moonlight Sinatra is a low-key, charming collection. An enjoyable, romantic listen.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

The presence and immediacy here are wonderful. Turn it up and Frank is between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. On the best, hard-to-find copies, the sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy.

This Blue Green Label LP also has the midrange magic that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is 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 the best pressings have 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. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Like Someone In Love

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this MONO original pressing from 1957 (the only way to fly) will be hard to beat
  • Ella’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than it is on most of the other copies we played
  • An album that is beyond difficult to find with decent surfaces and undamaged inner grooves – most copies we get in are just trashed
  • “Most of the songs are veteran standards, Stan Getz’s warm tenor helps out on four tunes, and her voice was so strong and appealing during this era that all of her recordings from the mid- to late ’50s are enjoyable and easily recommended.”

*A mark makes 9 medium then 7 medium-light pops at the end of track 1, There’s A Lull In My Life
**A mark makes 20 very light pops near the end of track 5, What’s New

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some ticky vinyl. This is about as quiet as we can find them. Like Someone in Love is five times rarer than Clap Hands, and twice as likely to be noisy.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The space is huge and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra — especially on side two — is not brash for once.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Lush Life

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  • An outstanding copy of Ronstadt’s 1984 release with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides were doing everything right — clean, clear, full-bodied and dynamic with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “What’s New illustrated that Linda Ronstadt was no longer interested in contemporary pop, and since it was a surprise success, there was no reason not to repeat the formula on Lush Life. Working again with Nelson Riddle, Ronstadt runs through several pop standards — ‘When I Fall in Love,’ ‘Sophisticated Lady,’ ‘Falling in Love Again,’ ‘It Never Entered My Mind’…”

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