Top Artists – Ray Brown

Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

More Sonny Rollins

More Contemporary Jazz Label Recordings

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout this vintage pressing of Rollins’s sophomore Contemporary release
  • Both of these sides are textbook examples of the kind of rich, smooth, effortlessly natural Contemporary Jazz sound that Roy DuNann‘s All Tube Recording Chain was known for in 1958
  • “The last of the classic Sonny Rollins albums prior to his unexpected three-year retirement features the great tenor with pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessell, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne… Great music.”

This Contemporary Label LP has THE BIG SOUND we love here at Better Records — rich and full-bodied with live-in-your-listening-room immediacy. The bass is deep, rock-solid, and note-like. There’s plenty of clarity and extension up top, bringing Shelly Manne’s fantastic work on the cymbals to life.

This is no Heavy Vinyl slogfest. Just listen to the leading edge transients on Sonny’s sax.

The guitar is warm, rich, and sweet, and just swimming in ambience.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney KesselShelly ManneLeroy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorite players of ours here at Better Records.

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

More Shelly Manne

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A Demo Disc quality pressing of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • 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 Jazz Piano Trio 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…)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Volume Two

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Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • An excellent Verve Mono reissue with wonderful sound on all FOUR sides
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, this Top Title from 1957 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.

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The L.A. 4 / Going Home

  • A vintage East Wind 33 RPM Japanese import pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them from start to finish
  • A top album in both rarity and demand – you’d be hard pressed to find another copy with this kind of transparency, clarity, presence, and sound (assuming you could find one)
  • This is one of the best sounding copies with all 7 tracks we have ever played
  • Lee Herschberg recorded these sessions direct to disc – he’s the guy behind the most amazing piano trio recording I have ever heard, a little album called The Three
  • The star of this record is Shelly Manne, who really plays up a storm
  • This 33 RPM version features all seven of the original tracks – “Greensleeves” and “Django” were omitted from the shorter 45 RPM pressing

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The Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy

This Concord Jazz LP has excellent sound.

There is also a half-speed mastered audiophile version of this record cut by Stan Ricker himself.

Now hold on: half-speed mastering by its very nature causes a dramatic loss of bass definition, not to mention the fact that much of the deep bass usually goes completely missing. This is a record built around the sound of Ray Brown’s double bass. Do you really want the lowest octave of bass to disappear and the bass above it to turn to mud on a record that features a bass player as its leader? It’s crazy, right?

I’ve never heard the half-speed and don’t plan to track one down in order to audition it, but I guarantee you that this “full-speed” mastered version will blow the doors off any version mastered by Stan Ricker.

There is plenty of commentary on the website about his incompetent mastering and I recommend you take a moment to read some of it before you buy any half-speed mastered record. (We of course do not offer such records, with the exception of John Klemmer’s Touch, which is a half-speed mastered record that actually does sound good, superb in fact.)

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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…)

Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars – For Duke

  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ right out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (The Real Thing being An Old Record) ever has
  • “. . . this album features a true all-star lineup. Each artist solos in this heartfelt tribute session. . . one of those rare albums that you can enjoy over and over without losing your smile.”

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Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

More Linda Ronstadt

More Nelson Riddle

  • So spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and fairly natural sounding Linda, this is the way to hear it
  • What engineer George Massenburg gets right is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio
  • “…the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania… undid in the mid-60’s.”
  • Watch for my MoFi review coming later this year – talk about a disaster, that reissue is beyond awful
  • If you’re a Ronstadt fan, this title from 1983 is surely a Must Own. The complete list of titles from 1983 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With two outstanding sides, this pressing gets two critically important elements of the recording right:

The strings in the orchestra, and, for obvious reasons, even more importantly, Linda’s voice.

We guarantee that these sides give you a more natural sounding Linda than you’ve ever heard, or your money back.

If all you own is an mediocre sounding pressing or the truly awful Mobile Fidelity from 1983, you are in for a world of better sound with this very record.

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Ray Brown / Milt Jackson

More Milt Jackson

More Ray Brown

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this early Verve stereo pressing
  • Both sides here are big and lively, both of which are key elements for any album arranged by the-bigger-the-better Oliver Nelson
  • A lot of Verve records from this era are poorly mastered, but this one sounds just right to us
  • Big sounding ’60s jazz with lively arrangements from Oliver Nelson and Jimmy Heath
  • Clark Terry’s trumpet and flugelhorn contributions play a major role in the festivities
  • This is cool, swinging ’60’s jazz at its best – the Allmusic Guide awards this album 4 1/2 stars, and that sounds about right to us
  • If you’re a fan of the jazz stylings of either Milt Jackson or Ray Brown, this is a Classic from 1965 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

  • You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on both sides of this early mono pressing – if only a record of this quality could be found on quieter vinyl!
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Santana’s first album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals, this 1956 release is an absolute Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Click and pop counters might want to give this one a miss. It’s not as quiet as a modern pressing would be, but it’s as quiet as this title can be found on vintage ’50s Verve vinyl. If you have a top quality, heavily tweaked front end and a quiet cartridge, you might be good to go, but if you are picky about your surfaces, we recommend you give this one a miss.

Those of you looking for a cheaper, quieter alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on one of our Hot Stampers should look into the original Speakers Corner pressing or the CD, both of which we’ve played and both of which are quite good. (more…)