Top Artists – Nat “King” Cole

What Willie and Nat Can Teach Us about Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

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

Hello team,

I’ve been a little distracted here, I got married over the weekend! So, haven’t done as much listening over the past couple of weeks. However, I did have a chance to listen to Stardust and Love Is The Thing. They were both different than their Classic Records and Analogue Productions counterparts. Willie sounded a little smoother, more organic, and more integrated.

The strings on Love Is The Thing were very different, more pronounced and emotional, but Nat’s voice, and the sound overall, sounded a little strident, maybe “too” hot.

I’d like to send them both back to you, and if you have a chance to send back the discs I sent to you I’d very much appreciate it. All told, the two big sets of Better Records are really incredible, and only serve to make my want list grow. Here’s to you and the next set!

Doug,

We now have the update for those two titles.

I, along with the two other guys in our listening panels, sat down to play the Heavy Vinyl you sent us, and the long and short of it is that we were astonished that records that sound as bad as those two actually were approved for release.

Nat is wrong six ways from Sunday, and Willie is not so much wrong as just not very good.

Nat: “F”, one of the worst heavy vinyl disasters of all time, and Willie: “D” sound, more like a bad CD than a record. There are many pressings of this album that are not good, but this version is probably worse than most of them, hence the D grade.

The old Classic pressing is probably better, and it would earn about a C grade. {I honestly do not remember exactly what pressing Douglas sent us. All I remember is that it was on Heavy Vinyl.]

I suspect the CDs of both these pressings are much better sounding than this vinyl. The DCC gold is definitely better by a long shot, and the plain old Willie CD is probably a step up as well. 

A FURTHER UPDATE

The DCC Nat King Cole CDs which I recommended earlier now drive me up a wall. Can’t stand the Hoffman remix. Sorry for the error!

I will be writing a review with more depth down the road, taken from my notes. How these records can be enjoyed by anyone is beyond me. Some of the worst sound I have ever heard, and I have heard plenty! (You can find more than 250 reviews for bad audiophile records here. These are records that no audiophile in his right mind should even consider buying.)

Take any or all of the above for what it’s worth.

Best, TP

Whoa!

I am surprised! Very different take from what I’m hearing at home – would it be okay for me to take another week or two to do some more A/B listening of Stardust and Love Is The Thing on my system?

I’d like to reread “what to listen for” and really do a deep comparison of a couple tracks on each.

* Really * appreciate your time and feedback!

Douglas

A few weeks went by and we asked Douglas how his shootout went. He replied:

Howdy Tom,

Life has been a little crazy but my buddy Miguel Nelson (who turned me on to Better Records) came up and we listened to Willie and Nat, and our experience lined up pretty well with yours. The new pressings offered clarity, separation, and a quiet background, at the expense of the warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range and impact, which the Better Records copies offered in spades!

Douglas

Douglas,

That’s what we heard. Glad you heard it too.

Clarity, separation and a quiet background are what people like about the sound of CDs.

Warmth, emotion, organic integration, subtlety, range, impact and a whole lot more are what people like about Analog.

The vintage pressings we offer have more of these analog qualities than modern pressings.

Those vintage pressings with more of the analog qualities we prize are labelled Hot Stampers.

They are right in a way that the typical Half-Speed Mastered or Heavy Vinyl pressing rarely is.

The more critically one listens, the more obvious the differences become.

The real thing just can’t be beat, and you can be pretty sure that the real thing is an old record.

Here are some letters from customers who took another listen to the records we’d sent them and belatedly recognized the superior sound of our Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.


FURTHER READING

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Nat King Cole / This Is Nat “King” Cole

More of the Music of Nat “King” Cole

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Nat “King” Cole

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

Here it is – only the second Hot Stamper copy of Nat’s classic 1957 release to ever hit the site, and what a pressing it is! It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

Our Overview

We’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.

If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the ’60s. Many of Nat’s albums from that decade are over-produced, bright, thin and shrill.

