Top Arrangers – Billy May

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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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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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…)

Sinatra – Swing Along With Me – A Top Sinatra Title

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  • 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…)

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – Capitol Made This One in 1958

 

Drowning in reverb and squawky as hell, a major misfire from Billy and the brass (ahem) at Capitol.

For 33 years we’ve been helping music loving audiophiles the world over avoid bad sounding records.

To see the records with bad sound or bad music we’ve reviewed, click here.

It’s yet another public service from Better Records, the home of the best sounding records ever pressed. Our records sound better than any others you’ve ever heard or you get your money back.

Frank Sinatra – Come Swing With Me! – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Hall of Fame.

I discovered that some of these later Capitol reissues can really sound good about ten years ago. They’re cheap when you find them because collectors don’t want them and audiophiles as a whole think that cheap reissues always sound bad. But here at Better Records we don’t really deal too much with record collectors per se. We deal with that tiny minority of audiophiles who want real music that actually sounds good. (The majority of audiophiles want Patricia Barber records and they can have her.)

So we love finding great 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 the gems like this one. Buy hey, somebody’s got to do it. I guess it might as well be me since nobody else wants the job. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Just One Of Those Things

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  • This outstanding vintage Stereo Capitol pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides
  • Here is the sound we love at Better Records – these sides are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals
  • “Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that’s the point: that Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn’t give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ ‘Just One of Those Things,’ ‘The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On).’ And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well.” – All Music

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Frank Sinatra / Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

An amazing pressing of a superb recording, this White Hot Stamper really gets this music right!

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. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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Come Dance With Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Get ready to swing with the Chairman of the Board on this incredible White Hot Stamper pressing of this classic album from 1959! This is one of the more fun Sinatra albums we’ve had the pleasure of playing around here, and this is a copy that delivers BIG TIME. Billy May and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements here, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work. The brass blasts on side two are to die for!

It’s tough to find good sounding copies of almost any Sinatra album, finding amazing copies of his most classic albums like this one with reasonably quiet surfaces is a ridiculously tough task. Even for us, the guys who do nothing but search for and audition records all day every day! So we were thrilled to play a copy like this one that did just what we wanted from music like this.

This pressing did it all — and on both sides — with incredible energy and exceptional immediacy. The brass blasts are OUT OF THIS WORLD. If you never thought you’d hear a Sinatra record sound as powerful as the man himself came across — this is the pressing that you’ve been looking for. Most copies were either smeary or edgy, but this one was wonderfully smooth with impressive clarity (more…)

Sammy Davis Jr. – The Nat King Cole Song Book

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The Nat King Cole Song Book

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  • A superb sounding original stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Bigger and richer, with lovely Tubey Magic and breathy vocals, this Tri-Color Reprise pressing lets us hear Sammy at the peak of his powers performing some of Nat’s most memorable songs
  • 4 Stars: “Alongside Cole’s collaborator, Billy May, and notable jazz arranger Claus Ogerman, Davis and company turned in one of the finest and most underrated efforts.”

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