Top Artists – Joe Sample

The Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM) – Our Four Plus Copy from 2013

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Three Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Three

We had six (yes, six!) of these 45 RPM pressings (and five Inner City’s and a couple of Eastwind 33’s — it was a big shootout), and this side one had the most ENERGY of any of them. This is a quality no one seems to be writing about, other than us of course, but what could possibly be more important? On this record, it took the performances of the players to a level beyond all expectations.

More background on our Four Plus (A++++) pressings.

Folks, you are looking at the BEST SOUNDING RECORD we have ever played here at Better Records, and the good news for you dear reader, whether you’re a true believer, a skeptic, or fall somewhere in between, is that it can be yours. There was a time when a record like this would go directly into my collection. If I wanted to impress someone, audiophile or otherwise, with the You-Are-There illusion that only Big Speakers in a dedicated room playing a LIVE recording can create, this would be the clear choice, possibly the only choice. There is simply nothing like it on vinyl in my experience. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I have many killer jazz records but this might be the best recorded of all of them.”

More of the Music of Shelly Manne

More of the Music of Ray Brown

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

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

  Hey Tom, 

Just received the White Hot Stamper copy of “The Three” 45 rpm with Joe Sample, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne.

I have many killer jazz records but this might be the best recorded of all of them.

This is not a record for anyone who doesn’t have world class equipment because the dynamics and transients on the record will be too much for anything less than a very top tier system!

Amazing sound!!!

Brad

Agreed! It’s so good it’s my Favorite Jazz Piano Trio Recording of All Time!

Even though it might not be the most natural or realistic recording of a piano trio — Shelly’s arms stretch at least 12 feet across on my system, something I think he would have a hard time pulling off live — it is one of the most powerful and exciting recordings I’ve heard, and that’s good enough for me.

Thanks for your letter,

TP

(more…)

The Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM)

More Shelly Manne

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), our 33 RPM pressings are your best bet.

If you want absolutely amazing, mind-blowing, you-are-there sound, a Hot Stamper 45 is the only way to go.

The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

The Crusaders / Chain Reaction – MoFi Reviewed

More of the Music of The Crusaders

More Jazz Fusion Records with Hot Stampers

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with relatively good sound. We did a mini-shootout many years ago and this copy apparently killed the competition. 

However…

When you play the MoFi against an actual honest-to-goodness properly mastered and pressed vintage LP – we call them Hot Stampers – the audiophile version of the album reeks of phony top end EQ, compression and sloppy bass.

Of course, what half-speed mastered record doesn’t?


FURTHER READING

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

(more…)

Joe Sample / Rainbow Seeker – Live and Learn

A classic case of Live and Learn

Reviews and Commentaries for Mobile Fidelity Records

[This commentary is about fifteen years old.]

Hot Stampers discovered! It took years, decades even, but it FINALLY happened. This copy has a side one with all the sound I always knew must be on the tape but somehow never seemed to make it to the vinyl. This copy has that sound!

Let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been recommending the MOFI for as long as I can remember, because it has always been the only copy that didn’t sound like a bad cassette.

The domestic pressings and imports I had run into over the years had no top end whatsoever, no bass below 50 or 60 cycles, and enough veils over the midrange to cover an entire harem.

The sound was Pure Compressed Cardboard.

The best MOFI copies had an actual top end; a real bottom too. (Not a tight or deep one but that’s MOFI for you.) I’ve always loved the music, so even though the sound was somewhat washed out and lifeless, you could listen to the MOFI and enjoy it for what it was: not perfect, but a whole lot better than the alternatives. (The CD was hopeless by the way, no surprise there.)

Ah, but all that changed this week. I had just picked up a sealed original copy at a local store and was considering putting it up on the site, sealed of course. Then a thought went through my mind. I’ve always loved this record. What if this copy is The One? So I did the unthinkable. I cracked it open, and soon enough the needle was in the groove on my favorite track, Fly With Wings of Love.

To my surprise it had the BEST SOUND I had EVER heard for that song. When all was said and done, when all the copies in the backroom had been disc doctored, along with my three MOFI copies, and each carefully evaluated, sure enough this is the side two that turned out to be the King. I give it an A with Two Pluses. The typical domestic copy gets an F.

Wait, there’s more. So with all our copies cleaned and ready to play, it was now time to play all the side ones. Even more shocking and surprising, one copy had a side one that was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Master tape sound, As Good As It Gets, perfection.

That’s this copy. Side two is pretty good, maybe a B+ or so. Better than average, but no Hot Stamper.

Since this is one of my favorite pop-jazz albums, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. It may not be deep — for real piano trio jazz check out Sample’s The Three — but it’s not trying to be. It is what it is — sophisticated, melodic, well-crafted piano-based easy-going jazz. With the awesome Eric Gale on guitar too.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

(more…)

The Crusaders – Chain Reaction

More of The Crusaders

More Jazz Fusion

  • An outstanding copy of Chain Reaction with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and funky, with the kind of rich, solid sound that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • If you own the Mobile Fidelity remaster, or some Heavy Vinyl LP, you are in for a real treat – this pressing will show you just how good the recording is
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the tastiest concoctions of the mid-’70s jazz-fusion era, Chain Reaction finds the Crusaders at the top of their form. The compositions are both accessible and memorable, and the playing is uniformly excellent.”

