Top Artists – Count Basie

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella and Basie!

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  • With a shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this early stereo pressing is a knockout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Ella is rich, Tubey Magical and breathy – this is the way she should sound, and that makes this copy a true Demo Disc
  • To get the vocals AND the brass to sound right on the same copy is the trick, and these two sides pulled it off
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “…this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. The sound is rich and full-bodied, in the proud tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album with big band backup. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably isn’t familiar with, and that’s the best reason to put on an old record.

The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – Yessir, That’s My Baby

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  • Both sides of this wonderful Basie/Peterson record boast outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Jazz records don’t get a whole lot bigger, clearer or more full-bodied – man, this is the glorious sound of ANALOG
  • “The two pianists (backed by bassist John Heard and drummer Louis Bellson) play five standards and three blues with predictable swing, finding much more in common with each other than one might have originally suspected.”

Another in the series of collaborations between Basie and Peterson, this time along with Louis Bellson & John Heard. There were four as I recall, some involving electric as well as acoustic pianos as this one does.

There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course). (more…)

Count Basie – Basie Big Band

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  • An insanely good copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Basie Big Band is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, this album has got it going on
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically livelier and more dynamic than any Basie title you’ve heard – if you like your brass big, rich and powerful, you came to the right place
  • Lots of tight, deep, note-like bass and unerringly correct timbre for the brass throughout

*NOTE: On side one, a mark on the edge makes 10 light to very light ticks during the intro to Track 1, Front Burner. On side two, a mark makes 9 light to moderate pops in the middle of Track 2, Give ‘M Time.

More Basie Big Band ANALOG Magic, this time from his 1975 debut for Pablo.

With 18 pieces in the studio (five trumpets!, four trombones!, five saxes!) this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy, and both sides here show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s got real Demo Disc qualities, no doubt about it.

When you get this record home, pay special attention to how natural and correct the timbre of the brass is. This is the hallmark of a well recorded album — it sounds right. (more…)

Frank Sinatra / Sinatra At The Sands – The Ideal Audiophile Pressing

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If you’re the kind of audiophile who doesn’t want to do the work required to find a top quality vintage pressing on his own, or buy one from us, this is actually a very good sounding record and a good way for you to go.

It’s ideal for most audiophiles.

Ask yourself three questions:

Do you want the expense and hassle of finding a nice original stereo copy?

Do you want to invest in proper record cleaning equipment to restore the glorious sound of the original’s 50-plus year old vinyl?

Do you want to spend the time (decades) and money (tens of thousands of dollars) to build and tweak a top quality analog playback system?

If you don’t want to do these things, you are not alone.

In fact, you are clearly in the majority, part of that enormously tall, fat bulge right in the middle of the bell curve. As the quintessential audiophile record lover, a big part of the mass of the mass-market, Mobile Fidelity has made the perfect record for you.

It’s quiet, it’s tonally correct, and on the mediocre equipment you will use to play it back with, it does not seem to be especially veiled, opaque or compressed.

It is indeed all of these things, and many more, but you will have no reason to suspect that anything is wrong with it.

More precisely, you will have no way to know that anything is wrong with it.

We know exactly what’s wrong with it, but that’s because we are very serious about records and audio, as serious as they come. Who digs deeper than we do?

Now that you have failed to note its many shortcomings, the only thing remaining is for you to go to an audiophile forum and write your review, telling everyone how much better it is than whatever crappy pressing you owned and will be trading in soon. (This assumes you owned anything at all. I would be surprised if the average audiophile has a vintage copy of the album to compare with the new one, but no doubt some do.)

If you want to hold the pressings you play to a higher sonic standard, we are here to help.

If setting a low bar is more your style, Mobile Fidelity has been making records for you for more than fifty years. As long as you keep buying them, they’ll keep making them. They’ve been setting a very low bar for as long as I can remember, and the fact that they are still around is positive proof that their customers like it just fine that way.

FURTHER READING

This record has middling sound, and naturally we have a section for records of that quality.

Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality

Pressings with Middling Sound Quality 

Pressings with Mind-Blowing Sound Quality 

Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music 

Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie – Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan

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  • A KILLER copy of this superb collaboration with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one
  • On a copy this good, Vaughan will appear as a living, breathing person right in your very own listening room – we call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • Here is what’s best about vintage analog – sound that is exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, relaxed, full-bodied and natural
  • 4 stars: ” Basie’s Orchestra and pianist Kirk Stuart are purely in a supporting role behind the magnificent voice of Sarah Vaughan… her wide range and impeccable musicianship carry the day.”

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Count Basie – 88 Basie Street

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  • With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last, this copy was getting the sound of this big band right
  • This is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, 88 Basie Street has got it going on!
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound is is rich, full and HUGE
  • 4 stars: “One of Basie’s final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar add variety to a particularly strong set.”

