Top Arrangers – Nelson Riddle

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

More Linda Ronstadt

More Nelson Riddle

  • So spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and fairly natural sounding Linda, this is the way to hear it
  • What engineer George Massenburg gets right is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio
  • “…the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania… undid in the mid-60’s.”
  • Watch for my MoFi review coming later this year – talk about a disaster, that reissue is beyond awful
  • If you’re a Ronstadt fan, this title from 1983 is surely a Must Own. The complete list of titles from 1983 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With two outstanding sides, this pressing gets two critically important elements of the recording right:

The strings in the orchestra, and, for obvious reasons, even more importantly, Linda’s voice.

We guarantee that these sides give you a more natural sounding Linda than you’ve ever heard, or your money back.

If all you own is an mediocre sounding pressing or the truly awful Mobile Fidelity from 1983, you are in for a world of better sound with this very record.

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Nat King Cole / This Is Nat “King” Cole

More of the Music of Nat “King” Cole

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Nat “King” Cole

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

Here it is – only the second Hot Stamper copy of Nat’s classic 1957 release to ever hit the site, and what a pressing it is! It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

Our Overview

We’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.

If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the ’60s. Many of Nat’s albums from that decade are over-produced, bright, thin and shrill.

We assume most audiophiles got turned on to his music from the records that Steve Hoffman remixed and remastered for DCC back in the mid-’90s, For those of you who were customers of ours back then, you know that I count myself among that group. I even went so far as to nominate the DCC of Nat’s Greatest Hits as the best album DCC ever made. I know now, as I expect you do, that that’s really not saying much, but at the time I thought it was a pretty bold statement.

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Dean Martin – This Time I’m Swingin’

  • STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this vintage Capitol Stereo pressing
  • Classic Capitol big, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound — Deano’s vocals are present and natural in the best tradition of rat-mate Frank Sinatra in the early ’60s
  • With Nelson Riddle arranging, you can be sure the album has plenty of swing all right — and the brass sounds amazing here
  • If you want to find your own copies and do your own shootout, be prepared for a lot of ebay heartache – the beat-up, thrift-store, trashy LPs that we regularly get sent are truly shocking
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…an easy swinging collection…”

If you’re a fan of the Capitol Sinatra sound you’ll love this record. It’s an exceptionally difficult title to find in anything but trashed condition. I’ve been a fan of this record for many years but this is the first copy we’ve been able to find that’s clean enough to go up on the site with White Hot Stamper grades.  (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Lush Life

More Linda Ronstadt

More Nelson Riddle

  • An outstanding copy of Ronstadt’s 1984 release with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Getting the strings to sound sweet and rosiny, not smeary and hard, is no mean feat, but it’s the kind of thing the better Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to give you on any of Linda’s American Songbook period albums
  • “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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Ella Fitzgerald / Whisper Not and Comments on Her Pablo Period

Hot Stamper Pressings of Ella Fitzgerald’s Albums Available Now

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

Our commentary from ten or fifteen years ago. Please to enjoy.

Whisper Not is one of the best Ella records we’ve played in a very long time. I’m telling you, this is Ella at her best! Having just played a lovely sounding copy of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, an album that tends to err on the bright side, I now realize that this album has the opposite problem — it’s a little bit smoother in places than it should be. Of course that’s a much more tolerable problem than the reverse.  

These are the comments for the last copy we had on the site.

For whatever reason, I’ve never stumbled upon a clean copy of this record. Consequently, I’d never heard it up until recently.

But my local record store had one sitting in the bin one day in lovely condition, which presented me with the perfect opportunity to find out whether this album presented the early “good” Ella or the later “bad” Ella.

Because some time in the ’60s she started making bad records. I know. I’ve played them. Misty Blue comes to mind but there are more than a dozen that we used to have on this blog in the Hall of Shame, and we will be putting them back up here at some point.