(more…)

The Three/ Self-Titled on Inner City – By Far the Best Way to Get All Six Tracks

More Shelly Manne

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A true Demo Disc of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 Stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 33 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I can’t listen to 99 percent of my audiophile or Japanese pressings…”

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

Hey Tom, 

Now, meaning in the past year…

I can’t listen to 99 percent of my audiophile or Japanese pressings… 

I hear how wrong they sound…

I, of course, have since replaced just about all and 999 out of 1000 sound better than the average copy.

Why did I think a Japanese pressing was better? My god, all my Crusader Japan pressings next to plain old original releases nooooo comparison.

Btw, can’t believe your customers don’t want Southern Comfort, Crusaders 1 and Crusaders 2… all are unreal powerful double LPs.. and many in their catalogue almost equal to those… Crusaders: the best of the best.

Regards
Andy

Andy, we tried to do shootouts for some of their records a few years back and were underwhelmed by the sound, the music, or both.  I’m afraid you will have to do your own shootouts for now.

And of course we’ve long been of the opinion that Japanese pressings mostly suck. Maybe one out of fifty is great, and those odds do not make them an attractive proposition for audiophiles.

You know what we know: vintage pressings — when you find good ones — will beat anything and everything you can throw at them.

The Three / Self-Titled – Our Direct Disc Copy from Way Back

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Three Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Three

DEMO QUALITY, MASTER TAPE SOUND (!) on BOTH SIDES!

Hey, wait a minute, this is the direct to disc version, there is no Master Tape. How can it have Master Tape Sound?

Simple. It’s the RARE copy that actually sounds like this one. Most Eastwind pressings — like pressings on any label — do not convey all the information of the master tape that you know must exist because you HEAR it on some copies. Some Direct Discs have much more of the sound that was cut live directly onto the acetate than others. This is one of those, one of the ones with MUCH MORE SOUND! 

This is my favorite piano trio record of all time. Joe Sample, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown only made one album together, this one, recorded direct to disc right here in Los Angeles for Eastwind in the Seventies. Joe Sample for once in his life found himself in a real Class A trio, and happily for jazz fans around the world he rose to the occasion. Actually it was more like an epiphany, as this is the one piano trio album I put in a class by itself. All three of The Three are giving us the best they’ve got on this one. When it comes to piano trio jazz, there is none better. (more…)

The Three – Liner Notes and a Rave Review

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Three Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Three

Excerpts from the Liner Notes

On a windy and unusually cold night in Los Angeles, each of the three musicians arrived before the session start time of 10 PM on November 28, 1975. At exactly 10 PM, The Doobie Brothers session that was going on since morning ended. Two assistants immediately started setting up for the session. The Steinway concert grand piano, delivered the previous day, was wheeled in to the center of the room and got tuned. Shelly Manne’s drum kit was assembled in a makeshift “booth.” Microphones were set up, checked and positions adjusted.

Initially, Telefunken microphones were positioned on the piano, but later were replaced by two Neumann U87s. The piano lid was opened to the concert position and microphones were centered relative to the keys and placed a foot (30 centimeters) inward from the hammer and a foot (30 centimeters) away from the stings. One mic was pointed toward the bottom notes and the other pointed toward the top.

To record Ray Brown’s bass, a Shure SM56 and a Sony 38A were pointed at the bridge of the bass, two inches above it. The Shure was used to capture the attack and the Sony mic was used to capture the rich low tones.

Seven microphones were used to capture the sounds of the drum set. Two U87’s were placed overhead, roughly 16-inches above the cymbals facing down. The bottom quarter of the kick drum was dampened with a blanket on the outside and was mic’ed with a Shure SM56. SM56’s were also used for toms and bass toms. Sony 38A was used on the snare and Sennheiser’s Syncrhon on the high-hat.

Each mic was placed 2 inches away from the instruments in a close mic set up. Mr. Itoh got involved with fine tuning mic positioning for tone, stereo placement and balance. Meanwhile, final adjustments were being made on the cutting machine set up.

Within the hour, the set up was done and all preparations were completed. The musicians finished warming up and were ready for Take One. The usual banter subsided and everyone put on their “game face.” Even Ray Brown, who usually cracked jokes in a loud voice, looked serious as he turned his attention to Mr. Itoh, waiting for his cue. As soon as he was notified through the intercom that the cutting needle was put down, Mr. Itoh gave the signal with his hand, and the recording started. In 16 minutes, three tracks were recorded in rapid succession.

Relieved that the initial take was over, the musicians joined the producer and engineer in the control room to listen back from the 2-track tape that was used as back up. With the initial tension gone, all three excitedly made comments and evaluated their own performance and the sounds they got. The thumbs-up was given by the cutting engineer for take one and the musicians went back to the live room for the next take. This process was repeated until 4 AM the following morning, resulting in a total of three takes per track.

(more…)