Top Artists – Frank Sinatra

The 20 to 1 Ratio for Finding Your Personal Favorites

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,Β 

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!!!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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 note: I would not be happy with a “small amount” of new music, but I am very happy with a “smaller amount.” Quality over quantity, right? Mediocre records don’t get played — that’s at least one of the many reasons that so many audiophile pressings still remain in pristine condition decades after their production.

I like 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 spend the time and you definitely have to spend some money.

The work we do in pursuing this hobby 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 here in California.

I 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. Not even sure why I bought that one. I don’t think I knew who Peter Frampton was and I certainly had no idea who Humble Pie were.

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

I needed to buy two or three thousand records to find my top one or two hundred, the records, like our writer here, that I play over and over and never tire of.

It never made any sense to me to accumulate lots of records just to own lots of records, the way this guy did.

Knowing just how much work it takes to dig deeply into the music and the sound of any album makes owning this kind of big collection a sure sign of a superficial approach to both the music and the sound.

It’s easy to buy lots of records. Getting to know them in a serious way is a great deal harder, and a great deal more rewarding if you are serious about sound.

For those of you who insist on doing things a different way, we wish you good luck.

Best, TP

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Frank Sinatra – September of My Years

More Frank Sinatra

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

  • This superb pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl for a vintage Blue Green original Reprise stereo pressing from the ’60s – how this one survived for so many years in such lovely playing condition is something we will never know
  • An especially Tubey Magical Male Vocal recording, but that sound can only found on the best properly cleaned pressings, like this one
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – Frank is right in the room with you on this one
  • 5 stars: (“One of Frank Sinatra’s triumphs of the ’60s”) and Grammy Album of the Year for 1966
  • If you’re a fan of the man, widely considered the greatest vocalist of the second half of the 20th century, this title from 1965 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of β€œthe 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album is on that list.

This vintage Reprise pressing 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.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical 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 Frank Sinatra singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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

More of the Music of Frank Sinatra

More of the Music of Count Basie

As you will see below, Mobile Fidelity may have made the perfect record for you.

This, of course, depends on who you are. More precisely, it depends on whether you care about having better sound, and whether you know how to acquire pressings with better sound.

As for the MoFi you see pictured, it’s quiet, it’s tonally correct, and on the equipment most audiophiles will probably use to play it back, it does not seem to be especially veiled, opaque or compressed.

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.

In that sense it is the ideal pressing for most audiophiles.

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do you want the expense and hassle of finding a nice original stereo copy?
  2. Do you want to invest in proper record cleaning equipment to restore the glorious sound of the original’s 50-plus year old vinyl?
  3. Do you want to spend the time (decades) and money (many 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 audiophile equipment you will most probably 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. The later reissues of the album, which are common in clean condition, give ammunition to all of those who proclaim that reissues are consistently awful. That’s often not the case, but is definitely the case in this case.

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 things just fine that way.

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Sinatra – Swingin’ in ’61 with the Help of Billy May

Of the five records Sinatra released in 1961 (Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session!!!; Come Swing with Me!; Ring-a-Ding-Ding!; Swing Along with Me; and I Remember Tommy), this is clearly one of our favorites. (And by the way, what’s with all the exclamation marks?)

Billy May deserves much of the credit for the “swing” that’s all over the album. His band is jumpin’, and on the best pressings — such as this one — the sound conveys the energy with virtually none of the grit and hardness you hear on so many of Sinatra’s other albums (Sinatra at the Sands comes immediately to mind, but there are far too many others).

This is 1961, and tubes and ribbon mics are in charge of the live-in-the-studio proceedings. With a vintage original pressing such as this one, you hear the kind of sound they heard.

And if you play the record at ear-splitting levels you will hear even more of that sound. Can you imagine how loud this band was playing?

We were especially impressed with the large dynamic swings of the arrangements. And the fact that the best pressings never get aggressive even during their most dynamic passages.

