Top Artists – George Benson

George Benson – Breezin’

More George Benson

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • Breezin’ finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tubey Magical richness and plenty of note-like bass are two of the important qualities that separate the winners from the also-rans, but smooth, grain-free, present vocals for Masquerade are a big part of the best pressings too, so make that three important qualities
  • This copy will blow the doors off your old copy or any MoFi pressing — guaranteed!
  • It’s got all the elements this smooth masterpiece needs to come to life today, almost 40 years later if you can believe it
  • There’s tons of energy, strong presence, excellent bass and a huge soundfield with real depth
  • You hear right into the music, something that is only possible on the most transparent copies
  • If like us you’re a fan of Jazz Guitar, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album features the huge hit “This Masquerade” and lots of other strong material as well. Benson is at the top of his game, with blazing guitar lines accompanied by his scat vocals at many times. No one else ever did music like this so well again, in our humble opinion.

(more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive

More Freddie Hubbard

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic CTI album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the kind of spacious, low-distortion, dynamic and energetic sound Rudy Van Gelder was getting in the early ’70s – if you think he was better in the sixties, you need to play some of these recordings from the ’70s that show off just how good his work could be
  • Hubbard got together a great group of Funky Jazz players to support him here, with Don Sebesky doing his usual inventive arrangements
  • 4 Stars: “The charts for the brass and woodwinds are colorful; there is a fine supporting cast that includes guitarist George Benson, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, and flutist Hubert Laws; and Hubbard takes several outstanding trumpet solos.”

Rudy was getting one hell of a lively trumpet sound on tape during this period in his career. If you have a good pressing of one of his early ’70s jazz recordings the sound can be positively EXPLOSIVE, with what feels like all the size and power of live music. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Listen for Smear on the Trumpet

More of the Music of Freddie Hubbard

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

More Recordings that Are Good for Testing Smear

This Hot Stamper original CTI pressing from our shootout in 2011 has a truly SUPERB side two that put to shame most of what we played.

Smeary blurred trumpet blasts? Not here. Nope, the transient bite and energy of the trumpet is as REAL as it gets. 

Side Two

This Super Hot side earned a grade of A++ with its exceptional high end (although it doesn’t extend quite all the way, just most of the way) and its amazing transparency. It’s so clear! You really hear into this one, in the way that the best of the classic jazz recordings allow you to do, recordings such as Kind of Blue and the better Contemporaries.

And no smear. Trumpet records with no smear, by Freddie Hubbard or anyone else, or hard to come by. A bit more richness and this one would have been in White Hot Stamper territory. It is awfully close to the best we heard.

Side One

Earning a grade of A Plus, this is the side where some of that smear we discussed earlier can clearly be heard. The sound is rich, richer than side two even, with a huge stage and full size instruments. It’s just that the midrange is a bit veiled and smeary, and the midrange is where the trumpet is.

Our Standard RVG Hot Stamper Overview / Backhanded Compliment

Rudy Van Gelder does it again! I hear virtually none of his bad EQ, compressor overload and general unpleasantness. Instead, this recording has smooth, sweet mids; open unexaggerated highs; and rich, tonally correct bass. In other words, you would never know it’s an RVG recording.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

George Benson – Bad Benson and Bad Audio

More of the Music of George Benson

More Recordings Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder

Some notes about this shootout from years back may be instructive.

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music.

No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed. [Now that we are much better at our jobs — see the advice at the end of this review — this happens only a few times a year.]

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

Rich, full-bodied sound is not hard to find on Bad Benson; most copies had the goods in the bass and lower midrange.

Your Old Stereo (If You Had One in the Seventies)

On the other hand, clarity, top end, transparency and freedom from smear were hard to come by on all but a few copies. Most copies sound pretty much like your old ’70s stereo system — you know, the one you had with the three-way box speakers sitting on concrete blocks.

Fat, blurry down low, thick, opaque and smeary, that sound was everywhere. Pleasant, but not much more than that.

[This seems like an apt description for the records currently being pressed on Heavy Vinyl, wouldn’t you say?]

