Top Arrangers – Russell Garcia

Louis Armstrong / I’ve Got The World on a String – Classic Records Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B (probably)

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skill at interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia‘s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).

Now all that remains is for us to track down enough clean copies with which to do the shootout. At the rate were going it may be a year or two, but having heard how good the music and sound can be on the best copies, we are on it! (more…)

Julie London in 1960 – Make Love To Me

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  • One of the best copies from our most recent shootout with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Julie is in the room with you – her voice is intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard 
  • Unusually clean surfaces, playing Mint Minus Minus (w/ caveats, see below), a step up from most of the copies we’ve been running into lately
  • “Her subtle sensuality and lightly swinging style made for a potent combination.” – All Music

Thanks to superb engineering and vintage All Tube mastering, this 1957 LP is wonderfully rich and sweet, with a breathy, intimate Julie London performing live in your listening room.

This original Liberty Turquoise Mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Get Happy!

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  • Ella’s 1959 release for Verve (in stereo!) makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • The sound is big, rich, lively and dynamic, with Ella’s astounding vocal range rendered as only an All Tube Analog chain can
  • These sides reproduce both the breath, as well as the front and center immediacy, of The First Lady of Song’s vocals, with tubey rich orchestral arrangements in support
  • “As usual, Ella uplifts all of the material and her best moments come on ‘Somebody Loves Me,’ a heartfelt ‘Moonlight Becomes You,’ a scat-filled ‘Blue Skies’ and (somewhat surprisingly) ‘St. Louis Blues.’… the formerly obscure ‘Get Happy’ finds Ella Fitzgerald at the peak of her powers.”

*NOTE: On side two, a small mark makes 1 loud then 1 moderate pop in the middle of track 2, Blue Skies.

The space here is HUGE and the sound so rich. 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…)

Anita O’Day – Trav’lin’ Light

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Reviews of Some of Our Favorite Albums by Female Vocalists

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  • A superb copy of Anita’s 1961 release, with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big space, breathy vocals, lovely leading edge transients on the brass, and plenty of Tubey Magic make this album a true audiophile treat
  • Johnny Mandel’s and Russell Garcia’s superb arrangements are the perfect compliment to O’Day’s swinging vocals on this tribute to Billie Holiday
  • 4 stars: “… most of this beautiful record find O’Day going her own way in a more forthright, less vulnerable manner… that make[s] haunting use of muted brass at ballad tempos. This was O’Day’s favorite among her Norgran/Verve albums.”

Great players on this one – Ben Webster, Jack Sheldon, Barney Kessel, Al Viola and Mel Lewis are just a handful of the top players on these sessions. A hard record to find in stereo with good vinyl; it took us years to put together this shootout. This ’60s Verve LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Julie London – About The Blues

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More About The Blues

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  • About The Blues with KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last; we rarely have this title on the site 
  • Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout
  • 4 stars: “About the Blues … may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths…”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.   (more…)

Louis Armstrong – I’ve Got The World On A String

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two!
  • Both sides here are incredibly big and full yet still very clean and clear with excellent bass and none of the edginess that plagues the average copy
  • Fairly quiet throughout (w/ caveats, see below) — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Armstrong finds the essence of each tune, bending and projecting them with his patented joie de vivre and gravel-voiced warmth every time.” 

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

I have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have  some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skills interpreting  The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?). (more…)