Top Arrangers – Marty Paich

Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze

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  • An outstanding pressing of Summer Breeze with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish, and exceptionally quiet vinyl too – some of the quietest we have ever found
  • With tons of Tubey Magical richness in the midrange (particularly on side two) – the kind that was still abundant on analog tape in 1972 – this is a wonderful sounding album of folk pop
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Summer Breeze offered an unusually ambitious array of music within a soft rock context – most artists tried to avoid weighty subjects in such surroundings… the most highly regarded of all of Seals & Crofts’ albums.” (more…)

Helen Humes – A Forgotten Jazz Vocal Classic

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Reviews of Some of Our Favorite Albums by Female Vocalists

  • This vintage Contemporary pressing is close to the best we have ever heard, with stunning Nearly Master Tape sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both of these sides are amazingly Tubey Magical, yet incredibly clean and clear — something you can’t get from the tube-mastered originals
  • Helen’s voice is PERFECTION — breathy, full, and sweet; and the orchestra sounds JUST RIGHT — just listen to the nice bite of the brass
  • 5 stars: “One of the high points of Helen Humes’ career, this Contemporary set features superior songs, superb backup, and very suitable and swinging arrangements by Marty Paich. Humes’ versions of ‘If I Could Be With You,’ ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy,’ and ‘Million Dollar Secret,’ in particular, are definitive… This classic release is essential and shows just how appealing a singer Helen Humes could be.”

This vintage Contemporary pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Songs I Like To Sing! Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Later Pressings Have The Real Sound

We prefer later pressings of this album to the Black Label originals, which sound tube mastered and have a bit of echo added to them. The later pressings offer superior clarity and resolution. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better than the other, but this seems to be the more accurate reproduction of what happened in the recording session, and I know this is the one I would rather listen to.

Without a doubt it’s one of my all time favorite jazz albums. The amazing Marty Paich (Art Pepper Plus Eleven) did the arrangements for this group of top musicians, which includes Art PepperBen WebsterBarney KesselShelly ManneJack Sheldon and Leroy Vinnegar, just to name the ones whose work I know well. Does it get any better?

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The Hi-Lo’s – A Demo Disc for Tubey Magic

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  • Superb sound throughout this early 6-Eye Stereo pressing, with both sides earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • On the right system, the better copies of this All Tube Chain Demo Disc from 1958 will demonstrate the superiority of both the analog medium and the vintage pressing (not to mention the concept of Hot Stampers)
  • With a copy this good, The Hi-Lo’s will appear as living, breathing (albeit disembodied) persons right in your very own listening room – we call that “the breath of life,” and there is plenty to be found on this record
  • “The Hi-Los weren’t really a jazz unit, but more of a pop band that knew how to incorporate jazz’s harmonic sensibilities. This was among their better albums, complete with catchy title.”
  • More records with exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound
  • More reviews of our most Tubey Magical Demo Discs

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Helen Humes – Getting the Balance Right on Mean to Me

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Reviews of Some of Our Favorite Albums by Female Vocalists

Mean to Me is a favorite test track for side one, with real Demo Disc quality sound. Roy DuNann at Contemporary was able to get all his brass players together in one room, sounding right as a group as well as individual voices. The piano, bass, and drums that accompany them are perfectly woven into the fabric of the arrangement. What makes this song so good is that when the brass really starts to let loose later in the song, with the right equipment and the right room you can get the kind of sound that is so powerful you would almost swear it’s live.

Helen was recorded in a booth for this album, and her voice is slightly veiled relative to the other musicians playing in the much larger room required for so many players. When you get the brass correct, the trick is to get her voice to become as transparent and palpable as possible without screwing up the tonality of the brass instruments.

The natural inclination is to brighten the sound up to make her voice more clear. But you will be made painfully aware that brighter is not better when the brass gets too “hot” and practically tears your head off. The balance between voice and brass is key to the proper reproduction of this album.

Once you have achieved that balance, tweak for transparency while guarding against too much upper midrange or top end. (Which means watch out for audiophile wires that can fool you!)