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Frank Sinatra – Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

More Frank Sinatra

Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

  • The album features Sinatra singing some of the biggest hits of the day by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond, Jim Croce, and Bread
  • Released in 1974, this is probably the last good album the man made outside of She Shot Me Down from 1981

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Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

More Frank Sinatra

More Duke Ellington

  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. 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 Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you. (more…)

1961 Was a Great Year for Records

This is one of our favorite records from 1961.

To see our currently available Hot Stamper pressings of records from 1961, click here.

To read reviews of the Top Titles from 1961 that we’ve auditioned, click here. These are records that any audiophile could take great pride in owning (assuming, of courser, that he has a good pressing of the album). There are more than 50 of them. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra’s Sinatra

More Frank Sinatra

More Nelson Riddle

  • Sinatra’s wonderful 1963 release finally returns with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Forget the reissues – the stereo original we are offering here is the only way to go if rich, tubey, dynamic, musical sound is what you are after
  • Frank rerecorded some of his biggest hits in stereo for this album – the record is just one Sinatra Classic after another
  • “Some of his biggest hits and most famous songs are included in his picks, including β€œI’ve Got You Under My Skin” and β€œYoung at Heart.””
  • Amazon 5 Stars: β€œRiddle’s arrangements are, as always, top-notch, and Sinatra is in fine, engaging form.”

Great bass and weight coupled with lots of space and correct tonality in the midrange add up to only one thing: Triple Plus or close to it sound on both sides!

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the strings from becoming shrill) 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 heard them all.

We know a fair bit about the man’s recordings at this point. As of today we’ve done commentaries for more than 21 different Sinatra shootouts, and that’s not even counting the ten or twenty other titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session

More Frank Sinatra

More Nelson Riddle

  • This Capitol stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are rich, Tubey Magical, balanced and natural – this is the way you want Frank Sinatra to sound
  • The tonality of Sinatra’s voice is right on the money, and the brass – so key to these big group sessions – is alive with energy and power
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session is a fast, driving album, the speediest and hardest swing collection Frank Sinatra ever recorded. Sinatra performed the songs twice as fast as was expected; consequently, it’s one of his jazziest swing sets, with the musicians spitting out energetic, forceful solos and providing tough, gutsy support.”

This is one of the more fun Sinatra albums we’ve had the pleasure of playing around here, and this is a copy that delivers big time. Nelson Riddle and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night

More Frank Sinatra

More Nelson Riddle

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Sinatra title surprised us with its DEMO DISC sound
  • Clearly one of the better sounding Reprise-era Sinatra pressings we have ever played
  • Credit must given to the extraordinarily inventive arrangements of Nelson Riddle and the All Tube engineering of Lee Herschberg
  • “Sinatra’s singing is relaxed, confident, and surprisingly jazzy, as he plays with the melody of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and delivers a knockout punch with the assured, breathtaking “Summer Wind.”

We cannot recommend this pressing highly enough. If you want to know what the best sounding Sinatra records sound like, this is your chance. Folks, in my opinion it simply does not get any better than a killer White Hot Stamper of Strangers In The Night.

These originals are the only way to go for ’60s Sinatra, but finding them in good shape on quiet vinyl is no picnic and only a few of them actually sound the way we want them to. It’s a real treat to be in the presence of the Chairman Of The Board, in his prime, working his magic — but only an exceptional copy like this one has the power to put him right in the room with you.

What to Listen For

The Tubey Magic has to be heard to be believed. I cannot recall hearing a richer, smoother, tubier Frank Sinatra album in all my born days.

Weighty brass is key to the sound of more than just the horn section. Any leanness or thinness in the brass is instantly heard as Sinatra without weight and richness to his voice. This is the instantly recognizable sound of most reissues, the main reason we stopped buying them years ago. Having played so many amazing original stereo pressings for our shootouts over the years we don’t think that will change anytime soon. There simply is no substitute for a clean stereo pressing on the original label.

Full, Rich, Breathy, Present vocals are obviously critically important as well. This copy delivers some of the best we heard.

On this copy the orchestra and band are putting out plenty of low end, reaching down well into whomp land. It’s a thrill to hear to hear that sound on these swinging arrangements coming out of my speakers.

And of course the copies that are rich and tubey but also big, clear and open did the best in our shootout. (more…)