Top Artists – John Coltrane

The Search for Lush Life – We Broke Through in 2016

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? That pressing had eluded us — until a few months ago.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have. (more…)

John Coltrane / Ole Coltrane

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Olé! Here’s a great copy of a wonderful Coltrane album that we seriously enjoy but just don’t see enough to keep in our regular rotation. And that’s a shame, because these Top Copies are a THRILL to hear. Both sides give you an exceptionally strong bottom end, and with two bass players contributing on much of the album that is essential for this music. The overall sound is lively, dynamic, and very transparent.

The music is wonderful, with Coltrane in fine form backed by a stellar lineup that includes Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, an uncredited Eric Dolphy and more. Two of the three extended tracks feature two bass players, and a transparent copy like this one allows you to separate out the players and follow their contributions over the course of the songs. (more…)

Miles Davis / Basic Miles – Here Is the Hot Stamper Sound of Kind of Blue

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Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

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Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)

John Coltrane – Black Pearls

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More Jazz Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • Black Pearls returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • It takes us years to find a copy that plays as quietly as this one, and since this is the only one that took Top Honors, it will be quite a while before another of its kind comes our way
  • It’s big, lively, tubey, present and very transparent – nothing we played could compete with it
  • A great Rudy Van Gelder recording that hits a whole ‘nother level on a copy that was mastered and pressed as well as this one
  • 4 stars: “. . . Black Pearls indeed captures Coltrane at the height of perfecting the intense volley that would garner the name “sheets of sound.”

A killer copy of this wonderful 1958 Coltrane recording (released in 1964), unbeatable on either side! We heard one that blew us away a few years big, so we picked up a bunch more and finally had the chance to evaluate them. The music was always enjoyable, but on a copy like this things really get going. Coltrane is joined here by Donald Byrd, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor — a top lineup, the same crew behind the great Lush Life.

The sound here is wonderfully natural and clear. You get incredible presence, impressive transparency, real size and space between the players. It’s also amazingly rich and full-bodied with lots of energy. Most of the copies we’ve collected didn’t come close, so if you’re looking for some late ’50s Coltrane magic, this is the hot ticket right here! (more…)

Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

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More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”

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. (more…)

John Coltrane – Coltrane

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More Red Garland

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  • This wonderful compilation double album finally arrives on the site with THREE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side four
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with plenty of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has – thanks RVG!
  • A compilation of two superb, previously released albums, John Coltrane with The Red Garland Trio (aka Traneing In), and Soultrane
  • 4 stars: “The absence of any unessential instrumentalists encourages a decidedly concerted focus from Coltrane, who plays with equal measures of confidence and freedom.”

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John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

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  • An outstanding copy of this classic Jazz Vocal album, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • I defy you to find a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that can hold a candle to this one, sonically or musically
  • A wonderful collaboration between a horn player and a singer, perhaps the greatest one of all time
  • 5 stars: “John Coltrane’s matchup with singer Johnny Hartman works extremely well. Hartman was in prime form on the six ballads, and his versions of ‘Lush Life’ and ‘My One and Only Love’ have never been topped. Classic, essential for all jazz collections”

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — two giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning. (His mastering, not so much.)

Hats off to Rudy Van Gelder! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. Not all of them, you know, or should know, but try telling that to the average jazz-loving audiophile. (more…)

A Killer Kind of Blue — We Guarantee You’ve Never Heard It Sound Like This

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

A knockout copy of one of the most famous albums of all-time, the great Kind Of Blue! This one is absolutely SUPERB, earning our top Triple Plus (A+++) grade for both sides. You will not believe the presence, energy and transparency on this pressing. The brass sounds AMAZING. The bottom end is just right. And the piano is Right On The Money. Folks, I don’t think you could ask anything more from this music than what this White Hot Stamper gives you.

In my opinion, many of the best sounding copies are standard domestic Red Label pressings from the ’70s. I’m fully aware of how outrageous a statement that may sound. But I’ve long known of amazing sounding Kind Of Blue reissues.

