Top Artists – Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett – For Once In My Life

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For Once In My Life

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  • This vintage pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one.

On this record, like so many others you may have read about on the site, the right amount of Tubey Magic — and by that we mean a very healthy amount — makes all the difference.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Tony Bennett singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 51 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What outstanding sides such as these 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 1967
  • 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 studio space

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.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids 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 ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from every era 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Something In Your Smile
Days Of Love
Broadway Medley:
– Broadway
– Crazy Rhythm
– Lullaby Of Broadway
For Once In My Life

Side Two

Sometimes I’m Happy
Out Of This World
Baby Dream Your Dream
How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen
Keep Smiling At Trouble (Trouble’s A Bubble)

AMG Review

Those of you who think of “For Once In My Life” as a Stevie Wonder song, reconsider. True, Wonder took it to #2 in 1968, but Tony Bennett’s ballad version was a pop chart entry (his last) and an Easy Listening Top 10 more than a year earlier. On the accompanying album Bennett made his by-now usual selections of standards (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”), Broadway and Hollywood material, and choices from the catalogs of songwriter favorites such as Leslie Bricusse and Cy Coleman.

Learning the Record

For our shootout for For Once In My Life we had at our disposal a variety of pressings we thought should have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for sides two, three and four.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You’ll hear what’s better and worse — right and wrong would be another way of putting it — about the sound.

This approach is simplicity itself. First you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we never pretended it was. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection.

Do It Again

As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to do the shootout all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.

You can’t find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way to go about it if you want to be successful in your hunt for the Ultimate Pressing.

For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.

And very likely learned something new from every one.

Bennett & Evans – The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – More Mistaken MoFi EQ

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked. 

That weird boost around 10k that Stan Ricker liked to add to practically every record he mastered wreaks havoc on the sound of Tony Bennett’s voice. I would be very surprised if the current in-print CD doesn’t sound more tonally natural, and for us audiophile record lovers – not lovers of audiophile records, but guys who love records with audiophile sound – that’s simply another nail in the coffin for one of the most laughably inept remastering labels in the history of that sad enterprise. (more…)

Tony Bennett – I’ve Gotta Be Me

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I’ve Gotta Be Me

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  • KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for this original 360 label Columbia pressing
  • Both sides here wonderfully rich, full-bodied, and as Tubey Magical as you would expect from Columbia in 1969 
  • Brilliant engineering by Frank Laico, the man who recorded I Left My Heart In San Francisco and Sketches of Spain, among others
  • Tony Bennett was in fine form and still able to sing the hell out of these songs in 1969 – when you hear the quality of his voice on this very album you will perhaps appreciate the toll this century has taken on him
  • Vintage record guys with top quality turntables – like us – get to hear Tony the way he should be heard, with his voice at the peak of its powers.

(more…)

Tony Bennett – The Many Moods Of Tony

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  • Both sides of this vintage Black Print 360 pressing earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for their superb sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Everything that’s good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record 
  • “The moods vary from a wild Caravan, introduced with a drum solo by Chico Hamilton joined by flute and bass and seemingly held together by Tony’s voice alone, to Don Costa’s almost cinematic big orchestra styling of Spring in Manhattan as well as the lightly melancholy moods of When Joanna Loved Me and Don’t Wait Too Long. Throughout the album, Tony’s effortlessly soaring voice gives meaning to every number.”

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the other other musicians from theses sessions.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are critical to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these sides. (more…)

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album

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

I would have to say that this album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, would rank up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings. If you like sophisticated vocal jazz I don’t think you can do much better than this record, especially when it sounds like this. Tony Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

The soundstage is open and spacious, the piano full-bodied and clear, and the vocals have the clarity and fullness missing from most pressings. It’s incredible to hear these two top-notch musicians interacting and responding to each other in this kind of huge, open and natural space.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it.

Bill Evans may play the largest piano ever built — it stretches from wall to wall when played over here, not particularly realistic but nothing to get upset over. On the best copies it really has the clarity and heft of the real thing; you can hear the pedal being actuated in the quieter passages if you listen closely. The tonality is also dead on. (A good test for your stereo.) (more…)

Tony Bennett & Count Basie – Strike Up The Band on Emus

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Emus pressing of Count Basie and Tony Bennett’s 1959 classic collaboration 
  • The originals we have played are uniformly horrible sounding compared to these wonderful reissues – the tonality here is Right On The Money
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the pairing between Bennett and Basie remains impressive. The band raves through tunes like “With Plenty Of Money And You,” and Bennett matches them, drawing strength from the bravura arrangements, while band and singer achieve a knowing tenderness on “Growing Pains.” This is an album well worth owning…”

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot 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 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. (more…)

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – The Best Male Vocal Recording of the Era

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This album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, ranks right up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings from any era. Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

For a Popular/Jazz Vocal album produced in 1975, or, to be honest, the entire decade of the Seventies, we can think of no other that is its sonic equal.

The soundstage is open and spacious, the piano full-bodied and clear, and the vocals have the clarity and fullness missing from most pressings. It’s incredible to hear these two top-notch musicians interacting and responding to each other in this kind of huge, open and natural space.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it. (more…)

Another 30th Street Studio Knockout – This One’s from Tony Bennett

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Columbia 30th Street Studios

Everything that’s good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the 38 other musicians from the session (actually they’re probably sitting).

The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one.

(more…)

Tony Bennett – Alone Together

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Tony Bennett – Alone Together

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame from 1960.

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES for this Six-Eye pressing, including a near-White Hot A++ to A+++ side two! This album has Bennett singing a collection of ballads, and when you hear it with this kind of transparency and immediacy it REALLY works. He’s one of our favorite singers, so it’s a real treat to find a copy with this kind of sound.

More Popular Vocal recordings

Side One

A++, rich and full with big time immediacy. The soundfield has real depth, and the transparency is wonderful. So good!

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better than side one! Albums like this live and die by the reproduction of the vocals, and this side really nails it. There’s plenty of space and openness, and the presence is startling. Tony Bennett is right there in the listening room. Absolutely killer!