We’ve come a long way since then. Some pressings still have that sound to a degree, but with so many audio revolutions taking place over the last twenty years, now we can get dramatically more out of even the sub-optimal copies.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

George Benson – Good King Bad

More George Benson

More Jazz Recordings with Hot Stampers

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple (A+++) sound on both sides of this original CTI pressing
  • Open and transparent throughout, with wonderfully full-bodied guitars, solid bass and huge amounts of funky jazz energy
  • This is the kind of spacious, low-distortion, dynamic and energetic sound Rudy Van Gelder was getting in the mid-’70s – if you think he was better in the sixties, you need to play some of these recordings from the ’70s that show off just how good his work could be
  • We are exceptionally tough graders these days – you may have no problem with the surfaces of this pressing at all (and if you do, we are happy to refund your money, just say the word)
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “The R&B elements [are] stronger, the sound and mix are more attuned to the dancefloor… and as a result, the record cooks and dances… Buy this one for “Cast Your Fate,” but there is plenty more to savor here.”
  • If you’re a George Benson fan, or perhaps a fan of mid-’70s Jazz Guitar, this title from 1976 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

(more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Blurry, Thick, Veiled, Dull or Slow?

More of the Music of Freddie Hubbard

More recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

More Jazz on CTI

That’s too often the sound we hear on the Heavy Vinyl records being pressed these days. From time to time we get hold of some to audition just to see what they’ve done with (to?) the titles we know well.

We sure don’t have any intention of selling them. That would be against our principles. And the very name of our operation: Better Records. It’s rare for anything pressed on Heavy Vinyl to qualify as a Better Record, which is why so many of them can be found in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section.

Not sure why so few reviewers and audiophiles notice these rather obvious shortcomings, but we sure do, and we don’t like it when records sound that way.

But that sound can be found on plenty of vintage pressings too. We should know, we’ve played them by the tens of thousands!

Smear is by far the most common problem with the copies we played. When the transient bite of the trumpet is correctly reproduced, maintaining its full-bodied tone and harmonic structures, you know you have a very special copy of Sky Dive (or First Light or Red Clay, etc., etc.).

When the sound is blurry, thick, veiled, dull or slow, you have what might be considered something more like the average copy.

Rudy gets one hell of a lively trumpet sound in this period of his career. If you have a good pressing of one of his early ’70s jazz recordings the sound can be positively EXPLOSIVE, with what feels like all the size and power of live music.

If you don’t have a hot copy of Red Clay, get one. It’s some of the best funky jazz ever recorded. No collection should be without it.

(more…)

Stanley Turrentine – Sugar

More Stanley Turrentine

  • Rudy Van Gelder really knocked this one out of the park – the sound here is solid, punchy and present, just the way we like it
  • If you prefer a recessed, vague, washed-out presentation, may we recommend you find whatever Heavy Vinyl reissue pressing is currently available – it will surely be more to your taste than this one
  • Thanks to RVG and Creed Taylor, this is some very well recorded funky Soul Jazz that we enjoyed the hell out of in our shootout
  • “Aided by the subtly soulful organ of Butch Cornell and the smoldering sensuality of George Benson’s guitar, Turrentine churned out solidly grooving (though not literally “funk”) tunes that employ blues-based economy and bob-schooled chops in equal measure. The fiery trumpet interjections of Freddie Hubbard keep things moving, but Turrentine’s mastery of the mid-tempo groove is exemplified throughout, whether on the down-and-dirty jam “Sunshine Alley” or a soulful take on John Coltrane’s “Impressions.””

(more…)

George Benson / Bad Benson

More of the Music of George Benson

More Recordings Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music.

No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed. [Now that we are much better at our jobs — see the advice at the end of this review — this happens only a few times a year.]

Side Two

A+++, the best side of any side we played. So clear, transparent and high-rez, yet rich and tonally correct from top to bottom, this is the kind of sound we call Hard To Fault (HTF).

Side One

A+ to A++, a bit fat and smeary, but since that’s pretty much the sound of most tube equipment, it’s still very musical and enjoyable (as is most tube equipment). The details aren’t there, but the thrust of the music comes through just fine.

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

(more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”
  • More Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

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…)

Freddie Hubbard – First Light

More Freddie Hubbard

More Jazz featuring the Trumpet

  • This vintage pressing of First Light has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Features an outstanding lineup including Herbie Hancock on keys, Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard’s most exciting playing ever. While Red Clay [a Better Records favorite] and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels — and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.”

This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and this pressing was one of the few in our shootout with the kind of high quality mastering that can do justice to his uniquely energetic, lightning fast jazz style. (more…)