Everything she ever did for Pablo comes to mind. Some of you out there have told me that you actually like some of her Pablo material, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for those recordings. In my opinion she had completely lost it by the time she hooked up with her old buddy Norman Granz in the ’70s.

On the cover of this record she looks a little frumpy, and I was afraid this album was going to be frumpy too. I’m glad to say that the opposite is true. This album swings with the best she’s ever recorded. A lot of the credit much go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. Ever since I heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record for Contemporary I have been a big fan. This album just solidifies my love for the guy.

A couple of high points on this record: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, the song Ella sang on her masterpiece, Clap Hands, is here rearranged for the players at hand, and the interpretation is fresh and moving. The song I Said No is filled with silly double entendres and is a hoot.

But I have to say those are two high points picked almost at random. Every track on this album is wonderful. I think this is one of her three or four best recordings ever. (Another is the Johnny Mercer songbook album.)

Anyway, take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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Linda Ronstadt – String Tone and Texture Are Key to the Best Pressings

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

More of the Music of Nelson Riddle

We’ve criticized the engineer George Massenburg in the past, but with this copy we almost want to take it all back.

What he gets right on this recording is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with various jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio.

The sound stretches far to Linda’s left, far to her right, as well as back far behind her in a huge semi-circle. She is of course singing in a vocal booth, with her vocal placed front and center in the soundstage.

What to Listen for

That’s easy on this album: the strings. When the strings are big and rich, not shrill and thin, that’s a good thing. Rosiny texture means you have a copy with less smear and higher resolution. Harmonics up top means that the top end of your copy is extending properly.

Bottom line: If the strings are bad on this album probably everything else is too.

Here are some records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Having said that, this is an album of standards sung by a woman with a very recognizable voice. If Linda doesn’t sound right, what’s the point of the record? To hear Nelson Riddle’s well-recorded strings?

The best copies have Linda sounding rich and breathy. Few managed to pull off that particular trick as well as we would have liked. We took major points off for those copies that had her sounding too thin or forced in her upper range.

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Nat “King” Cole – To Whom It May Concern

More Nat “King” Cole

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

 

  • An outstanding copy of Nat “King” Cole’s wonderful 1959 release with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The presence and immediacy of Nat’s vocals here are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best – you won’t believe how good this early stereo pressing sounds
  • With some of the biggest, clearest, richest and most natural vocal reproduction, this copy is guaranteed to take Nat’s performance to another level
  • Marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “For this album, Cole had the idea of putting together a set of newly written songs in the classic style, with typically sympathetic arrangements by Nelson Riddle…”

Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

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Ella Fitzgerald / Like Someone In Love – Good in Mono, Better in Stereo

  • 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.”

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…)

1961 Was a Great Year for Records

This is one of our favorite records from 1961.

To see our currently available Hot Stamper pressings of records from 1961, click here.

To read reviews of the Top Titles from 1961 that we’ve auditioned, click here. These are records that any audiophile could take great pride in owning (assuming, of courser, that he has a good pressing of the album). There are more than 50 of them. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book

  • With superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this Verve stereo original LP, we are fairly certain you could not possibly have heard Ella Fitzgerald sound better than she does on this very record
  • The huge, rich orchestral sound captured so beautifully by Val Valentin is always one of the highlights of these songbooks
  • By the time this one came out in 1964 Ella had already recorded 18 LPs of songbooks – this was the last, going out on a high note
  • Some of the Mercer Classics here are Too Marvelous For Words, Day In-Day Out, Laura, Skylark, Midnight Sun, I Remember You
  • Once you hear Ella sing Skylark on this album, you will have a very hard time sitting through Linda Ronstadt’s rendition of it on Lush Life
  • AMG raves “this is one of the best of Ella Fitzgerald’s songbooks. Fitzgerald’s assured and elegant voice is a perfect match for Mercer’s urbane lyrics and Nelson Riddle’s supple arrangements…”

When you are lucky enough to find a album that sounds as good as this one, full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is outstanding, with huge amounts of space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)