With 18 pieces in the studio this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy — and this White Hot pressing can show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s a real Demo Disc, no doubt about it.

Both sides here are excellent, with real strength down low, nice extension up top, and incredible clarity and transparency. Play this one good and loud and put yourself front and center for a rip-roarin’ performance led by the king Bill Basie!

We’ve become huge fans of these Basie Big Band records. Allen Sides knew just how to record this stuff by the time Basie came around to Pablo — on the best pressings you can hear that this is big band music recorded just right. The sound is clean and clear with excellent transparency and the kind of separation between the instruments that lets you appreciate the contributions of each player. (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands

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  • This original Blue and Green Reprise Stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime
  • On the right system this is about as close as you get to hearing Sinatra singing live in your listening room, with the added realism of a live Vegas show
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.”

*NOTE: On side three, a mark makes 10 light ticks at the end of Track 3 and 10 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 4.

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two-disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich, and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing. (more…)

Letter of the Week – There Are Two Kinds of Audiophiles…

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently (and one that is still on its way to him):

  Hey Tom, 

So I go on YouTube to refresh my memory and listen and James Taylor that could be good, Toto, what a feel good album brings back memories, Wish You Were Here already have a pretty good copy, Sinatra-Basie what’s that?

So I go to YouTube and first track HOLY CRAP! You know it’s good when you’re throwing a sound stage off your lap-top! Basie orchestra, perfect. Frank comes in swinging and man that guy was so freaking cool, people today have no idea how unbelievably cool he was, and so like 20 seconds if that I am SOLD!!!😂😂😂

Francis A and Edward K was a fave for years. You turned me onto Mel Torme Swings Schubert Alley. Fabulous voice. What I love most of all though is the sense of live flowing swinging music of FA&EK and with Basie. Gets me even off the laptop!

You know there’s two kinds of audiophiles, the ones who want a vast array of new music, and the ones who are happy with only a small amount of high quality music.

I am definitely in the second group. Love new music but when it comes to what I will sit and listen, very hard to please. When I do find something new though man do I ever appreciate it. Got a good feeling about Sinatra-Basie. Thanks!

I replied:

One quick thought. I used to say that you have to buy twenty albums to find the one you will fall in love with, and without those other 19 you will never discover the one. There is no way to predict any of this music stuff. Or sound stuff. You have to experience it, and to experience it you have to do the work and spend the money.

The “work” is supposed to be fun, and most of the time it is, but it is definitely work to buy hundreds of records and set aside the time to play them. I’ve been doing it since I was about 17; I can still remember the converted house of a record store I used to shop at in Leucadia right off the coast highway. Bought Loggins and Messina’s first album there the year it came out, 1971, because I was already a big Poco fan and Buffalo Springfield fan and Jim Messina was in both. Bought Frampton’s Wind of Change from the same store the next year.

Both became favorites and have been played many hundreds of times in the intervening five decades. (We have a section for these kinds of records which can be found here.)

I had to buy 2000 records to find my top 100. Being in the record business for 30+ years has let me play 10,000 records or more and find my top 500, but the ratio is the same. (more…)

Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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  • Presenting yet another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum than every other other copy we played
  • A different sound for Basie, a small group setting with two of his favorite players at his side: Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar
  • “The predictably excellent group performs spirited versions of some of Basie’s “hits” (including “Jive at Five” and “One O’Clock Jump”), some blues and a few standards. It is always interesting to hear Basie in a hornless setting like this one where he gets opportunities to stretch out on the piano.”

Only recently did I become familiar with this record, released in 1981 from sessions recorded in 1977. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days. When we dropped the needle on a copy of the album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer — Geoff Sykes — but he did a great job working at Kendun for this session.

This was the first of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City. We have more coming, including the superb Kansas City piano trio album entitled “For the Second Time” with Louis Bellson and Ray Brown, a record that can have superb sound on the Pablo pressing (but steer clear of the OJC which is thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want).

With such a small group and no horn players there is much more room for interplay between Basie and either Pass or Jackson. As the liner notes make clear, both vets quickly adapted their playing styles to the laidback Count Basie approach to the blues. If you are in the market for some smooth Basie grooves with exceptionally good sound, this one should be right up your alley. (more…)

Count Basie Big Band – Farmers Market Barbecue

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  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end on this famous Pablo, one we consider The Best Basie Big Band Record We’ve Ever Played
  • Both sides are exceptionally clear, rich, and full of Tubey Magic, with a solid bottom end and huge amounts of three-dimensional studio space
  • Demo Disc sound – guaranteed to beat the pants off of any Heavy Vinyl pressing, at any speed, of any title
  • Allmusic: “This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years.”

Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the mid- to late-’70s through the early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best. Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately, we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves — after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

And when you hear it sounding as good as it does here, it truly qualifies as a Big As Life DEMO DISC. (more…)