Top Artists – Sergio Mendes

Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Best

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Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics = whomp) at the listening position. (There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.)

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Bruce Botnick and The Big Bottom End

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What separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. The first album was recorded by the legendary BRUCE BOTNICK, the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention. This, in my opinion, is his Masterpiece. The Doors albums Bruce recorded represent some of his best work, but what Doors album sounds as good as Sergio’s debut? I can’t name one. [Actually I can: the first album, when you get the right pressing. It’s out of this world.] 

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick his due. The man knew what he was doing. (Larry Levine, who recorded the subsequent albums, was no slouch either. Stillness is one of the ten best sounding records I have ever played, and that’s no exaggeration.)

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was close to twenty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the intervening decades.

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Finally, Hot Stampers are here for this notoriously difficult to reproduce recording. This side one was KILLER, earning a grade of A++ to A+++! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copy. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians with this one. Some of the tracks on this side one are DEMO DISC quality.  

Side One

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall so clear and open that you will have a hard time believing that it’s the same recording as whatever copies you may have heard in the past. It KILLED most of the copies we played against it.

It’s just much more FUN and LIVELY this way! (We had one copy that earned the full three pluses but the difference between them was minimal.) (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Stillness – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a BETTER THAN WHITE HOT A++++ SIDE TWO! That’s right folks, four pluses! This is an incredibly well-recorded album and a member of our Top 100, in fact. The soundfield itself has a three-dimensional quality that will absolutely blow you away. If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as good, look no further – this record is for you. 

We figure we’re about due for a thank you note from Mr. Mendes, because we’ve turned a huge number of audiophiles into die-hard fans of this album. It’s easy to see why when you play a copy that sounds like this. All of the qualities we look for on this album are right here.

Side One

The vocals on this side are Right On The Money — present and breathy. It could use a bit more extension up top but at A+ – A++, this side is a nice step up over the average copy.

Side Two

A++++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! The side is doing everything right. It’s big, bold, rich and lively with none of the vocal edginess that plagues the average copy. The vocals are wonderfully breathy and it’s tonally correct from top to bottom.

Even if you don’t know much about this music we encourage you to take a chance on this one. We’re fairly confident that anyone who values amazing sound enough to be in the Hot Stamper market will get a LOT out of this record — it’s pure, unadulterated, audiophile gold. We have turned a lot of people on to this album, and we’ve received quite a few letters from folks who had totally missed out on this wonderful music back in the day, only to fall in love with a Hot Stamper copy forty years after its release. (The album bombed when it was released, which accounts for the fact that it’s not nearly as common in the used record bins as others by Sergio and his bandmates.) (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Equinox

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  • An incredible copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • The engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine capture the natural, breathy intimacy in the voices of the wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen
  • Watch What Happens, Night and Day, Wave – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s, this time a bit more fleshed out… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, and only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of Watch What Happens, Night and Day, or Jobim’s Wave to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For audiophiles it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox is right up there with it.) (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE HEARD! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copies. This White Hot Ye-Me-Le has MINDBLOWING, YOU ARE THERE IMMEDIACY and MASTER TAPE SOUND on side one. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians! Many of the tracks on this copy are DEMO DISC quality. 

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall fairly quiet. Listen to track two (a great version of Norweigan Wood)– it doesn’t get any better than that! Track one is so silky and sweet, it may become your favorite song to demonstrate your stereo. It’s certainly one of mine. Even the last track here, which almost never sounds good, is fairly sweet on this pressing. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

EXCELLENT SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It’s rich, full-bodied, and sweet, with super-low distortion and breathtaking transparency. Side Two rates A+++, As Good As It Gets! The vocals on this copy were as sweet as we have ever heard for this record.

The average copy of this record is thin, aggressive and irritating. What separates the best copies like this one from the typical bad sounding copies is more extension on the top end to balance out the upper midrange and lower highs, as well as more weight on the bottom end, to anchor and balance out the sound. (more…)

Sergio Mendes And Brazil ’66 – Crystal Illusions – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Sergio Mendes

More Crystal Illusions

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

A White Hot Stamper side one on this A&M LP means it’s the BEST sounding copy of Crystal Illusions to ever hit the site. Yes, it’s a recording that has many problems, but the best copies seem to be able to overcome most of them, and that’s precisely what we are offering here: a White Hot copy that gets the sound of this music about as right as it’s going to get. And the vinyl is QUIET. 

If you are not familiar with Sergio and his magical band, this is not the place to start. Try the first two albums or Stillness if you want to hear the best material recorded with the highest quality. This is a second tier album in the Sergio canon, and priced accordingly. There are of course some truly great songs on this one, just as there are on every Brazil ’66 album.

I would draw your attention especially to the Otis Redding classic Dock of the Bay, which is on this killer side one. Fans will no doubt find much to like here; others maybe not so much. If you get a thrill out of FINALLY hearing a famous album sound the way you always wished it could, even if it’s only on one side, this copy is for you. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, A Little Touch of Schmilsson and Stardust

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

Hey Tom, 

I was totally blown away by the Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 album you sent me. The lovely, sweet female vocals and the awesome percussion was to die for. For a supposed easy listening album, I was getting very excited! In fact, I cannot stop listening to it. My only compliant is it is too short in duration. When it is over, I want (need?) more! Do his other albums sound like this? If so, I will be buying more.

This is what I love about you guys, you turn me on to albums I would never have even thought to listen to. For example, on your recommendation, I ordered Harry Nillsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night. This is an album I would never have given a second look at, yet, as soon as the needle hit the groove, I was floored. The vocal presence is startling. It is like Harry is in the room singing to me. It reminds me a lot of one of my other favourites I bought from you a while back – a White Hot copy of Willie Nelson’s Stardust. 

Willie, Harry and Sergio as demo discs…who would have thought! (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – MoFi Debunked

More Sergio Mendes

More Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked. 

So spitty and thin! Why, in God’s name, why? (more…)