Top Artists – Ray Charles

Ray Charles & Betty Carter / Self-Titled – DCC Clear Vinyl Pressing

More of the Music of Ray Charles

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Sonic Grade: F

This Dunhill Compact Classics LP pressed on CLEAR VINYL is one of DCCs earliest forays into analog production from way back in 1988.

Unfortunately it sounds like a bad CD.

Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound for this music.

NO warmth.

NO sweetness.

NO richness.

NO Tubey Magic. In other words,

NO trace of the original’s analog sound. I have to wonder how records this awful get released.

You can be sure that Hoffman’s CD murders it in every way.

A PUBLIC SERVICE

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 this one 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 Hall of Shame records the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good pressing, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much less excusable.

The Vintage Sound of The Genius After Hours

charlgeniusMore of the Music of Ray Charles

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

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.

Something to Keep in Mind

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, clear, solid mono sound. Close to a year later when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would never have happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

Side One

Big and clear with a very solid piano and all its harmonic overtones. What piano recording from 1956 sounds like this? None that I know of. And it’s Ray Charles at the keys!

Side Two

The exceptionally dynamic brass that comes jumping out of the soundfield is nonetheless warm and full – what a great sound!

There’s much more space here than on most copies, making it sound less mono.

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Ray Charles – Have a Smile With Me

More of the Music of Ray Charles

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  • Have A Smile With Me returns to the site after more than a year with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated to an excellent sounding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The richness in Ray’s vocals and the wonderfully Tubey Magical sound overall makes this killer copy especially impressive
  • It’s not easy to find a Ray Charles stereo pressing from the Sixties that plays this quietly, but marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “…[Charles] elevates the material with soulful vocals and good arrangements, particularly when the Raeletts back him up (as they do on half the tracks).”

We search high and low for Ray’s records and have played them by the score over the years. We hope to keep a good supply on to the site in the coming years, so keep a close eye on the New Arrivals section.

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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 – Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul

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  • An outstanding pressing of Charles’ 1963 release, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • These sides are doing it all right — richer, fuller, better bass, more Tubey Magic, and the list goes on
  • Ray Charles was a genius and the music on this record is just more proof of the undeniability of that fact
  • 4 stars: “The high points are very high — ‘Busted,’ his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles…”

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Ray Charles – Soul Meeting

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  • This killer pressing of Ray Charles and Milt Jackson’s 1958 collaboration boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for this title too
  • Full-bodied, warm and natural with plenty of space around all of the players, this is the sound of vintage analog – accept no substitutes
  • 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 / All Time Great Country and Western Hits – Better Sound than the Originals? Can It Really Be True?

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  • With three nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just the equal of, but actually best their original album counterparts
  • 22 classic songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS.

Both these LPs have 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 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 and Betty Carter – DCC Heavy Vinyl Reviewed & Recommended

More of the Music of Ray Charles

More Soul, Blues and R&B Albums with Hot Stampers

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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