Top Artists – John Coltrane

John Coltrane ‎– Soultrane – on OJC (2015)

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Some OJC Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t – This One Doesn’t

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

TRACK LISTING

A1 Good Bait     12:26
A2 I Want To Talk About You     11:10
B1 You Say You Care     6:25
B2 Theme For Ernie     5:03
B3 Russian Lullaby     5:42

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing Special on Heavy Vinyl

 

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Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. In our opinion neither one is worth pursuing.

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — too giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning.

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They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

John Coltrane ‎/ Soultrane – How Does the OJC from 1982 Sound?

Some OJC Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t

This One Doesn’t

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We play them so you don’t have to, a public service from the audiophile record lovers at Better Records. (more…)

Van Morrison – Moondance – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

For the first time ever… a WHITE HOT STAMPER pressing of Moondance on QUIET VINYL! This Warner Bros. Green Label copy has a side two that just can not be beat — A+++ all the way.

It took us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout rockin’, a fact that anyone who has ever sought out a copy of this album will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t hanging around in the bins, and when you do find one it usually costs a pretty penny. Add on the fact that most copies just don’t sound all that hot and you can forgive us for thinking that we might never list a Hot Stamper copy again. (more…)

Standard Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound…

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As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from. (more…)

John Coltrane – Lush Life – We Review the DCC, OJC, and Original Pressings

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Sonic Grade: B or so (DCC) 
Sonic Grade: C or so (OJC) 

The DCC heavy vinyl pressing is a nice record; I remember liking it back in the day. I’m guessing it’s a bit better than the ’80s OJC, which is, like most OJC pressings, typically thin and hard. Neither one of them can hold a candle to the pressings we offer on the site.

If for some reason we could not find copies of the album that substantially beat the sound of either of these two remastered LPs, we simply would not have anything to offer, since neither of these versions could be considered Hot Stampers. Nice records, sure, but Hot Stampers? Not a chance.

It was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far. (more…)

Miles Davis – Jazz Track

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  • Davis’ superb 1959 release arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Davis partners here with jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and others
  • “… it should become clear why ‘Jazz Track’ is a vital Miles album as well as a testimony to the importance of the movies to jazz–as a medium for improvised soundtracks and, more importantly, as a source of theme music potentially as rich as the music of Broadway…”
  • “It’s doubtful that “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Stella by Starlight” would have caught on without Bill [Evans’] artistry (which is not to take anything away from Red [Garland], whose ballads simply lacked the intricate, delicately shaded beauty of Bill’s pensive voicings on the slow ballads).”

We had a number of original pressings on hand, some costing a pretty penny, but this is the only one that did not have serious scratches or inner groove damage. The vinyl is not quiet, but the tics stay mainly underneath the music. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


The nine minute plus long Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price. With Stella by Starlight and Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 20 minutes of great sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup. (more…)

John Coltrane – The Last Trane

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  • Coltrane’s wonderful 1966 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and and outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • A superb album compiled from three mono recording sessions from 1957 and 1958, featuring brilliant accompaniment by Donald Byrd and Red Garland, among others
  • The recording is huge and lively in the long and storied tradition of Rudy Van Gelder’s Coltrane sessions from the fifties
  • The original Blue Trident Prestige mono pressings are clearly superior to anything that came after them, and that is of course what we are offering here

This vintage Prestige pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Coltrane and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Last Trane 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 1958 (though the album wasn’t released until 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 studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Last Trane

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
Donald Byrd – trumpet
Red Garland – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Earl May – bass
Louis Hayes – drums
Art Taylor – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lover
Slowtrane

Side Two

By The Numbers
Come Rain Or Come Shine

AMG Review

Despite its title (which was due to the original LP containing the last of Prestige’s John Coltrane material to be released for the first time), this album does not have Coltrane’s final recordings either of his career or for Prestige. These “leftovers” are generally rewarding with an alternate take of “Trane’s Slo Blues” (called “Slotrane”) being joined by three slightly later numbers (“Lover,” “By the Numbers” and “Come Rain or Come Shine”) taken from quintet sessions with trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and either Louis Hayes or Art Taylor on drums. Enjoyable if not essential hard bop from John Coltrane’s productive Prestige period.

John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound – Forget the Reissues

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This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings, especially if it plays as quietly as this one does. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables

The Players

John Coltrane — tenor saxophone on all except “Central Park West” soprano saxophone on “Central Park West” and “26-2”
McCoy Tyner — piano
Steve Davis — bass
Elvin Jones — drums (more…)

Miles Davis – Steamin’ – A Thousand Bucks and Worth Every Penny (When It Sounds Like This and Plays This Quietly)

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  • Insanely good sound throughout for this extremely rare original Prestige Yellow and Black label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This early Mono pressing takes the sound of the recording to a place we never thought it could go – never have we heard an album from these famous sessions sound as good as this very LP
  • An original in pristine condition, with this kind of sound, is a record that is very unlikely to pass our way again
  • 5 stars: “The end results are consistently astonishing. At the center of Steamin’, as with most outings by this band, are the group improvisations which consist of solo upon solo of arguably the sweetest and otherwise most swinging interactions known to have existed between musicians.”

WOW — this Prestige Yellow Label Mono pressing has some of the most realistic, natural Miles Davis sound we’ve ever heard! Both sides earned A+++ grades and play Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, truly exceptional for a vintage pressing such as this one. You will have an incredibly difficult time finding a copy that can hold its own with this one. (more…)