Top Artists – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘N’ Easy

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  • An outstanding pressing of Nice ‘N’ Easy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for Capitol from this era too
  • The reproduction of Sinatra’s voice is exactly what you would expect from a Hot Stamper – he sounds rich, smooth, tonally correct and above all REAL
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you may have in your collection, or your money back
  • 5 stars: “… a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.”

Definitely one of the most fun Sinatra albums, especially when it sounds like this!

It’s tough to find great sound for this album — most copies are pretty mediocre and the MoFi is nothing special. 

The immediacy of the vocals on this copy is nothing short of stunning. You get real weight down low, serious energy, a fully extended top end, and tons of that old-time analog tubey magic.

Tubey Magic Is Key

The best copies have 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 Frank and 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.

What The Best Sides of Nice ‘N’ Easy 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 1960
  • 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.

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.

And 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 counting at least another ten titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago.

What We’re Listening For on Nice ‘N’ Easy

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Nice ‘N’ Easy
That Old Feeling
How Deep Is The Ocean
I’ve Got A Crush On You
You Go To My Head
Fools Rush In

Side Two

Nevertheless
She’s Funny That Way
Try A Little Tenderness
Embraceable You
Mam’selle
Dream

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Breaking slightly from his pattern of a swing album following the release of ballads set, Frank Sinatra followed No One Cares with Nice ‘N’ Easy, a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Not only is it the lightest set that he recorded for Capitol, it is the one with the loosest theme… Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.

Letter of the Week – “The sound just LEAPS out of the system. I’m not kidding, it literally JUMPS from the speakers, smooth, clean, big, bold and beautiful.”

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

Holy Moly Fellows!

I’m playing through my most recent Better Records Short Stack ™. First up, Somethin’ Else by Cannonball and Bill, followed by Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night.

Man. The sound just LEAPS out of the system. I’m not kidding, it literally JUMPS from the speakers, smooth, clean, big, bold and beautiful. Did someone play with the volume? Did I change the gain? No man! These records just sound FANTASTIC!

Thank you gentlemen. Happy New Year!

Doug H

Doug,

Thanks for writing. There is a reason that on every listing we put this boilerplate in the body of the text:

What We’re Listening For on Record X

    • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
    • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them
    • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
    • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
    • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
    • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
    • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Exactly right: We want our records to have presence and energy, to be big and bold and jump out of the speakers.

This is the opposite of what everyone who stuck in the world of Heavy Vinyl is hearing. Virtually all of those records are veiled, recessed and compressed.

Who on earth wants that sound?  It’s beyond our understanding how it is that so many audiophiles cannot tell the difference between a good record and the lousy sounding crap they are making today.

Thanks for your letter. Glad you liked our Hot Stamper pressings as much as we did.

TP

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Frank Sinatra – September of My Years

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • An especially Tubey Magical Male Vocal recording, but that sound is only found on the best Blue Green original Reprise stereo pressings – like this one
  • These sides are 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 1967

It’s not easy to find good sounding copies of any of Sinatra’s albums, but we managed to find a few very good copies of this one, an album that earned the Grammy Album of the Year for 1967 and Five Big Stars in the venerable All Music Guide. The music is indeed hard to fault. Finding the right pressing of the recording of that music is another thing entirely. That’s where we come into the picture. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night

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  • 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. (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra-Basie

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this beloved Sinatra/Basie collaboration
  • Tubey, warm and smooth, with an extended top and solid down low, the louder you play this record the better it sounds, because it’s recorded, mastered and pressed properly
  • 4 stars: “The long-awaited first collaboration between two icons did something unique for the reputations of both. For Basie, the Sinatra connection inaugurated a period in the 1960s where his band was more popular and better-known than it ever was, even in the big band era. For Sinatra, Basie meant liberation, producing perhaps the loosest, rhythmically free singing of his career.”

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Frank Sinatra – Come Swing With Me!

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  • This outstanding Capitol stereo pressing boasts incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • On this superb pressing you’ll hear Billy May’s arrangements – just brass, no strings or winds – blasting behind Sinatra like never before
  • This was Sinatra’s final swing session with Capitol and on a pressing as good as this one you can tell he and the band are having a blast
  • “…his intense, speedy energy gives the album an edge that distinguishes the record… it [has] enough genuine gems to make it necessary.”

We love doing the work that it takes to find Sinatra albums from his prime recording days that actually sound the way we want them to — lively and fun. This means slogging through lots of bad pressings in order to find gems like this one. But hey, that’s what we do. We love it when a record with music this good can be found with sound like this.

Believe me, these Capitol pressings don’t usually sound like this. From the very first notes you hear Billy May’s colorful arrangments come to life in a way you are very unlikely to have heard before. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I almost fell off my listening chair.”

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

Hey Tom,   

I wanted to thank you and the crew at Better Records for fulfilling my dreams when it comes to your Super hot stampers and, of course, the mind blowing White hot stampers. Two White hot stampers with A+++ sound on all sides come to mind.

I received the Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Live at the Sands about a week ago, and the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Deja Vu a couple of days ago. Not in a million years did I ever think a record could have a truly master tape sound. And man, these two White hot stamper have it in spades.

On the Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Live at the Sands, from the moment I dropped the needle on side four or any other side, I almost fell off my listening chair. The presence and immediacy is so staggering on this Lp its as if Frank Sinatra rose from the dead and he transforms into a living, breathing person in my listening room. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Close To You

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  • This early mono pressing of Sinatra’s 1957 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Rich, sweet, and completely free of phony EQ, this record will put a living, breathing Sinatra standing right there between your speakers
  • Early pressings of Sinatra recordings from 1957 do not come much cleaner than this one in our experience
  • 4 stars: “…one of Frank Sinatra’s most gentle and intimate albums… has a delicate, lovely quality…”

*NOTE: On side two, the last one-eighth inch of Track 1, With Every Breath I Take, is lightly to moderately swooshy.

Superb Sinatra sound! His voice here is perfection. (more…)

Sinatra – Swing Along With Me – A Top Sinatra Title

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grades
  • These vintage stereo sides are As Good As It Gets — rich, smooth and full-bodied with wonderfully present vocals and all of the Tubey Magic that’s missing from most copies
  • This album is very tough to come by in stereo in anything but beat condition, let alone with this kind of sound
  • “Twelve of the most uninhibited Sinatra things ever recorded!”
  • “Recorded with Billy May, Sinatra Swings was Frank Sinatra’s first straight swing album for Reprise Records. In terms of content and approach, the record is remarkably similar to his final Capitol swing effort, Come Swing with Me.”

Also known as Sinatra Swings.

Five for Five in 1961

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). You may recall that Billy May was the arranger for some of Sinatra’s best Capitol work, and certainly the three swingingest: Come Fly with Me, Come Dance with Me and Come Swing with Me.

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. (more…)