Top Artists – Red Garland

John Coltrane – Black Pearls

More John Coltrane

More Jazz Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Excellent sound throughout this vintage 60s Stereo Prestige pressing, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER
  • It’s bigger, livelier, tubier, and with more presence and transparency than most of what we played
  • A great Rudy Van Gelder recording that hits a whole ‘nother level on a copy that was mastered and pressed as well as this one
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 stars: “. . . Black Pearls indeed captures Coltrane at the height of perfecting the intense volley that would garner the name ‘sheets of sound.'”

A superb copy of this wonderful 1958 Coltrane recording (released in 1964)! We heard one that blew us away a few years back, so we picked up a bunch more and finally had the chance to evaluate them. The music was always enjoyable, but on a copy like this things really get going. Coltrane is joined here by Donald ByrdRed GarlandPaul Chambers and Art Taylor — a top lineup, the same crew behind the great Lush Life.

The sound here is wonderfully natural and clear. You get incredible presence, impressive transparency, real size and space between the players. It’s also amazingly rich and full-bodied with lots of energy. Most of the copies we’ve collected didn’t come close, so if you’re looking for some late 50s Coltrane magic, this is the hot ticket right here!

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John Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound, Look No Further

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts.

Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: the quality of their sound.

We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from.

On that basis we’re awarding side two of this recent shootout winning copy the award for The Best Sound on Standard Coltrane.

No other pressing of the album could do what this side two was doing. And the good news is that side one was nearly as good, making this the best copy to ever hit the site.

Side One

So dynamic, present and lively, with a rich sax and clear, solid piano. Great energy.

Side Two

Even better, with tighter, bigger bass.

Let’s give RVG a hand, the tonality on this side is HTF: Hard To Fault.

Only a small percentage of many remastered records can make that claim in our experience.

The Players


Further Reading

John Coltrane / Standard Coltrane

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

  • Standard Coltrane is back and sounds better than ever on this vintage Prestige pressing with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • For those of you who want the album with the original track listing exactly as it came out in 1962, with sound that cannot be beat, this one’s for you
  • Let’s give Rudy Van Gelder a hand, the tonality on both of these sides is HTF: Hard To Fault
  • “…this set of four tunes catches the saxophonist in four distinct moods. ‘Invitation’ finds him trying some of the ideas that he used so effectively with Thelonious Monk in 1957. One of these was the building of contrasting harmonic lines around a single “home” note. It’s a fascinating musical game in the hands of a jazzman as imaginative Coltrane.” – Downbeat

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Red Garland Trio – Bright And Breezy

More Red Garland

  • This vintage copy was doing practically everything right, with both sides earning STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is clear, spacious, relaxed, and full-bodied, with Tubey Magical richness and analog smoothness that only the better vintage pressings can offer
  • The typical copies are thin, lean, and lifeless, but we managed to unearth some copies that really get it right and here is a knockout one
  • “During 1961-1962…pianist Red Garland recorded four LPs for the Jazzland label. [T]his trio set with bassist Sam Jones and drummer Charlie Persip…is very much up to par. An enjoyable straight-ahead session.”

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John Coltrane – The Stardust Session

  • A stunning copy of this Coltrane double album – recorded in one day! – with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on all FOUR sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet, it’s a remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Jazz with the benefits brought about by lower-distortion, wider-bandwidth cutting equipment in the ’70s
  • Superb sound quality courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder‘s engineering (1958/1963) and the superior mastering of David Turner (1972)
  • 4 Stars: “…Coltrane is heard near the end of his ‘sheets of sound’ period, perfecting his distinctive style and taking colorful and aggressive solos.”

These records take their material from three John Coltrane albums: “Bahia,” “Stardust” and “Standard Coltrane.” We would be surprised if the originals of any of them can beat the sound of this reissue.

Note that the complete Standard Coltrane can be found on these four sides, along with a substantial portion of the other two Coltrane albums listed above.

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John Coltrane – Soultrane Sucks on OJC

More of the Music of John Coltrane

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

The early OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad, but — I’m guessing, never played one so don’t hold me to it — in the opposite way.

The OJC is thin and bright, and the modern reissue (I’m assuming, based on playing scores of them) is probably thick, veiled, overly smooth, lacking in space and boosted in the bass — because that’s the sound that audiophiles record buyers seem to like these days.

Without the excellent sounding ’60s and ’70s reissues that we are still able to find in audiophile playing condition, all that we would have available to us with which to do our shootouts would be the originals.

At the big bucks those records go for nowadays, shootouts would simply be impossibly expensive.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job on these later pressings!

And brickbats to George Horn, who seems to be the guy who cut the original OJC pressings. We like a lot of his work, but in this case he sure let us down.

Forgiveness Held Us Back

Our old system from the 80s and 90s was tubier, tonally darker and dramatically less revealing, which strongly worked to the advantage of leaner, brighter, less Tubey Magical titles such as this one. Pretty much everybody I knew had a system that suffered from those same afflictions.

Like most audiophiles, I thought my stereo sounded great.