We assume most audiophiles got turned on to his music from the records that Steve Hoffman remixed and remastered for DCC back in the mid-’90s, For those of you who were customers of ours back then, you know that I count myself among that group. I even went so far as to nominate the DCC of Nat’s Greatest Hits as the best album DCC ever made. I know now, as I expect you do, that that’s really not saying much, but at the time I thought it was a pretty bold statement.

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Nat King Cole / Love Is the Thing – Remixed and Remastered

More of the Music of Nat “King” Cole

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

With a Sound I’ve Grown to Detest

I really liked the Nat King Cole albums on DCC when they came out back in the ’90s. Thought they were a revelation as a matter of fact.

Now I find them insufferable. Here are some of my reasons for not liking Hoffman’s remix.

Nat’s voice is much too forward and loud in the mix; consequently the orchestra is too soft. The balance is off. At least on my stereo, at the levels I play the record at, the balance seems off. You surely have a different system, in a different room, and may not feel the way I do.

But without a top pressing to compare, how do you know the mix is right or wrong? Like everything in audio, it’s relative.

The balance problem is bad enough, but what really sets my teeth on edge is the fact that the Nat King Cole record on DCC doesn’t sound remotely like any Nat King Cole record I have ever heard, outside of the ones Hoffman worked on of course.

Where is all the Capitol reverb? Nat’s records all have it, and although the reverb may be a bit excessive or unnatural in some ways, at least to some people, when you take it away you end up with a sound that never existed before, and, to my ears, it’s a sound that’s just wrong for the music.

The more I listened to the DCC the less I liked it.

The first full-length commentary I ever wrote in my record catalog in 1994 took Analogue Productions to task for remastering Way Out West and giving it a “new sound,” a sound I had never heard coming from any Contemporary pressing, from any era.

I didn’t like what Doug Sax did with Way Out West, Jazz Giant, Waltz for Debby and many, many others, and I don’t like what Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray did to Love Is the Thing, The Very Thought of You and Just One Of Those Things.

I have tried to listen to the Gold CD in my car, but even in the car I found the sound boring and insufferable.

Is this the kind of sound you hear on your DCC Nat King Cole records? If it is, we recommend you try a Hot Stamper. If it doesn’t kill your DCC you get your money back.

At the very least it will show you some of the things your DCC is doing differently, and, we think, wrong.

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Nat “King” Cole – To Whom It May Concern

More Nat “King” Cole

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

 

  • An outstanding copy of Nat “King” Cole’s wonderful 1959 release with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The presence and immediacy of Nat’s vocals here are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best – you won’t believe how good this early stereo pressing sounds
  • With some of the biggest, clearest, richest and most natural vocal reproduction, this copy is guaranteed to take Nat’s performance to another level
  • Marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “For this album, Cole had the idea of putting together a set of newly written songs in the classic style, with typically sympathetic arrangements by Nelson Riddle…”

Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

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Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

More Nat King Cole

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

  • This wonderful collaboration finally returns with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Two masters come together here to create a compilation of timeless arrangements still appreciated by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • It’s tough to find top quality pressings of Nat King Cole’s recordings in audiophile playing condition – this All Tube Recording from the early ’60s is your chance to hear just how rich and real he could sound in his prime
  • 4 stars: “Cole is in prime form on such songs as ‘September Song,’ ‘Pick Yourself Up,’ and ‘Serenata.’ Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.”

The better pressings of this unique collaboration between Nat King Cole and George Shearing put Cole’s voice right up front with lovely breath and natural texture. On the better copies such as this one, the Nat’s vocals are full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the soundfield is open and transparent. If you want a great-sounding male vocal LP in your collection, this one will do the trick nicely.

