Top Arrangers – Claus Ogerman

Bill Evans / Symbiosis – One of the Few MPS Pressings with (Potentially) Top Sound

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  • An outstanding copy of Evans’ wonderful 1974 album accompanied by symphony orchestra with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • We dropped the needle on a copy years ago and heard wonderful audiophile sound right from the get-go
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than most other copies we played
  • We are not big fans of the MPS label — most of their stuff, especially the Oscar Peterson records they made, is not very good — but we sure liked this one
  • “… a special and unique entry in Evans’ huge catalog… Not your “typical” Bill Evans album–but that’s what makes SYMBIOSIS such a fine, gently challenging listen.”

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave

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More Bossa Nova

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  • The first copy to hit the site in NINE years and with KILLER sound to boot; both sides earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both of these sides are incredibly full-bodied, natural and present with tight punchy bass and lots of space around all of the players
  • I love the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and this is one of his best albums; it belongs in any serious Latin Jazz record collection.
  • “When Creed Taylor left Verve/MGM for his own label under the auspices of A&M, he quickly signed Antonio Carlos Jobim and they picked up right where they left off with this stunningly seductive record, possibly Jobim’s best.” – All Music

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Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

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The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra sounds right 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.

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If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, this album is probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male and Female Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. (Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you want a good place to start.)

Like any processing of the sound in the studio — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and ruin everything. For our part we think Astrud Gilberto’s recordings use reverb more or less tastefully. And of course there sure aren’t going to be any versions of this music coming along any time soon without the added echo. Getting the reverb to sound right is one of the things a good Hot Stamper has to do on a record like this. (more…)

Sammy Davis Jr. – Sammy’s Back On Broadway

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  • Sammy’s Back On Broadway comes to the site with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Rich, smooth, and shockingly Tubey Magical, the sound on this 1965 Reprise Tri-Color Steamboat pressing is Hard To Fault (HTF)
  • Some of the best sound and music we’ve ever heard from the man – this is an album that proves Sammy was more than a member of The Rat Pack
  • 4 stars: “Although the 1965 album was filled with concurrently modern selections, the mixture of enduring classics and lesser-known material further exemplifies the artist’s impeccable taste and performance style.”

There are an awful lot of bad sounding Sammy Davis, Jr. records out there. We must have played at least a half dozen hard, honky, sour sounding copies before we ran into this forgotten gem. (Dean Martin’s albums are the same way; maybe one out of ten sound good and the rest are just terrible.) (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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Wes Montgomery – Willow Weep For Me

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

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  • Wes Montgomery’s superb posthumous release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The stereo sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Assembled using additional material from the live Smokin’ at the Half Note sessions, this collection served as the perfect memorial to Montgomery’s musical genius
  • Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
  • “… what you will hear, bathed in winds or not, is prime, mature Wes Montgomery stretching out in full, with unbelievable confidence in his ear and technique at all times…”

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Jimmy Smith – Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • If you dig Oliver’s Nelson’s swingin’ BIG BRASS as much as we do you are in for a treat with this stereo pressing
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving 
  • Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is the monster track leading off here, and it swings the way Walk on the Wild Side does – like crazy, man!

This is some of the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for any RVG recording of Jimmy Smith with arrangements by Oliver Nelson (Claus Ogerman also took on some of the arranging duties; his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim is superb in all respects). (more…)

A.C. Jobim – The Composer of ’Desafinado’ Plays

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Reviews and Commentaries for Antonio Carlos Jobim

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  • Stunning sound throughout with an amazing Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Both sides here are clean, clear and dynamic yet still full of rich and warm 1963 Tubey Magical Analog
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • 4 1/2 Stars on All Music — “A dozen songs, each one destined to become a standard — an astounding batting average.”

We’re big fans of Jobim here at Better Records, and this pressing was one of the best from our recent shootout. We had a wonderful time listening to a big pile of pressings — the sound (and music) were OUT OF THIS WORLD. We were shocked at just how well recorded this album is.

Phil Ramone

Credit engineer Phil Ramone for correctly capturing the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, flutes, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing. I used to think this recording erred on the bright side, but not the Hot Stamper copies. They are tonally Right On The Money. (When the balance lacks lower midrange the sound gets lean, which causes the strings to seem brighter than they really are, a not uncommon problem with some of the pressings we played.)

Many Distinct Pressings

We’ve played a ton of different versions, including imports, originals, reissues (all stereo), and one lone mono, which was so ridiculously bad sounding we tossed it right out of the competition and into the trade pile. (more…)