Top Artists – Johnny Hodges

Letter of the Week – “It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box…”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. I’ve edited it a bit.

Hey Tom, 

Curious your thoughts on Analog Productions reissues? From the few I’ve heard, they seem to be among the better ‘new records’ out there, at least when they’re not involving digital in the process. 

Conrad,

How is it that you missed all my posts about their records? This link will take you to them: Analogue Productions.

I feel like I attack them too much, but apparently not!

Simply put, they may be the worst record label of all time.

Certainly no label is worse, some may be as bad, the electric recording guy in England is probably tied for most awful, Mobile Fidelity is up there too, but there are so many contenders for Worst Audiophile Record Label of All Time, how could you possibly know where to begin?

Not one record of AP I have ever heard was not awful, and if there are others that are not awful that I have yet to audition, those are very likely to be worse than a plain old copy easily found in a record store or on the web.

Curious to know what record of theirs you like. I find the very idea almost unimaginable

TP

Haha, enjoyed reading some of that.

I’m in the odd position that I can both entirely see what your criticisms are, and to a good extent share them, and yet, at least with the jazz records I’ve heard from them, I’m also hearing things I like.

They have absolutely no ambience… I have no idea why they’d do this, as it seems deliberate, like they thought this would improve things to a more ‘modern’ sound..?

And yes, this can have the effect of robbing the music of energy, life, interest etc. It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box, rather than a living piece of music.

On the other hand, the 45s esp. and even the 33s have a lot of presence and dynamic range, don’t sound too veiled (other than due to this bizarre remastering to remove ambience), and have a certain energy of their own – a kind of intensity. Maybe it’s the almost (or sometimes literal, since not all are all-analogue) digital effect; they’re going for that cleanness.

Or perhaps it’s the intensity of being slightly uptight and unnatural… but it’s interesting to hear. I know that sounds nuts, but it’s hard to describe; you have to accept you’re listening to a ‘re-presentation’, not the actual recorded sound.

On the other hand, several MoFi I’ve heard have this very fake ‘audiophile’ sound, with exaggerated mixing, overly thick, etc., and these AP I’ve heard at least sound more natural than this (at least on my system), for all their shortcomings.

I guess we can’t really compare experiences without knowing exactly the records we’ve each heard, and the AP pressings never hold a candle to any of the hot stampers I have received from you. It’s not close; my system and ears clearly know the difference. However, I don’t expect them to, and part of my relatively positive feeling about them is biased by knowing they’re dirt cheap at around $30 a pop.

It could be that your system is revealing their shortcomings more than mine, although I can readily hear the absolute difference between APs and hot stampers; or perhaps my system is tuned somehow to present them in a more favorable light… or perhaps this is just a matter of personal judgement about what we can listen to; I take them for what they are: cheap attempts to modernize the sound of master tapes. They’re nothing on hot stampers, but I’ve heard FAR worse.

Hope I don’t lose all credibility with you for writing this; different systems, different records, different pressings, different ears/moods/etc… just know that the above doesn’t mean I can’t hear and profoundly appreciate the quality of hot stampers! Wouldn’t have dropped what must be approaching $15k by now if I couldn’t, and I cherish every record I’ve bought from you. Keep up the good fight!

C

I can’t agree with much of what you’ve written, other than our Hot Stampers being amazing in every way. I believe you are trying to find reasons to justify the purchases of these modern remastered records, despite the shortcomings of their sound. My stereo is not forgiving enough of their faults to play them for enjoyment, and my ears are not forgiving enough of their sonic irregularities to find them much more than tolerable.

I took off my rose colored glasses a long time ago, and I certainly have no intention of putting them back on.

Our stereo is designed to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of every record we play. Bad records sound awful on it, and mediocre records are a waste of time. There are some heavy vinyl pressings that are neither awful nor mediocre, and you can find our reviews for them here

Years ago, we started to notice that most of the new Heavy Vinyl pressings were sounding worse and worse, and by 2007, when Blue came out, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We decided to take a stand and we have never questioned for a moment the decision we made.

This is what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day.
In those days, it was obvious to us that vintage pressings were getting better sounding, or at least some of them did. (We call the good ones Hot Stampers.)

The Heavy Vinyl pressings kept getting worse. They became less and less competitive, and eventually none of them sounded as good as the records we could offer our audiophile customers.

The kind of mediocrity that is rampant in the record business is simply not going to cut it here at Better Records. You may find these modern records to be interesting as artifacts, but we want to listen to music that sounds so real you can forget you’re listening to a record at all. You sure can’t do that with the records these companies are making today.

The EQ anomalies and compression and inability to breathe like vintage records call attention to these remastered discs’ manifold shortcomings the instant the needle hits the groove.

They are a disgusting ripoff, plain and simple. We find their sound insufferable. You should too.

Thanks for your letter,

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

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Johnny Hodges / Wild Bill Davis – Wings & Things

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  • A KILLER copy of Wings & Things with amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The 1965 stereo sound here is clear, open and highly resolving, yet still incredibly rich, warm, and smooth
  • All the hallmarks of Vintage Analog are fully on display – when was the last time we played a Heavy Vinyl pressing that sounded as good as this one does? We can’t remember
  • This original vintage Verve LP has TONS of Tubey Magic – it’s simply more musically involving than the other copies we played, and that’s the quickest way to win a shootout
  • “The group always swings, and it is interesting to hear Hodges in this setting.”

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Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges – Blues Summit – Better Sound than the Originals?

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  • This superb jazz double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • What surprised during our shootout was that this later pressing from 1976 actually sounded quite a bit better than virtually all the early pressings we put it up against
  • The Classic Records pressings from 1995 aren’t bad, but they head to head they can’t begin to compete with a pressing as good as this one
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “… this very enjoyable double LP includes two related sessions… Highly recommended in one form or another.”

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Johnny Hodges – The Big Sound

  • Hodges’ superb and quite rare release arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • Spacious and transparent, this mono copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes an All Tube recording from 1957 such a joy to listen to
  • Featuring some of the swingingest cats from Duke Ellington’s band, all playing the music they love and performing at the peak of their powers
  • 4 stars: “No surprises, but the session was as good as one might hope. Gathered here was the Ellington band with Billy Strayhorn at the piano…This was an integrated unit, not some detached studio band for Hodges to blow over, under, around, and through. It was wonderful Hodges and fine Ellington.”

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Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges – Back to Back – A Classic Records Winner

As I recall this was one of the better sounding Classic titles from their Verve series, and the music is excellent. Finding a clean original is no mean feat as I’m sure you can imagine.

Johnny Hodges & Wild Bill Davis – Blue Rabbit from 1964

More Johnny Hodges

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  • This KILLER jazz pressing boasts shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • The sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that goes deep and fills the listening room from wall to wall
  • This copy plays on relatively quiet vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “One of altoist Johnny Hodges’ many solo records in the 1960s… Tasty and swinging music.” – Allmusic

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963-64 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)