And the reality is that no matter how hard I worked or how much money I spent, I would never have been able to achieve the dramatically better sound I now enjoy for one simple reason: most of the critically important revolutions in audio had not yet come to pass. It would take many technological improvements and decades of effort until I would have anything like the system I do now.

Overview

Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large enough sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their lack of rigor, among other things, when comparing pressings.

Those who fail to approach the problem of finding top quality pressings with an utter lacks of seriousness can be found on every audiophile forum there is. The youtubers are the worst, but are the self-identified aristocrats of audio any better? I see no evidence to support the proposition.

The methods that all of these folks use do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them, they will never have to worry about coming to grips with that inconvenient truth.

Reviews R Us

We’ve easily played more than a hundred OJC pressings, and here are reviews for some of the ones we’ve auditioned to date:

To be fair, we may have only had one copy of some of the OJC pressings we reviewed. Perhaps another copy would have sounded better, but we are so familiar with the sonic shortcomings of this series that one bad sounding copy was all we cared to bother with.

It would be hard to justify the time and expense of chasing after records that are unlikely to be much better than the copy we already know to have bad sound. That’s just the reality of the record business. There are so many good records that need auditioning, why bother with the second- and third-rate ones? (We’ve actually played less than 1% of all the newer Heavy Vinyl reissues for the same reason.)


Here are some other records with the same problems as this OJC that you may consider prudent to avoid, including many on premium-priced Heavy Vinyl. At least Fantasy had an excuse for making records that don’t sound good: they were cheap.

If you wasted $65 on a crappy sounding pressing of Stand Up, what else would you feel other than ripped off? Sadly, Analogue Productions does not offer refunds.

John Coltrane – More Lasting Than Bronze

More John Coltrane

  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer offers seriously good sound on all FOUR sides
  • Compiled from two nearly complete Classic Coltrane releases, Lush Life and Coltrane, this collection boasts masterful sound – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom – these pressings are guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life
  • Regarding the song Lush Life: “Rarely does a single performance uncover the essence of an artist with such aptness. The well-crafted melody is treated above all with dignity, which may be part of the reason it remains flawless.”
  • If you’re a Coltrane fan, these recordings from 1957 surely belong in your collection
  • Another brilliant sounding Two-Fer, proving once again that the right budget reissues can sound dramatically better than anything being pressed these days on vinyl at any price

The jackets for these Two-Fers tend to have some ringwear. We will of course put these two discs in the nicest cover we have available.

This is the kind of recording that makes people revere Rudy Van Gelder. And since he mastered these pressings, we have to give him even more credit for doing the transfer exceptionally well. I am on record as saying that some of his own transfers are problematical. Not this one. Since this has two of Coltrane’s greatest albums together, I can’t recommend this record any more highly.

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John Coltrane / Lush Life

More John Coltrane

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This vintage Mono Prestige recording boasts a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelders recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, alive in that way that modern pressings never are
  • Finding the best sounding pressings of this exceptional recording was a turning point for us – here was sound we had never experienced for the work, and what a thrill it was
  • 4 stars: “‘Lush Life’ is not only the focal point of this album, it is rightfully considered as one of Coltrane’s unqualified masterworks.”
  • If you’re a fan of vintage small-group jazz, this Coltrane LP from 1961 surely belongs in your collection

We’d been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? That pressing had eluded us — until a few years ago.

It was early 2016, in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound, though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our better Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? Maybe there are. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far.

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Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

More Miles Davis

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • The 1976 transfers of tape to disc by David Turner are superb in all respects – this is remastering done right
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miles, this All Tube MONO Recording from 1955 belongs in your collection.

This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

John Coltrane – Soultrane

More John Coltrane

  • This Prestige “stereo” pressing boasts killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It may say stereo on the cover, but this album is in pure, glorious MONO, with sound that is full-bodied, relaxed, Tubey Magical and tonally correct
  • Here is the palpable jazz energy, the life of the music, that’s sure to be missing from whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl pressing is being stamped out these days
  • There are very few early pressings around without marks or problems in the vinyl – this one has a number of marks that play, but finding copy that sounds this good with quiet surfaces is getting harder every day
  • It’s the nature of the beast and there is simply no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “… a classic of the 20th century jazz canon and an essential point of reference in Coltrane’s own tumultuous career…. this is the album on which Coltrane first emerged as the primary innovator of the jazz world, wielding an astonishing technical virtuosity and a blinding vision of the possibilities of the tenor sax.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


This is a mono recording that has supposedly been reprocessed into stereo. Rudy Van Gelder did the mastering, and my guess is he decided to leave the sound mono and simply not tell anyone. Who can blame him? He engineered it in mono, so why fix what ain’t broke because they printed the cover and the label with the word “stereo” on them in order to generate more sales?

We’re lucky he did. The OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad. Without these excellent ’60s and ’70s reissues, all that we would have available to do our shootouts with would be the originals. At one to three thousand dollars each for clean copies, few of which could ever be found anyway, that makes for a shootout whose costs could simply never be justified.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job!

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