Art Pepper+Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

  • A superb vintage Contemporary stereo pressing of this exceptional Art Pepper release from 1960 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you buy only one Large Group Hot Stamper jazz record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to blow your mind
  • And that’s doubly true if you own any modern reissue (really, almost any reissue at all to be honest) – this is the kind of sound no later pressing from ANY era can compete with
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that too often cause the originals to be opaque and uninvolving
  • A personal favorite – 5 stars: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

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Carly Simon / Torch – Surprisingly Rich, Natural Analog Sound for the Eighties

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich, natural and analog considering the recording date – very little sound of the sound of the day — the kind that ruined most of what was made in the ’80s — is on display here, and thank god for that
  • “Carly Simon’s Torch is a gorgeous throwback to the Fifties and early Sixties… By blending old and new material, and by incorporating a hint of jazz-fusion music into a studio-orchestra sound, Simon and her producer, Mike Mainieri, begin to suggest a continuity between Fifties torch and Eighties pop.”
  • If you’re a fan of Carly’s, this is a Top Title from 1981 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Neil Diamond / Stones – His Best Sounding Studio Album?

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I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and not many held our interest.

Problems to Watch For

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies showed us.

You can easily hear that smear on the guitar transients. Usually they’re a tad blunted and the guitar harmonics don’t ring the way they should.

Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.

Good cleaning techniques can help, but bad vinyl and worn stampers limit the encoding of the highs, and bad mastering or the use of sub-generation tapes both can work plenty of mischief on their own.

Engineering

On the Hot Stamper copies that do have sweet and rich ANALOG sound, credit naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, ARMIN STEINER. He was one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart-Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early ’70s, and, if that’s not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits. He’s also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.

When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a chance, and probably a pretty good one, that the sound will be excellent. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis at that point. Now, all it takes is some serious digging in the bins, cleaning, and listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough.”

Michael McDonald – One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records

Let us not forget that this is also one of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records. His work here is pure genius. Play this album next to Katy Lied: I think you will find the comparison instructive. If That’s What It Takes and Katy Lied are the pinnacle of achievement for Jeff on the drums.

I’m proud to count Michael McDonald among my favorite recording artists. He made this Desert Island Disc and single-handedly turned the Doobie Brothers into a band I could enjoy and even respect.

This is a Must Own if you like the later Doobies and the kind of highly-polished but heartfelt and intelligent pop records that band excelled at in the ’70s.

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Desert Island Discs Available Now

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Shelly Manne & His Men – The West Coast Sound, Vol. 1

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More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • Killer Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Contemporary in 1956 was making some awfully good jazz records, with room-filling, natural and realistic mono sound, the kind of sound that still holds up today and doesn’t need a lot of “mastering” to do it
  • 5 stars: “The music has plenty of variety yet defines the era… Highly recommended and proof (if any is really needed) that West Coast jazz was far from bloodless.”
  • If you’re a fan of West Coast Jazz, this is a Top Title from 1956, and one that certainly belongs in any right-thinking audiophile’s collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Marty Paich Is One of Our Favorite Arrangers

MARTY PAICH is one of our favorite arrangers.

Some of the better albums showcasing Marty’s arrangements are Spirit’s first release (1967), Art Pepper Plus Eleven (1959), Ella Swings Lightly (1958) and Whisper Not (1966), and the amazing The Hi-Lo’s And All That Jazz (1958).

Copies or commentaries for all of them can be found on our site. 

Marty Paich Arranged Art Pepper’s Modern Jazz Classics Album

Marty Paich did the arrangements for this group of top musicians. As far as big band goes it doesn’t get much better than this. If I had to pick one big band album to take to my desert island it might very well be this one. The arrangements are lively and everyone seems to be having a good time in the studio.

Marty was one of the most sought-after arrangers back in the day. In discogs there are currently 512 listings under his name for writing and arranging.

Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

Many consider this to be the best record Art Pepper ever made, along with Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, and it’s hard to argue with either title as both are superb and deserve a place in any audiophile’s collection. I would add Art Pepper Today to that list.


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