Top Artists – Lena Horne

Bob and Ray / Throw a Stereo Spectacular

More Bob and Ray

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Living Stereo pressing with be very hard to beat
  • Originally produced as a sampler record for the Living Stereo line, it is an absolute MUST OWN for serious audiophiles looking to take their system to the next level
  • Our reference copy here at Better Records is so vital to our operation that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price!
  • 4 stars: “The gleefully cacophonous Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band takes the prize for providing the most unusual musical selection, but the overall program is extremely diverse [and] the comedy and music are enjoyable.”

Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only: The Bob and Ray Test.

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: “The Song of the Volga Boatman.”

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is “The Song of the Volga Boatman” on Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change, some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test, as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last several years.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right, the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one. It will be invaluable to you in the long run.

The copy we have is so good, and is so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Now That’s What a Real Drum Kit Sounds Like!

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

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space.

When the drums come in on the first track on side one you will hear immediately what I mean. The third track on side two has especially good drums as well. The vocals on that third track, Message to Michael, are some of the most natural on the album as well. Lena can strain a bit on some songs in the loudest passages, but on others she can belt it out and stay clean all the way to the top. Listen track by track to hear how well she holds up when the bigger choruses come in.

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we’ve known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it’s been impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course.

Dave Sanders, a name I — and no doubt most audiophiles — was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. (more…)

The Recordings of Lena Horne – These Five Didn’t Make the Grade

More Albums that Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings by Lena Horne that we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting. Without going into specifics, we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find these in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Lena & Gabor

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

Reviews and Commentaries for Gabor Szabo

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides this copy sounds right from top to bottom
  • Some of the most UNPROCESSED and REAL sounding jazzy pop we have ever played
  • A True Sleeper from 1968 – love the choice of material, love the players, love Lena, love the album!
  • “The contrast of Horne’s full-throated voice and Szabo’s unconventional, modal guitar playing is mesmerizing…”

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we had known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it had been all but impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course. We had a big pile to work with, a pile that took about five years to acquire, and one that includes both Buddah and Skye pressings.

Dave Sanders, a name I was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space. (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…)