Top Artists – Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock – My Point of View

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

TWO KILLER SIDES, dramatically better sounding than the other copies we played it against. Both sides here are incredible — rich and warm with a huge bottom end and lots of space around the instruments. About as quiet as they come, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout.

We’ve been saving up copies of this album for years in hopes we could find a top copy to put on the site; we were pleasantly surprised to find one this good on an early label with decent vinyl.

This is a great album, with a killer lineup that includes Grant Green, Donald Byrd, Tony Williams, Hank Mobley and more. If you’re a fan of Herbie’s debut album Takin’ Off, you’ll find much to like here. The typical pressing leaves much to be desired though — many copies we’ve played sounded a bit hollow and flat. Hot Stamper copies give you richer, fuller sound and more energy, qualities that really help this music shine. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to 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 balanced with all 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. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

Tony Williams on the drums here deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is original and spontaneous in the best tradition of jazz improvisation. (more…)

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…)