Top Artists – Ray Charles

The Vintage Sound of The Genius After Hours

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

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Proof positive that there is nothing wrong with remastering vintage recordings if you know what you’re doing. These sessions from 1956 (left off of an album that Allmusic liked a whole lot less than this one) were remastered in 1985 and the sound — on the better copies mind you — is correct from top to bottom.

The highest compliment I can pay a copy such as this is that it doesn’t sound like a modern record. It sounds like a very high quality mono jazz record from the ’50s or ’60s. Unlike modern recuts it doesn’t sound EQ’d in any way. It doesn’t lack ambience the way modern records do. It sounds musical and natural the way modern records almost never do.

If not for the fairly quiet vinyl you would never know it’s not a vintage record. The only originals we had to play against it were too noisy and worn to evaluate critically. They sounded full, but dark and dull and somewhat opaque (hey, there’s that modern remastered sound we’ve all been hearing for years!).

And although it is obviously a budget reissue, it sure doesn’t sound cheap to these ears.

Tender Loving Care?

Was it remastered with great care, or did the engineer just thread up the tape on a high-quality, properly calibrated deck and say “Nice, sounds good, let her rip.”? Either explanation works for me, because I really don’t care who made the record or how much work they put into it. In the case of The Genius After Hours it seems they found the real master tape and just did their job right, the way mastering engineers — well, some of them anyway — had been doing for decades.

A scant ten years later Bernie Grundman, a true Hall of Famer, started cutting for Classic Records and ruined practically every tape handed to him.

Our explanation? We don’t have one! We played the records and reported our findings. We sold the ones we thought sounded good to us and didn’t bother with the rest.

Just like we’re doing now. The biggest difference here is that we are evaluating a single copy, with these specific qualities, and guaranteeing that you either love it or you get your money back. (more…)

Ray Charles – The Best of Ray Charles

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Like any compilation the sound varies from track to track, but most of the material here sounds WONDERFUL
  • This collection of instrumentals gives you a taste of Ray’s prowess at the piano, with surprisingly good sound to boot
  • All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too.

If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Ray Charles was a genius (it’s his nickname for heaven’s sake!) and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of that fact.

You may have noticed that Tom Dowd, the recording engineer for these tracks, receives a fair amount of criticism on our site. We’re not always fans of his work on rock albums, but on jazz music he usually managed to do a great job. The sound is open, sweet, transparent, rich — all the stuff we like here at Better Records.

Just drop the needle on the first track, Hard Times. The brass is breathy and full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the vocals sound Right On The Money. The extended solos by David Newman on tenor sax are especially brilliant.

If you want a good Blues based Jazz record, performed by men who were at the height of their powers, you can’t go wrong with this one. All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival. (more…)

Ray Charles – Love Country Style

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a side one right up there with it, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • This early pressing has killer Hot Stamper sound on both sides – here’s the midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • Another of Ray’s albums in the style of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music – maybe not the equal of those classics, but not far from them either
  • All the Amazon User Reviews give the album a Five Star rating – hard to do better than that!

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Ray Charles and Betty Carter – DCC Heavy Vinyl Reviewed & Recommended

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Sonic Grade: B+

Folks, I have to hand it to Steve Hoffman — this is the BEST SOUNDING DCC LP we have played in years.

We’ve been harshin’ on DCC for years now. Whenever we do a shootout for The Eagles or The Doors or Bonnie Raitt or Queen or you name it, the DCC pressing almost always gets a serious drubbing from our listening panel. Not so here. This one took TOP HONORS against the other copies we played and was head and shoulders better sounding in practically every way. [The right vintage pressings beat the DCC in more recent shootouts, but we can still recommend the DCC as a very good sounding pressing.]

Do all the copies of the DCC sound this good? I would bet money right now they don’t. Folks, I’m guessing this is a Hot Stamper. It was pressed just right and all the Hoffman magic is in these grooves. But that’s just a guess, and I could easily be wrong. If you have a few copies at home, shoot them out! What, you don’t have a bunch of these? Me neither, so no shootout will probably ever be done. This album is just too rare and pricey these days.

Bottom line: We know a good record when we hear one, and this is a very good record indeed! Bravo to Steve for a job well done. 

Ray Charles – Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music Volume Two

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  • You’ll find incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this stereo copy of Charles’ 1962 follow up to Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music 
  • Features Ray’s Big Band with the Raelettes on one side and the legendary Jack Halloran Singers on the other
  • Finally, here is the right sound for these acclaimed songs you know well, classics such as You Are My Sunshine; Your Cheating Heart; Oh, Lonesome Me, and nine more
  • 5 stars: “Vol. 2 defied the curse of the sequel and was just as much of an artistic triumph as its predecessor … the miracle is that Charles’ hurt, tortured, soulfully twisting voice transforms the backgrounds as well as the material; you believe what he’s singing.”

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Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Ray Charles & Betty Carter – DCC Clear Vinyl Pressing

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked

This Dunhill Compact Classics LP pressed on CLEAR VINYL is one of DCCs earliest forays into analog production. Unfortunately it sounds like a bad CD. In fact, you can be sure that Hoffman’s CD murders it in every way. Don’t waste your money. 

Ray Charles – Soul Meeting

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Soul Meeting

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  • This outstanding pressing of Ray Charles and Milt Jackson’s 1958 collaboration boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet too
  • Wonderful sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Kenny Burrell lends his innovative guitar stylings to this soulful jazz collaboration
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Oscar Pettiford, Connie Kay, and Kenny Burrell in the various lineups, this is bluesy jazz in a laid-back manner; it surprised many hardcore R&B fans when these albums were originally issued.”

This wonderful pressing has superb sound throughout! It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of this title in anything but beat condition. (more…)

Ray Charles – Have a Smile With Me

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • The richness in the vocals and the wonderfully Tubey Magical sound makes this copy especially impressive
  • It’s not easy to find a Ray Charles record from the Sixties that plays this quietly: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • AMG writes, “…He elevates the material with soulful vocals and good arrangements, particularly when the Raeletts back him up (as they do on half the tracks).”

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the female backup singers, the Raelets. sweet and clear) 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 hear practically all of them whenever we sit down to do one of these shootouts. (more…)

Ray Charles – Sweet & Sour Tears

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  • You’ll find stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this Shootout Winning 1964 pressing – exceptionally QUIET vinyl for a vintage Ray Charles record (!)
  • This stereo pressing is the only way to hear these classic songs sound rich, powerful and free from coloration
  • A concept album filled with an eclectic collection of themed music, this release showcases Charles’ innovative approach to recording
  • “…One is almost tempted to think that Charles was toying with audience expectations by mixing unabashedly sentimental slow tunes with the far more bluesy, satisfying, and upbeat numbers, such as his surprisingly brassy, punchy treatment of “Cry Me a River.”

This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles

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  • One of the few copies to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER — Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound is incredibly rich, full and Tubey Magical with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • Robert Christgau noted that “Charles tried many times, but except for Modern Sounds, he never again assembled such a consistent album in this mode.”
  • “Charles’ voice is heard throughout in peak form, giving soul to even the veteran standards.”

Tom Dowd engineered on Ampex 3 Track through an All Tube chain (this is 1959 after all), Quincy Jones did the arrangements, and Ray sang the hell out of this great batch of songs — all the ingredients in a recipe for soul are here.

Top tracks on the first side: Let The Good Times Roll, It Had To Be You and When Your Lover Has Gone. (more…)