Top Artists – Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock – Man-Child – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Columbia Red Label pressing was a MAJOR step up just about everything we could throw at it in a recent shootout, with side one earning an A++ grade and side two coming out even better! If you enjoy Herbie’s funky work in the ’70s (think Head Hunters, natch) then you’re going to love hearing this music really come to life on a Super Hot Stamper copy. Most copies we played were dry and grainy, but this one was richer and smoother by a good amount.

Side one is very rich and full-bodied with some seriously punchy bass. There’s tons of energy, major presence and real weight to the bottom. This one’s got the warm, sweet sound of ’70s analog, and that puts well it ahead of the average pressing.

Side two is even better, adding an amazing three-dimensional quality to the soundfield that we just didn’t get on most copies. It’s dramatically more open, spacious, and transparent than we expected after hearing so many pressings with “closed-in” sound. (more…)

Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine

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

1965 Live Analog at its best. Present and lively with solid, full-bodied tonality, thanks to the engineering of the legendary Fred Plaut. A wonderful live performance, showcasing the more lyrical side of Miles.

Superb sound for this Columbia pressing. The bottom end is strong and full-bodied, there’s plenty of space and presence, and the tonality of the horns is right on.

The lineup on this record is fantastic, featuring George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

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

Straight Life is a great album for anyone who wants to hear some well recorded, seriously adventurous jazz. We freely admit that side one is fairly “out there,” but side two balances it out with much more accessible, melodic material. A wonderfully sensitive and emotional version of Here’s That Rainy Day closes out the side with George Benson proving to be an especially sympathetic accompanist on guitar.  

By the way, if you don’t have a hot copy of Red Clay, get one. It’s some of the best funky jazz ever recorded. No collection should be without it. (more…)

Never Heard Maiden Voyage Like This – The Transparency on this Copy Is Superb!

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Maiden Voyage

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Hello Gentlemen,

I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.

Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

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  • An outstanding copy of Hancock’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • If you’ve been disappointed by the sound of the album in the past, here’s a copy that can show you a whole new Head Hunters
  • Described as “a key release in Hancock’s career and a defining moment in the genre of jazz” and a member of Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
  • 5 stars: “It had all of the sensibilities of jazz, particularly in the way it wound off into long improvisations, but its rhythms were firmly planted in funk, soul, and R&B, giving it a mass appeal that made it the biggest-selling jazz album of all time (a record which was later broken).”

Jazz-fusion fans are going to have themselves a funky good time with this Hot Stamper copy of Head Hunters! Let me tell you, it is no mean feat to find a copy of this album with this kind of sound. This copy is dynamic and lively with the kind of extension up top that brings this music to life. The bottom end has the kind of weight that these funky tunes demand, and the percussion sounds right on the money. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Maiden Voyage

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

We just finished a big Maiden Voyage shootout, and while we didn’t come up with too many winners, we did manage to find this one KILLER copy. Side two has A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND — it can’t be beat! You won’t believe how clean, clear, open, and transparent it is. Most importantly, the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS, and the dynamics are INCREDIBLE. Too many copies we played left us cold and bored; this one kept us engaged throughout. It’s got the silkiest highs and the breathiest brass we’ve ever heard for this album. Most copies we played this against couldn’t even come close to the richness, sweetness, and warmth we heard here.

Side one is wonderful as well, the best we played this time around at A++. The piano has real weight, the sax has a nice bite, and the trumpet sounds great. The top end is smooth and sweet but lacks just a bit of extension compared to side two.

One Of The Great Blue Notes

This is one of the greatest Blue Note jazz records of all time — 5 big stars in the All Music Guide, which should surprise no one. Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember one time playing around with the stereo, listening for different effects as I made minor changes in the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs, and the like, and at one point, I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected. Each of the players was balanced with the others. It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. When I heard the ensemble come together, it made me appreciate this album even more. Tony Williams on drums deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is completely original and spontaneous in the best jazz tradition.  (more…)

Paul Desmond – Bridge Over Troubled Water

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both sides of this very well recorded Desmond album from 1970 earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • This pressing was noticeably richer, smoother and more natural than the competition – it’s also a big step up over many of the other CTI pressings of the man’s albums we’ve played
  • Desmond’s sax is wonderfully present and breathy, and a copy with top grades like these is surely the best way to hear Don Sebesky’s wonderful strings with all their satiny sheen intact
  • “Desmond finds something beautiful, wistful, and/or sly to say in each of these ten tunes, backed by Herbie Hancock’s Rhodes electric piano and a set of ravishing, occasionally overstated (as in “America”) orchestrations by Don Sebesky.” (more…)

Milt Jackson – Sunflower

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

The first track, at more than ten minutes, is yet another one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz recordings here at Better Records. Other albums of this sort that we love are 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 orchestra’s string sections 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. (more…)

Miles Davis – E.S.P.

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  • This pressing boasts insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, a huge step up from most copies
  • There’s plenty of 1965 Columbia 360 Label Tubey Magic in Stereo – the analog sound is real, tonally correct, and above all, natural
  • Miles fronts his second classic quintet here – saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams
  • “They created a unique sound that came to define the very sound of modern jazz … ESP remains one of their very best albums.” — 4 1/2 stars

This Columbia 360 Label pressing is one of the better copies of E.S.P. we’ve  heard.

It’s richer and fuller, with more ambience, and the trumpet and piano are just amazing sounding. You’re going to have a fairly tough time finding a copy that is anywhere near as impressive as this one. Trust me — we know whereof we speak. We’re always trying and all too often coming up short. Not here though!  (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off – A Cisco Record We Like

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Sonic Grade: B-

The sound is very good, with correct tonal balance and plenty of life. I was WAY TOO HARD on this album when it first came in. It’s playing right now and really swinging!

I just learned the secret to getting this one to sound right, and I am happy to share it with you. TURN IT UP!. When you get some volume going, the musicians really come to life on this album. It may sound crazy, but you need to play this one as loud as you would play your average rock record.

Billy Higgins whacks the hell out of his snare on the second track on side one. He really goes to town on that thing. Imagine you are sitting twenty feet from him in a jazz club; it would be plenty loud, right? Now find the equivalent volume setting on your preamp, drop the needle and get ready to FEEL the music, the way you would feel it if you were in that club. 

Robert Pincus and Kevin Gray did a great job on this one. I put it right up there with the very best jazz records on Heavy Vinyl being made today. The first track is a tiny bit lean for my taste, but things get better after that.

Of course, how many copies do you really see of an album like this that aren’t beat to death, or minty but hundreds of dollars? Mighty few in our experience, so this has to be seen as a welcome addition to any audiophile’s jazz collection.