The reissue pressings rarely sounded right to us. In addition, the mono copies were uniformly awful — small, congested and gritty. Our Hot Stamper pressings — even the lowest-graded copies we offer –are sure to give you fuller vocals, more transparency, more weight to the piano and, of course, the tubey warmth of vintage analog. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Welcome To The Club

More Nat “King” Cole

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

  • Nat King Cole’s wonderful 1959 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • The sound on this superb pressing is full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • With Cole’s smooth vocals, superb arrangements by Dave Cavanaugh, and accompaniment by the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, this album is a sheer delight
  • 4 stars: “… one of Cole’s most powerful collections supported by a big band. In fact, it is Cole’s unmistakable ultra-cool intonations that flawlessly reign in the fiery… ensemble arrangements.”

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Nat King Cole – This Is Nat “King” Cole

More Nat “King” Cole

  • This vintage ’50s Capitol pressing boasts outstanding sound from first note to last
  • These sides are insanely good — BIG, rich and Tubey Magical, yet clear and not the least bit thick or opaque
  • Turn down the lights, gently drop the needle at the start of side one and you will soon find a living breathing Nat King Cole standing between your speakers
  • “Cole as usual gives warm, confident readings of all this material, and fans welcomed the packaging of some songs previously available only on singles…”

A wonderful copy of Nat’s classic 1957 release. It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

The presence and immediacy of Nat King Cole’s vocals here are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with loads of Tubey Magic. The highs are extended and silky sweet.

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Nat “King” Cole – Where Did Everyone Go?

More Nat “King” Cole

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this early Capitol Rainbow Label stereo pressing will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • With especially rich, intimate and natural vocal reproduction, this side one was close to the best we played of Nat’s wonderful “songs of love and loss”
  • If all you know are the weirdly unnatural remixes DCC did (or the dreadful Analogue Productions pressings), this LP will be nothing less than a revelation
  • “His rich and cozy baritone carries the ache of “Am I Blue?” and the slinky “I Keep Goin’ Back to Joe’s” into an understated, almost plaintive blues. Here he perfectly demonstrates a boundless capacity as a melodic interpreter of song.”
  • The early mono pressing we played was crude, gritty and dark, a finding we considered unsurprising since so manyof the mono pressings from this era are just awful, so we say Skip the Mono.
  • (For records that we think sound best in mono, click here.)

Where Did Everyone Go? is the third and final collaboration between Gordon Jenkins and Nat King Cole, and like the first two, we think it belongs in any audiophile record collection worthy of the name. And if you have any horrid Heavy Vinyl LP of Nat King Cole’s music (the only one found passable was the one done on S&P), now is the time to play them against your new Hot Stamper pressing, recognize their manifold shortcomings, and get them out of your collection and into the hands of the Heavy Vinyl True Believers.

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the relaxed quality of Nat’s performance. He seems to sings so effortlessly (even more effortlessly than usual!) on the better sounding pressings. On other pressings that casual quality is not nearly as evident.

Warmth and sweetness were also important, the distinctive and unmistakable hallmarks of vintage All Tube Analog. These qualities combined to make the music on each of these sides as thoroughly involving and enchanting as practically any album of its kind we have ever offered. (more…)

Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

The reissue pressings rarely sounded right to us. In addition, the mono copies were uniformly awful — small, congested and gritty. Our Hot Stamper pressings — even the lowest-graded copies we offer –are sure to give you fuller vocals, more transparency, more weight to the piano and, of course, the tubey warmth of vintage analog.

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

September Song 
Pick Yourself Up 
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) 
Let There Be Love 
Azure-Te 
Lost April

Side Two

A Beautiful Friendship 
Fly Me to the Moon 
Serenata 
I’m Lost 
There’s a Lull in My Life 
Don’t Go

AMG Review

Although it would have been interesting to hear Nat Cole play some piano and perhaps accompany a vocal by George Shearing instead of exclusively the other way around, this session was a big success. Cole is in prime form on such songs as “September Song,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “Serenata.” Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.

Nat King Cole – Just One Of Those Things

  • This outstanding vintage Stereo Capitol pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides
  • Here is the sound we love at Better Records – these sides are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals
  • “Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that’s the point: that Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn’t give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ ‘Just One of Those Things,’ ‘The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On).’ And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well.” – All Music

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