Top Artists – Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock – Blow-Up Soundtrack on Heavy Vinyl

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Years ago we wrote the following:

TOP RECOMMENDATION from Better Records. What an amazing discovery! I can’t take credit for it, the credit belongs to Four Men with Beards.

Herbie Hancock manages to get a lot of different jazz artists to play some of the most interesting jazz I’ve ever heard. I have no idea who all is playing but each of the different songs involved different players playing in different groupings: sometimes it’s guitar and organ, sometimes it’s saxophone-led quartet; it pretty much runs the gamut of jazz. And the amazing thing is every track is great. And the sound is great.

If you want a jazz primer that introduces you to the different ways jazz groups are arranged, I can hardly think of a better record.

If you want a great jazz record to demonstrate your stereo, it works on that level too. The sound is that good.

Side 1 has the best music overall; it’s superb from beginning to end. Side 2 is very good as well, but side 1 has the real demo disc quality material in my opinion.

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way. My guess is that this is still probably a good record if you can get one for the 25 bucks we used to charge for it.

Jimmy Heath – Swamp Seed

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  • Jimmy Heath makes his site debut here with this superb Riverside Black Label stereo pressing of his 1963 album, which boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • With Donald Byrd on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano (as well as French horns and a tuba!), this is a fun session with top players 
  • Based on what we’re heard, this is an outstanding recording – the top opens up nicely and there’s plenty of space in the studio, giving all the players room to breathe
  • “This is a delightful if underrated set… The multi-talented Jimmy Heath has many consistently rewarding and distinctive tenor saxophone solos..

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Maiden Voyage

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

Hey Tom,   

I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.

Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it.

I collect records to enjoy the music and if that means digging thru a number of pressings to find the best one or paying the bucks from someone like Better Records, so be it. If a reissue is better than an earlier pressing I will hold on to the re issue. This is a rarity but does happen. I can think of at least 20 LPs I have that I still favor the reissue over all others. Both collectors are valid. They simply have different goals in mind.

Thanks
Mark

Mark, thank you for your letter. We actually have a commentary about this very subject, entitled Collecting for the Sake of Collecting — Records Versus Hot Stampers, which we have reproduced below.

It discusses why Record Collecting as it is commonly understood is not something in which we can muster much interest these days, although we used to, and is certainly not something we recommend to our customers, “as it is commonly understood” being key to our point here.

Anyone can collect records: originals, imports, audiophile pressings, picture discs, the TAS List, what have you. There are literally millions of records for sale at any given time. (A single collection for sale as of this writing contains more than 3 million records.)

Some people see them as an investment. We do not. We think audiophile-oriented music lovers should pursue good sounding records for the purpose of playing them and enjoying them, understanding that the better their records sound the more enjoyable they will be. Collecting records primarily to build a record collection that can be sold at a profit in the future should be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Most of the following was written in response to a customer who wanted to know how original our Hot Stamper pressings were since he preferred to collect first pressings — which were also worth more money should he decide to sell them at a later date. We asked:

Why would you want a first pressing if it didn’t sound as good? Or, if a later pressing sounded better, why would that make any difference in your desire to buy it? Isn’t the idea to get good sound?

An Awful Collection

If you buy records principally to collect original pressings, you will end up with one awful sounding collection of records, that I can tell you without fear of contradiction. On the other hand, if you want the best sounding pressings, we are the only record sellers on the planet who can consistently find them for you. This is precisely the service we offer, unique in the world as far as we know. Hence the name Better Records. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – My Point of View

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More My Point of View

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

TWO KILLER SIDES, dramatically better sounding than the other copies we played it against. Both sides here are incredible — rich and warm with a huge bottom end and lots of space around the instruments. About as quiet as they come, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout.

We’ve been saving up copies of this album for years in hopes we could find a top copy to put on the site; we were pleasantly surprised to find one this good on an early label with decent vinyl.

This is a great album, with a killer lineup that includes Grant Green, Donald Byrd, Tony Williams, Hank Mobley and more. If you’re a fan of Herbie’s debut album Takin’ Off, you’ll find much to like here. The typical pressing leaves much to be desired though — many copies we’ve played sounded a bit hollow and flat. Hot Stamper copies give you richer, fuller sound and more energy, qualities that really help this music shine. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs and the like, and at one point I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected, each of the players balanced with all the others. 

It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

Tony Williams on the drums here deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is original and spontaneous in the best tradition of jazz improvisation. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Man-Child – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Columbia Red Label pressing was a MAJOR step up just about everything we could throw at it in a recent shootout, with side one earning an A++ grade and side two coming out even better! If you enjoy Herbie’s funky work in the ’70s (think Head Hunters, natch) then you’re going to love hearing this music really come to life on a Super Hot Stamper copy. Most copies we played were dry and grainy, but this one was richer and smoother by a good amount.

Side one is very rich and full-bodied with some seriously punchy bass. There’s tons of energy, major presence and real weight to the bottom. This one’s got the warm, sweet sound of ’70s analog, and that puts well it ahead of the average pressing.

Side two is even better, adding an amazing three-dimensional quality to the soundfield that we just didn’t get on most copies. It’s dramatically more open, spacious, and transparent than we expected after hearing so many pressings with “closed-in” sound. (more…)

Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine

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More My Funny Valentine

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

1965 Live Analog at its best. Present and lively with solid, full-bodied tonality, thanks to the engineering of the legendary Fred Plaut. A wonderful live performance, showcasing the more lyrical side of Miles.

Superb sound for this Columbia pressing. The bottom end is strong and full-bodied, there’s plenty of space and presence, and the tonality of the horns is right on.

The lineup on this record is fantastic, featuring George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

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More 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…)

Never Heard Maiden Voyage Like This – The Transparency on this Copy Is Superb!

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Maiden Voyage

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Hello Gentlemen,

I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.

Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

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More Head Hunters

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  • An outstanding copy of Hancock’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • If you’ve been disappointed by the sound of the album in the past, here’s a copy that can show you a whole new Head Hunters
  • Described as “a key release in Hancock’s career and a defining moment in the genre of jazz” and a member of Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
  • 5 stars: “It had all of the sensibilities of jazz, particularly in the way it wound off into long improvisations, but its rhythms were firmly planted in funk, soul, and R&B, giving it a mass appeal that made it the biggest-selling jazz album of all time (a record which was later broken).”

Jazz-fusion fans are going to have themselves a funky good time with this Hot Stamper copy of Head Hunters! Let me tell you, it is no mean feat to find a copy of this album with this kind of sound. This copy is dynamic and lively with the kind of extension up top that brings this music to life. The bottom end has the kind of weight that these funky tunes demand, and the percussion sounds right on the money. (more…)