Top Arrangers – Don Sebesky

Chet Baker / Jim Hall / Hubert Laws – Studio Trieste

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  • This surprisingly good sounding collaboration finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, with Tubey Magic by the boatload – guaranteed to be one of the better sounding Chet Baker albums you’ve heard, and probably the best of his later period
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder and his “live-in-the-studio” jazz sound – like most of his recordings (at least those from the ’60s on), this album still sounds fresh today, even after 38 years
  • 4 stars: “For what would be his final CTI date, he was matched with guitarist Jim Hall, flutist Hubert Laws and a fine rhythm section for two jazz standards… Throughout, Sebesky’s charts favorably showcase Baker’s lyrical trumpet, making this a recommended LP…”

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Kenny Burrell – God Bless The Child

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  • Amazing sound from start to finish on this Shootout Winning TRIPLE TRIPLE (A+++) copy
  • One of our favorite CTI albums, and surely one of the best sounding, especially on this pressing
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded orchestra occupies
  • AMG raves “This is Burrell at his level best as a player to be sure, but also as a composer and as a bandleader. Magnificent.”

God Bless The Child is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others at the top of my list would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the strings are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.

The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are beautifully rendered. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.

This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it. (more…)

Chet Baker – She Was Too Good To Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

We guarantee you have never heard this album — or any later Chet Baker album — sound as good as this one does.

There’s so much life in these grooves. The sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap. This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1974 to find it!

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder, the engineer for these sessions. Grover Washington Jr.’s All the King’s Horses from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. We could easily name-check a dozen others on CTI recorded by RVG that we’ve done shootouts for. 

But any album only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that seems to have eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound but axiomatic (if not tautological) here at Better Records.

The extended song structures, ranging from four to seven minutes in length, leave plenty of room for the band to stretch out.

And of course Chet sings the title track beautifully. (more…)

Chet Baker – You Can’t Go Home Again

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you like the kind of music Grover Washington was making around the time of Mister Magic, this is the album for you 
  • This kind of funky Soul Jazz is not for everyone but Chet is such a great player he makes it work
  • “…one of Baker’s most important latter-day albums.” — Allmusic

Top players as you can see from the list below.

This copy on side two was simply more clear, bigger, richer and more natural than any other. Side one was excellent as well — very rich and full-bodied — but lacked a bit of the size that made side one stand out from the crowd of copies we played. (more…)

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.

More Astrud Gilberto

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…)

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on side one! Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this side one was a THRILL for us and will no doubt be as big a thrill for you too.   

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. 

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days. We rarely even pick up most Verves, having been burned so many times we just can’t face another badly mastered noisy LP. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – Beach Samba

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  • An outstanding copy of Beach Samba, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from top to bottom 
  • The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold like you will not believe
  • Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced, Don Sebesky and Deodato did the arrangements, and Val Valentin engineered – what’s not to like?
  • “This 1967 Verve LP has the breezy bossa novas and sambas Astrud was famed for, but also a Lovin’ Spoonful duet with her young son and some seriously impressive scatting, too.” – Amazon

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Wes Montgomery – Bumpin’ – Reviewed in 2009

More Wes Montgomery

More Bumpin’

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Minty looking Verve LP really sounds GOOD! It’s transparent, as well as tonally correct from top to bottom. This is THE copy to have — we guarantee it will CRUSH the MoFi pressing. 

Astrud Gilberto – Windy

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout, making this one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • Forget whatever Heavy Vinyl imposter is in print – this vintage Verve stereo pressing has the kind of High-Rez Tubey-Magical Midrange that will bring Astrud’s soft samba music to life in your very own listening room
  • “… Windy nevertheless proves one of Astrud Gilberto’s most consistent and sublime efforts, artfully straddling the division between Brazilian bossa nova and American sunshine pop.” 

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George Benson – Bad Benson

More George Benson

More Bad Benson

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music. No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed.

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

There’s some “Breezin”-like material on the second side, two years before that monster album was released, and man does it ever sound good on this copy!

Rich, full-bodied sound is not hard to find on Bad Benson; most copies had the goods in the bass and lower midrange. (more…)