Top Artists – Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – How on Earth Did This Pressing Get Approved?

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Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl. This review is from 2014 or thereabouts.

Sonic Grade: F

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?” (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Way Out West – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The Contemporary 1957 sax sound is so smooth and tubey it will have you drooling. All Music Guide gives it 5 Stars and so do we. Such a classic album. If you don’t own a top quality Sonny Rollins album this would be a great place to start. 
The best pressings sound rich and full-bodied with plenty of low end weight. This is the Contemporary sound we love!

It’s our favorite jazz label for sonics by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seems to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drums in a big room; full-bodied, breathy horns; Tubey Magical guitar tone; deep, note-like bass; weighty pianos; vocal immediacy, and on and on. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this later Contemporary pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both of these sides are textbook examples of the kind of rich, smooth, natural, effortless Contemporary Jazz sound that Roy DuNann’s All Tube Recording Chain was famous 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 Yellow Label LP has THE BIG SOUND — rich and so full-bodied with amazing presence and immediacy. The bass is PERFECTION — deep, rock solid, and note-like. There’s lots of extension on the top end, letting Shelley Manne’s fantastic work on the cymbals really come to life.

The clarity on this copy is superb — just listen to those leading edge transients on Sonny’s sax. The guitar has the tubey qualities that we love here at Better Records — it’s warm, rich, and sweet with lots of ambience.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, Leroy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorite players of ours here at Better Records. (more…)

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – Good Digital Beats Bad Analog Any Day

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And this is some very bad analog indeed!

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl – Reviewed in 2010

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?”

It reminds me of the turgid muck that Doug Sax was cutting for Analogue Productions back in the ’90s. The CD has to sound better than this. There’s no way could it sound worse.

Update: I managed to track down a copy of the CD and it DOES sound better than this awful record, and by a long shot. It’s not a great sounding CD, but it sure isn’t the disaster this record is.

This is a very bad sounding record, so bad that one minute’s play will have you up and out of your chair trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with your system. But don’t bother. It’s not your stereo, it’s this record.

It has the power to make your perfectly enjoyable speakers sound like someone has wrapped them in four inches of cotton bunting. Presence? Gone! Transients? Who needs ’em! Ambience, Openness, Three-Dimensionality? Uh, will you consider settling for Murk, Bloat and Smear? There’s a Special on them today here at Acoustic Sounds. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alternate Takes

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  • This STUNNING copy boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of our favorite Sonny Rollins records for sound – both sides here are incredibly big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This LP contains alternate versions of selections from two famous Sonny Rollins albums: Way out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. These “new” renditions… hold their own against the classic versions. …the music is hard-swinging and frequently superb.”

The album is made up of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, can sound amazing!

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, and for that they would lose a lot of points. We want this record to sound like something Roy DuNann recorded with an All Tube chain in 1958, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless suffer from.

Some copies have much more space; some are more present, putting the musicians right in the room with you; some are more transparent, resolving the musical information much better than others, letting you “see” everyone in the studio clearly. Some have more rhythmic drive than others. On some the musicians seem more involved and energetic than they do on the average pressing.

The copies that do all these things better than other copies are the ones that win our shootouts.

This is clearly one of the best copies we have ever played. We think you will enjoy it immensely. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus

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  • KILLER sound for this Prestige Gold Label Mono pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • This one has been a long time coming but boy was it worth the wait — full-bodied, Tubey Magical and super dynamic with tight note-like bass, this is by far the best copy we have ever played  
  • About as quiet a vintage copy as we are ever likely to find – this pressing plays Mint Minus Minus, which in our experience is practically a miracle
  • 5 Stars: “Sonny Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest all-around set… Essential music”

(more…)

Sonny Rollins – Taking Care of Business – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a Prestige Demo Two-Fer Double LP.

Big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST. This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like! These transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings. There’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record, and the vinyl plays nice and quiet.

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force. Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

Sonny Rollins – Rollins (2 LPs) – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

[We used to like this record a whole lot more than we do now. Based on what we heard last time we played it, I would not recommend it.]

This Prestige Two-Fer Double LP boasts EXCELLENT SOUND, right up there with some the best sounding copies we’ve played. Three sides out of four sounded surprisingly good, which is three good sides more than the average copy can claim. Oddly enough, the stampers are identical. Sample to sample variation? Fresh off the stamper transparency? Who’s to say? I can’t explain it, but I know a better record when I play one. This copy is clearly more transparent, no pun intended. It’s also been through our extensive cleaning process, which as you can imagine helps the sound immeasurably.  (more…)

Sonny Rollins – What’s New? from 1962

More Sonny Rollins

More What’s New?

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  • Two insanely good sounding sides with each rating a shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++)
  • The sound here is vintage 1962 Living Stereo at its best – big, rich, relaxed, tonally correct and full of Tubey Magic
  • This copy is unusually quiet for a Black Label stereo original – it’s Mint Minus Minus with no audible marks of any kind 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins’ characteristically huge tone, relentless harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness, and fierce solos were consistently impressive. Not only did he state the melody clearly and superbly, but his ideas and pacing were remarkable; no solo rambled and his phrases were lean, thick and furious.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)