Top Artists – George Benson

George Benson – Tell It Like It Is – A&M Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty — pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

With a sonic grade of A+++ this White Hot Stamper original CTI pressing has a side two that won Top Honors in our recent shootout. It’s CLEARLY the best sounding side we have ever offered of this funky jazz classic, but it has serious condition issues, including a mark that plays at the end of track one all the way into track two. If you can live with that mark you will hear some amazing sound and music on side two. And if you buy this copy and realize you can’t, feel free to send it back for a full refund.

We ran into lots of condition problems with this album; perhaps your experience has been the same. Not many played anything close to Mint Minus, including this one. (more…)

George Benson – The Other Side of Abbey Road

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

An A++ side one backed with an A+++ side two! We just shot out a bunch of these and this copy finished way ahead of the pack. George Benson and a top-notch backing crew (Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Ray Baretto, Freddie Hubbard and many more) knock these jazzy Abbey Road covers out of the park, and Rudy Van Gelder did a great job putting it to tape. Of course not every pressing sounds good, but the best copies like this one are killer!  (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Polar AC (2013)

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

We’re big fans of Hubbard’s CTI material around here and this album has a lot of the qualities we love about this stuff. All the usual faces are here — Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, George Benson, Airto — and Rudy Van Gelder does a great job capturing their performances. (We used to criticize RVG pretty harshly, but in recent years we’ve found more and more pressings of his stuff that really work.)  (more…)

George Benson – Breezin’ – Hot Stamper MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi reviewed, and surprisingly this one isn’t awful.

It has an excellent side two backed with a pretty good side one. Side two has excellent bass — for a MoFi — and lots of energy — for a MoFi. It’s slightly smooth but overall it’s very musical. The best domestic copies are going to eat its lunch, but try to find one that sounds good. Most of them are awful. 

This MoFi copy, though lacking in many ways, is MUCH BETTER sounding than the other MoFi copies we played it against, which were muddy and compressed.

Side one of this copy has some of that sound. Side one lacks the transients we found on other copies and it’s a tad recessed and compressed. However, it does have relatively good bass definition and the strings are nicely textured. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – First Light (2011)

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

This Super Hot Stamper original CTI pressing has a truly SUPERB side two that just 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. 

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.

This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. It features an outstanding lineup including Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums. (more…)

George Benson – Bad Benson

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

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.

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.

There’s some “Breezin”-like material on the second side, two years before that monster album was released, and man does it ever sound good on this copy!

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

Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

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

Straight Life is a great album for anyone who wants to hear some well recorded, seriously adventurous jazz. We freely admit that side one is fairly “out there,” but side two balances it out with much more accessible, melodic material. A wonderfully sensitive and emotional version of Here’s That Rainy Day closes out the side with George Benson proving to be an especially sympathetic accompanist on guitar.  

By the way, 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…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

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Miles In The Sky

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

WONDERFUL SOUND on both sides of this Columbia 360 Label pressing! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than most. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of tubey magic. The music is wonderful, Miles with his classic ’60s quintet (Hancock, Shorter, Carter, Williams) with the addition of George Benson on one song.

Miles is backed by his classic ’60s crew — Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album. 

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. (more…)