Top Artists – Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte – The Many Moods of Belafonte

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Lively, balanced and vibrant, with a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical Living Stereo full-bodied sound these recordings need to work their magic – qualities which are rarely evident on the modern reissues made from whatever tapes they are using
  • Several crowd-pleasers were introduced on this album for the first time: the calypso “Zombie Jamboree,” which soon replaced “Matilda” as Belafonte’s epic audience participation song; and the showtune “Try to Remember,” from the off-Broadway show The Fantasticks.
  • If you’re a fan of Harry’s, this vintage record from 1962 belongs in your collection.
  • To see Living Stereo titles with Hot Stampers, click here.
  • To see the 200+ Living Stereo titles we’ve reviewed, click here.

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Letter of the Week – “Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it.”

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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

Hey Tom, 

My July 4 weekend was great. I had lots of company this weekend for three days straight. I slayed a bunch of them with my new collection of Hot Stamper LPs from Better Records.

Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it suddenly.

I played Harry Belafonte (Carnegie Hall Live Concert) and Willie Nelson (Stardust) for some guests that grew up in another part of the world who had never ever even heard of these people. They had no clue about what they were going to hear.

I watched them and they were mesmerized – leaning forward in their seats practically holding their breath – holding themselves still like a deer caught in the headlights. Not a sound spoken – even the females!

The sense of being live was so palpable that most were simply speechless. Confusion was rampant since all that sound was coming from OLD BLACK VINYL.

My smile was a mile wide. Thanks for that satisfying experience.

John R.

John,

Thanks for spreading the word and sharing the experience of hearing this wonderful music sound so good!

TP


Letter of the Week – “the violin now is more natural as you described.”

More of the Music of Harry Belafonte

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

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

  Hey Tom, 

I bought the harry Belafonte Carnegie Hall recently, a White Hot. I went to the On The Record site and came across the Offenbach Readers Digest discussion of reversed polarity. I had bought this record on your site a long time ago.

I listened to the record with the polarity reversed.

This is the first time I have heard this record sounding better.

Open, spacious and heard lots of macro and micro details, especially on side one, and the violin now is more natural as you described.

Btw, Do you have records with reversed polarity ready to hit the site? Please let me know.

Very interesting!

Best
A

Hi,

Thanks for your letter. Glad I was able to help you get that Offenbach record to sound the way it should. It is a knockout performance with audio quality to match.

Funny how you rarely see much discussion of records with reversed polarity.

Do most audiophiles have polarity switches on their preamps or phono stages?

Can they be bothered to go back and forth enough times to make sure they have the correct polarity setting for the records they play?

Do they listen critically enough to hear any of the changes we describe when the polarity is right or wrong?

All good questions,. none of which we are able to answer. Sometimes our own customers don’t get around to switching the polarity of records that are reversed until many months later. Some of them may not ever switch polarity at all.

We discuss a number of records with well known (well known to us anyway) polarity issues here.

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Harry Belafonte / Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Wrong About Harry Again?

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Live and Learn, Right?

  • This early Black Label RCA pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
  • A very large group of musicians will transport themselves directly into your listening room, Harry included, all backing him live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • The palpable presence and performance energy of the man himself are really something to hear, and a copy this good lets you REALLY hear it
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

NEWSFLASH:

We’ve long known that some copies of the album are mastered with the polarity reversed. This is one of those copies.

But the crazy news we have today is that this copy of the records sound just fine without adjusting the system polarity, better than any other copy we played.

It sounds a bit better with your polarity reversed, but it is still our Shootout Winner even with the polarity wrong.

I would never have believed that to be the case in the past, but my theory is that the new studio we built has reduced distortions and problems to such a degree that polarity issues are less of a problem now than they might have been in the past.

As I say, it’s just a theory, and as time goes on we will revisit this idea with other recordings that we know to have polarity issues, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we find. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – Jump Up Calypso

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  • This is a difficult album to find with good sound – for all practical purposes, this copy is worlds better than most of what you can find in the bins
  • You have to love the sound of those steel drums recorded through an All Tube Chain with mastering to match
  • Night and day better than the DCC (which was truly awful) and surely anything else on Heavy Vinyl being made these days
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Belafonte was an established all-around entertainer and actor by the time of this album, so it could be seen in a sense as a return to “roots” styles. In any case, it’s all-out calypso, with backing by the Trinidad Steel Band, and qualifies as one of his most energetic albums, even getting rambunctious at times.”

Outstanding sound for this Living Stereo pressing that is guaranteed to trounce your DCC, assuming you have one. We played a big stack of these recently and are happy to report that the best copies are full of old-school RCA Tubey Magic, magic that DCC struggled and more often than not failed to achieve with their mostly mediocre remasters. Tubes are essential to bringing out the natural, relaxed FUN in Belafonte’s music, and DCC had no tubes in their cutting chain.

