Top Artists – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Mobile Fidelity Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

It’s pretty good. Compressed and veiled, but the tonality is correct. I give it a B. It will beat the vast majority of reissues, which tend to be thin, gritty, and woefully lacking in Tubey Magic. And the vinyl will be quiet, which is something not many of the best pressings can offer. 

But who wants to listen to a B grade record when we you can buy A and A+ pressings from us?

What Hot Stampers of Sinatra At The Sands 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 1966
  • 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 space of the Sands

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.

What to Listen for

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are way too modern, bright and gritty, and we throw them right in the trade-in pile.

Finding the copy with “best of both worlds” sound is the trick. Pressings on both labels have won shootouts in the past. With this album we do what we always do. We play the record without looking at the label and simply grade the quality of the sound coming out of the speakers. Any other approach is liable to fall prey to unconscious biases. As we like to say, record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can possibly make them.

My First Time

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy”. I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy.

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Come Fly With Me 
I’ve Got a Crush on You 
I’ve Got You Under My Skin 
The Shadow of Your Smile 
Street of Dreams 
One for My Baby (And One More for the…

Side Two

Fly Me to the Moon

One of the best tracks on the album. It can have SUPERB sound!

One O’Clock Jump 
The Tea Break 
You Make Me Feel So Young

Side Three

All of Me 
The September of My Years

Another high point and one of the best reasons to own this album. This is a much better performance than the famous studio version which was such a big hit in its day.

Luck Be a Lady 
Get Me to the Church on Time 
It Was a Very Good Year 
Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me 
Makin’ Whoopee

Side Four

Where or When 
Angel Eyes 
My Kind of Town 
A Few Last Words 
My Kind of Town (Reprise)

AMG Rave Review

In many ways, Sinatra at the Sands is the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s. Recorded in April of 1966, At the Sands is the first commercially released live Frank Sinatra album, recorded at a relaxed Las Vegas club show. For these dates at the Sands, Sinatra worked with Count Basie and his orchestra, which was conducted by Quincy Jones.

Like any of his concerts, the material was fairly predictable, with his standard show numbers punctuated by some nice surprises. Throughout the show, Sinatra is in fine voice, turning in a particularly affecting version of “Angel Eyes.” He is also in fine humor, constantly joking with the audience and the band, as well as delivering an entertaining, if rambling, monologue halfway through the album. Some of the humor has dated poorly, appearing insensitive, but that sentiment cannot be applied to the music.

Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra – Point of No Return

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More Point of No Return

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  • This vintage stereo pressing of Sinatra’s 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and full, with a nice extended top end and wonderfully present vocals
  • About as quiet as they come — Mint Minus Minus on both sides (with two issues, noted below)
  • “… someone persuaded the singer to make the album a special occasion by reuniting with Axel Stordahl, the arranger/conductor who helped Sinatra rise to stardom in the ’40s. Sinatra would never sing these standards with such detailed, ornate orchestrations, and, as such, the album has a feeling of an elegy.”

Check out the AMG review for the story behind the album, which teams Frank up with his former collaborator Axel Stordahl, who arranged and conducted the album. The results are wonderful.

We love doing the work that it takes to find Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun. This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find gems like this one. But hey, that’s what we do. We love it when a record with music this good can be found with sound like this.

Believe me, these Capitol pressings don’t usually sound like this. From the very first notes you hear Billy May’s colorful arrangments come to life in a way you are very unlikely to have heard before. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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Come Dance With Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Get ready to swing with the Chairman of the Board on this incredible White Hot Stamper pressing of this classic album from 1959! This is one of the more fun Sinatra albums we’ve had the pleasure of playing around here, and this is a copy that delivers BIG TIME. Billy May and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements here, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work. The brass blasts on side two are to die for!

It’s tough to find good sounding copies of almost any Sinatra album, finding amazing copies of his most classic albums like this one with reasonably quiet surfaces is a ridiculously tough task. Even for us, the guys who do nothing but search for and audition records all day every day! So we were thrilled to play a copy like this one that did just what we wanted from music like this.

This pressing did it all — and on both sides — with incredible energy and exceptional immediacy. The brass blasts are OUT OF THIS WORLD. If you never thought you’d hear a Sinatra record sound as powerful as the man himself came across — this is the pressing that you’ve been looking for. Most copies were either smeary or edgy, but this one was wonderfully smooth with impressive clarity (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

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Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • The album features Sinatra singing some of the biggest hits of the day by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond, Jim Croce, and Bread
  • Released in 1974, this is probably the last good album the man made outside of She Shot Me Down from 1981

(more…)

Frank Sinatra / Count Basie – It Might As Well Be Swing

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It Might As Well Be Swing

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • These side are doing it all right — big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and present with lovely breathy vocals
  • “It Might as Well Be Swing, was a more structured, swing-oriented set than Sinatra-Basie, and in many ways the superior album… , what makes [it] more successful is the consistently high level of the performances. On their previous collaboration, both Sinatra and Basie sounded a bit worn out, but throughout this record they play with energy and vigor.” 

(more…)

Frank Sinatra’s Nice and Easy on ’80s Mobile Fidelity Audiophile Vinyl

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Frank Sinatra – Nice and Easy

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

A piece of garbage that gets Frank’s voice completely wrong, thinning it out and boosting at it the top of his range. No one else besides MoFi ever managed to make Frank Sinatra’s voice sound this way, so what are the chances that they’re right and everybody else is wrong? Slim? None? Put us down for “none.” (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Francis A. Sinatra & Antonio C. Jobim

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Francis A. Sinatra & Antonio C. Jobim

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  • This outstanding original stereo pressing of Sinatra and Jobim’s sublime collaboration earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides and plays about as quietly as any copy ever does  
  • The Tubey Magical space, ambience and richness of the sound here is the only way we know of to bring the Chairman of the Board and his Brazilian buddy into your listening room
  • This is a magical album from start to finish, one of a handful of a Must Own Sinatra releases, and my personal favorite of all his recordings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After a few plays, the album begins to slowly work its way underneath a listener’s skin, and it emerges as one of his most rewarding albums of the ’60s.”

This is, in our opinion, one of the two best sounding Sinatra album on Reprise (the other being September of My Years from 1965). The recording is so rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical you would think it was prime Capitol period Sinatra — but it’s not, obviously, it just sounds that way. (more…)

Sinatra At The Sands on Dahlquist DQ-10s – My Neophyte Audiophile Mind Is Blown

More Sinatra At The Sands

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The story of our latest shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.  

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy”. I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy. 

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

This description is pretty close to what I thought I heard all those years ago

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This vintage stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Or so I thought at the time. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – What to Listen For

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More Duke Ellington

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. 

Notice that, at least for most of the material, and perhaps all of it, Sinatra does not seem to be stuck in a vocal booth. He sounds like he is actually standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band.

Whether this is a recording trick — he’s in a booth but the engineer did a great job creating a sound for the booth that matched the ambience and space of the studio — or whether he is standing front and center with the band, the illusion is convincing and adds greatly to the “reality” of the performance..

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something. (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – What to Listen For

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More Sinatra At The Sands

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There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are much too modern sounding, bright and gritty, and when they are we throw them right in the trade-in pile. (more…)