Top Artists – Leonard Bernstein

Letter of the Week – West Side Story and Jackson Browne

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I really liked the Osacr Peterson West Side Story and appreciate the effort you put in to find me a Hot Stamper. This was an album my mother bought for me and I have fond memories of lying on my back under my parents RCA console stereo looking up at the glowing tubes and listening to it. Thank you. Much better than the DCC cd. It now sounds like I remember it.

Mr. Magic was also a surprise. It never sounded that good and was better than I remember it. 

The one that has completely blown me away was the Jackson Browne 3+ side one. It never sounded like that ever. I had a 1.5 and it was good; kind of like I remember it. This copy is a completely different musical experience. I enjoy the presentation more and have a much better appreciation of the music. You guys did it again.

Thanks as usual,
Mike H. (more…)

Everything But the Beer / Fiedler Conducts a Boston Pops Concert – Reviewed in 2012

More recordings conducted by Arthur Fiedler

Everything But the Beero

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This VERY RARE 2 LP Shaded Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. Much of what’s good about Golden Age recordings is heard here, with side one for example having the sound of a HUGE hall and that Three-Dimensional quality that the best vintage recordings are able to convey so well.

We constantly knock Heavy Vinyl here at Better Records for the simple reason that we play vintage recordings such as this by the score every month and can hear what they do so well. Unfortunately the huge hall and the 3-D soundstaging they effortlessly reproduce cannot be found on any Heavy Vinyl pressing we know of.

Such qualities allow this record to sound — in some ways, to be sure not all — like live music. Heavy Vinyl just plain doesn’t. (more…)

Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein – What To Listen For

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More An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein

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This original Six Eye LP has the smooth brass and full-bodied strings that allow this wonderful music to astound.

Smooth and solid, not brash or blary, what really impressed about the sound here was how full it was, yet it was never thick or murky. Instead it was transparent in the lower mids and below, and that sound was just glorious after listening to too many thin and brash pressings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and very percussive — there is no tubey Old School smear to be heard, and that too was a surprise.

I’ve always loved these performances, but the shrill Columbia sound has been hard to get past. So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and blary brass. I’ve come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than the “Columbia Sound,” and as a consequence rarely put much effort into surveying their recordings.

I won’t say all that’s changed; it really hasn’t. The vast majority of Columbia classical pressings are still going to sound as awful as they have in the past.

What has changed is that finally, with this copy (and the stereo/room we have in 2015) we’ve found the sound that we’ve been looking for on the legendary MS 6091. (more…)

Leonard Bernstein – Conducts Symphonic Dances…

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Conducts Symphonic Dances…

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vintage Columbia pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies are out of this world, reproducing some of the most dynamic, exciting, richest, and most spacious sound we have ever heard from the man’s records
  • The music is wonderful of course, with the Suites giving you all the best parts of his marvelous compositions with none of the filler
  • Vibrant orchestrations, high quality sound and fairly quiet surfaces combine for an immersive and engrossing listening experience

One of the great Columbia recordings. I suspected it might have been done at the legendary 30th St studios in New York but I was wrong, Manhattan Center’s huge stage served as the venue. Either way the sound is no less glorious.

The big advantage this copy had over most is the fullness of the brass. The shrill sound of the brass on most Columbia albums is what gets them tossed in the trade pile. Fortunately the sound here is rich and clean, with solid deep bass. The stage is huge, with the multi-miking kept to a minimum so that you can really hear the space. (more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein 

More Rogers 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

Side two here is BEYOND White Hot, earning a sonic grade of A++++! I don’t know that any other copy has earned such a high grade for side two but this one sure did. It blew our minds. (more…)

Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

I’ve always loved these performances, but the shrill Columbia sound has been hard to get past. So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and blary brass. I’ve come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than the “Columbia Sound,” and as a consequence I rarely put much effort into surveying their prodigious catalog these days. (more…)

Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story (Broadway Cast Recording)

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein 

More West Side Story 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

SUPERB sound can be found on these two Columbia stereo pressings of the Broadway Cast recording. This is a huge, spacious, natural, exciting All-Tube Golden Age recording that impressed us no end here at Better Records.

We heard an amazing sounding copy many years ago, and the only reason we haven’t done the shootout since then is that we just couldn’t find enough clean copies with which to do it. To be clear, we’re not talking quiet vinyl, we’re talking about not beat-to-death, not all-scractched-up vinyl. People loved this music and they played the hell out of it.

Imagine our surprise when the good sound of these copies turned out to not only have superb sound, but exceptionally quiet Mint Minus vinyl too! Don’t expect to see another of this quality any time soon. If we can’t find them, who can? (more…)

Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story Soundtrack

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West Side Story Soundtrack

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

What separated the best pressings from the rest of the pack turned out to be more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better pressings make the various singers sound dramatically more solid, three-dimensional and real. You can hear the nuances of their deliveries much more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this!

Tubey Magic to Die For

This early ’60s LP 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…)

Chabrier / Espana & more / Bernstein – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

The Chabrier side of this 360 label record has SUPER HOT STAMPER sound, which is positively SHOCKING for a Columbia recording. Dry, shrill and lean, most Columbia pressings don’t last ten seconds on our turntable these days — but this one sure did! Played it all the way through as a matter of fact. (We love Espana. Who doesn’t?)

Is it as rich and tubey magical as the best Londons, RCAs and Vanguards from the Golden Age? No, not really — that would be a bit much to expect. It does have some of that sound, and that alone is remarkable considering how few Columbia pressings have any at all. (more…)

Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Minty Columbia Grey label Stereo LP is one of the most amazing copies ever! You will be hard pressed to find a better sounding Grand Canyon suite. Bernstein’s Columbia recordings usually leave much to be desired. This is a notable exception. The normal Columbia shrillness is gone, replaced by sweet and liquid sound. I wish more of his records sounded like this one: I’d be picking them up left and right.