Unfortunately, the big hit “Jump In The Line” is not one of the better-sounding tracks on this album. It has a bit of radio EQ, meaning it’s a little brighter and leaner in a way that’s designed to jump out of your AM radio, but not the best effect on a high-resolution audiophile system. Still, on a copy like this, it’s still musical and enjoyable; on many copies we played it was absolutely painful. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – The Midnight Special

  • Belafonte’s 1962 release finally arrives on the site, with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Lively, balanced and vibrant, with a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical richness these recordings need to sound right (and which is rarely evident on the modern reissues made from these kinds of recordings)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Known to rock collectors as being the first album to feature Bob Dylan (he plays harmonica on the title track), The Midnight Special is also a record that best exemplifies Harry Belafonte’s uniqueness as a recording artist… Combining blues, big band, gospel, and soul, Belafonte utilizes mainly traditional material on one of his best programmed albums of the sixties.”
  • If you’re a fan of Harry’s, this vintage record from 1962 belongs in your collection.

The album that introduced Bob Dylan to the world, highlighting his harmonic skills on “Midnight Special.”

This vintage RCA Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – Sings The Blues – Superb Living Stereo Sound from 1958

More of the Music of Harry Belafonte

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If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Harry Belafonte record. He should sound rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper the pressings we offer must be highly resolving, not crude and ambience-challenged the way so many modern LPs seem to be. You should be able to hear every element of the recording, with the voice and instruments surrounded by the natural space of the studios in which the recording was made.

This Copy

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

Truly a Spectacular Demo Disc in its own right. (more…)

Harry Belafonte / Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

Harry Pearson brought this record to the attention of audiophiles with his TAS list a long time ago, and rightfully so: it’s an amazing recording.

We happen to love the music too, which makes it one of the most recommendable records we have ever offered. If you can find a better combination of demo disc sound, with music worth the hassle and expense of reproducing it properly, more power to you. We sure can’t.

Because this is a live recording, because it has lots of natural instruments as well as a vocal, because it was recorded in the Golden Age by one of the greatest labels of all time, RCA, by Bob Simpson no less — for this and many other reasons, it has to be considered one of the most amazing recordings in the history of the world.

That said, it is our contention (and the basis of our business model) that the brilliant quality of the recording can only be appreciated if you have the pressing that captured the sound that the engineers recorded. In other words, a Hot Stamper.

From an audiophile point of view, you get to hear live musicians and all the energy they bring to this music, all on the stage at the same time: strings, brass, percussionists and Harry Belafonte front and center. Tube mics (and not too many of them), a tube tape recorder, RCA’s superb engineering and all-tube mastering chain ensure that the “breath of life” is captured intact. I know of no better live popular vocal recording on the planet. (more…)

Harry Belafonte – Jump Up Calypso – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this Living Stereo pressing that should easily beat your DCC version — or your money back! We played a big stack of these recently and are happy to report that the best copies deliver that old-school RCA tubey magic that brings out the best in Belafonte’s music. The sound here is big, lively, rich and full. Only the better copies like this one really brought out the FUN in the music, an essential quality for this material.

Unfortunately, the big hit “Jump In The Line” is not one of the better sounding tracks on this album. It has a bit of radio EQ, meaning it’s a little brighter and leaner in a way that’s designed to jump out of your AM radio, but not the best effect on a high resolution audiophile system. Still, on a copy like this it’s still musical and enjoyable; on many copies we played it was absolutely painful.

Side one, at A++, has big time presence and tons of energy! Silky, smooth and sweet, this side really blows away the typical pressing.

At A+ to A++, side two is nearly as good! Much easier on the ears than the typical bright, edgy copy, if this side had just a bit more weight down low it would be right there with side one.

Play it against your DCC version and you’ll see what we’re talking about, or just drop the needle on it and enjoy very good sound for what the All Music Guide calls “one of his most energetic albums”. (more…)

Lena Horne & Harry Belafonte – Porgy and Bess

  • This is a wonderful Living Stereo album – as you would expect, the Tubey Magic is off the charts
  • Both sides are big, lively and present with lovely breathy vocals from the two principals (who sing solo on all but two of the tracks)
  • A brilliant Living Stereo recording from 1959, which plays as quietly as we can find them – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “The first of Belafonte’s duet albums with female performers, this one paired two attractive black American singers at the peak of their respective talents.”

A Living Stereo knockout! We often forget to spend time with records like this when there are Zeppelin and Floyd records to play. We’ve always enjoyed Belafonte At Carnegie Hall, but when we’ve dug further into his catalog we’ve been left cold more often than not. However, when we finally got around to dropping the needle on a few of these we were very impressed by the music and BLOWN AWAY by the sound on the better pressings.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology. If you’re a Harry Belafonte fan, a Lena Horne fan, a Gershwin fan, or just somebody who enjoys classic material performed with gusto and soul, this is a record that belongs in your collection.

1959 Tubes?

You just can’t beat ’em. (more…)