Having played scores of different pressings of this record over the years, I think I know this recording about as well as anyone. The tube mastered original Six Eye Stereo copies have wonderful, lush, sweet sound. I’ve heard many of them. The 360s from the ’60s often split the difference — less tubey magical, but cleaner and more correct. The Red Labels are all over the map, ranging from smeary and dull to out of this world. And this copy, my friends, is one of the good ones.

Unimpeachable Audiophile Credentials

We know we’re asking a lot of money for a record that any jazz record dealer would be embarrassed to charge more than $25 for. (Actually, these are starting to sell for $40+ pretty regularly on eBay and elsewhere. Apparently the word got out that these can sound incredible. Blame us!) But jazz record dealers don’t know anything about sound. They know about collectibility. They know about price guides. They know their market — jazz collectors — and I know mine: audiophiles. This record has unimpeachable audiophile credentials. It has the sound in the grooves like you have never heard before. And who else but your friends at Better Records are going to be able to tell you that?

Quick Listening Test for Side One

This is an easy one. Just listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not fully convey the transient information of Miles’ horn, causing it to have an easily recognizable quality we talk about all the time on the site: smear. No two pressings will have precisely the same amount of smear on his trumpet, so look for the least smeary copy that does everything else right too. (Meaning smear is important, but not all-important.)

John Coltrane / Coltrane’s Sound – A Very Good Reissue by Bernie Grundman

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Sonic Grade: B+ (at least)

This is one of the better sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played recently. What makes it different from so many others that fail to live up to the remastering hype that surrounds them (and irritates the hell out of those of use who know what a good record is actually supposed to sound like)?

  • It’s tonally correct from top to bottom. At most five or ten per cent of the audiophile repressings we’ve played in the last ten years can make that claim.
  • The bass is not boosted or poorly defined. This eliminates at a minimum 95+% of all the Mobile Fidelity pressings we have ever played. Nobody seems to notice how bad the bass is on their records. A real puzzler, that fact.
  • It’s not exceptionally veiled or recessed. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Heavy Vinyl pressings that are not much too veiled and recessed to compete with their vintage vinyl brethren.

It is slightly veiled, and lacks some of the life, the space and obviously some of the presence of the real thing, the real thing in this case being an early stereo pressing on the Blue and Green Atlantic label.

Still, for your money you are getting one helluva good record. One of the top two or three Rhino records to date.

(Bernie did a great job on this Coltrane album, but whatever you do, don’t waste your money on his recut of Lush Life. It is just plain awful, a Hall of Shame pressing that’s so bad it defies understanding. Something sure went wrong somewhere, I can tell you that. Stay tuned for my review.)

• Lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman
• LPs cut from the original analog masters
• Packages replicated to the finest detail manufactured with more care than ever

OUR PREVIOUS COMMENTARY

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice on Which Pressings to Buy

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables.

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John Coltrane – Coltrane Jazz

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  • This outstanding copy of Coltrane’s brilliant sixth studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This pressing captures the classic Coltrane sound that Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle achieved in the studio in 1961, with plenty of the Tubey Magic that makes a vintage jazz album like this one such a special listening experience
  • It’s the rare pressing that isn’t mediocre if not outright awful – it took us a long time to find the right stampers for this one
  • It’s trial and error, no more, no less, a process that worked for plenty of other hard-to-find-good-sound-for-Coltrane albums too
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The first album to hit the shelves after Giant Steps… While not the groundbreaker that Giant Steps was, Coltrane Jazz was a good consolidation of his gains as he prepared to launch into his peak years of the 1960s.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1961 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing 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.

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 is, of course, a CD of this album, but those of us who possess a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

The engineering duties were handled by Tom Dowd (whom you no doubt know well, and Phil Iehle, who happens to be the man who recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic: Giant Steps (1960) and My Favorite Things (also in 1961).

Phil Iehle also helped engineer Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around, as well as albums by Mose Allison, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charles Mingus, the MJQ, Herbie Mann, Eddie Harris, Hank Crawford and dozens of others. Staff engineer at Atlantic? That’s my guess. But a supremely talented one nonetheless. (more…)