Top Artists – Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins – Taking Care Of Business (Work Time, Tenor Madness and Tour de Force)

More Sonny Rollins

  • The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder
  • This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct
  • The 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
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”

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.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound. David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of tubes, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting systems that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressing around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with this killer copy.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Good Digital Beats Bad Analog Any Day

The Music of Sonny Rollins Available Now

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 believe me, I’ve heard plenty

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.

CD 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. Buy the CD and whatever you do, don’t waste money on this kind of crap vinyl.

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 at Acoustic Sounds.

And yet no one seems to have noticed, except us of course.

Inspected By… Nobody?

Ask yourself this question. How did this record get approved? Did no one ever play it? Hoffman and Gray let their names be put on this piece of crap? Kassem I can understand; he’s been making bad records for more than twenty years and wouldn’t know a good record if it bit him in the butt. But this is really beyond the pale. It doesn’t even pass the laugh test. I honestly don’t think I have a CD that sounds this bad, and I have hundreds of them. (I play them in the car.)

We don’t feel it’s incumbent upon us to defend the sound of these pressings. We think for the most part they are awful and we want nothing to do with them.

But don’t those who DO think these remastered pressings sound good — the audiophile reviewers and the forum posters specifically — have at least some obligation to point out to the rest of the audiophile community that at least one of them is spectacularly bad, as is surely the case here.

Is it herd mentality? Is it that they don’t want to rock the boat? They can’t say something bad about even one of these Heavy Vinyl pressings because that might reflect badly on all of them?

I’m starting to feel like Mr. Jones: Something’s going on, but I don’t know what it is. Dear reader, this is the audiophile world we live in today. If you expect anyone to tell you the truth about the current crop of remastered vinyl, you are in for some real disappointment.

We don’t have the time to critique what’s out there, and it seems that the reviewers and forum posters lack the — what? desire, courage, or maybe just the basic critical listening skills — to do it properly.

Which means that in the world of Heavy Vinyl, it’s every man for himself.

And a very different world from the world of Old Vinyl, the kind we offer. In our world we are behind you all the way. Your satisfaction is guaranteed or you get your money back.

Now which world would you rather live in?

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Sonny Rollins – Alternate Takes

  • 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!

All Tube in ’58

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.

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Sonny Rollins – David Turner Was Taking Care Of Business in 1978

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

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

The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder

This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct

The 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

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.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound.

David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of Tubey Magic, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting chains that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressings around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with best copies.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

Sonny Rollins and The Original Jazz Classics Series – Not a Good Match!

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

Pictured is OJC 029, one of the earliest Sonny Rollins titles they picked to remaster.

Too bad they didn’t do a very good job with it.

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to ever be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best. (more…)

Thelonious Monk / Brilliant Corners

More Thelonious Monk

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • An outstanding copy of Brilliant Corners, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied and present yet still clear and spacious – we guarantee this copy sounds better than any pressing you’ve heard, and should beat the pricey originals hands down
  • With masterful horn playing from Sonny Rollins and Clark Terry, and a rhythm section that can actually keep up with Monk – made up of Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers – this is a Must Own for any music loving audiophile
  • 5 stars: “Brilliant Corners may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it.”
  • If you’re a fan of Mr. Monk, this All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • 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. Brilliant Corners is a good example of a record most audiophiles probably don’t know well but should.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1957 All Tube Analog recording can be, this superb copy should be just the record for you. Talk about Tubey Magic! The liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. 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.

No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

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Sonny Rollins / Alfie – Rollins and Nelson Are Hard to Beat in ’66

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

More Music and Arrangements by Oliver Nelson

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson (+11) as it is for Sonny Rollins. 

This album is on the TAS Superdisc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album 25 years ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! You will have a hard time finding a better Sonny Rollins record, sonically or musically. It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

Great players of course. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously.

For audiophiles who are looking for one of the best sounding jazz recordings ever made, this is it. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Our Man In Jazz

More Sonny Rollins

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • An original Black Label Living Stereo copy, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from the first note
  • A superb 1963 Living Stereo recording with tons of Tubey Magic, one of Sonny’s best
  • We’ve played quite a number of Our Man in “X” RCA titles, and I don’t think we have ever heard a bad one
  • It’s the exceptionally rare copy that sounds as good as this one does – let’s find it a good home!
  • Recorded live in 1962 at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village, NY and featuring Bob Cranshaw, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins

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Sonny Rollins / Saxophone Colossus – Try the DCC CD

The Music of Sonny Rollins Available Now

Our last White Hot Stamper Gold Label Mono pressing went for big bucks, 900 of them in fact.

Of course, a clean original goes for many times that, which is one reason you have never seen such a record on our site.

How much would we have to charge for a Hot Stamper pressing of an album we paid many thousands of dollars for? Far more than our customers would be willing to pay us, that’s for sure.

You Say You Don’t Have Nine Hundred Bucks for This Album?

Try the DCC pressing from 1995.

The DCC Heavy Vinyl pressing is probably a nice record. I haven’t played it in many years, but I remember liking it back in the day.

It’s dramatically better than the ’80s OJC, which, like many OJC pressings, is thin, hard, tizzy up top and devoid of Tubey Magic. (We have many reviews of OJC pressings on this very blog for those who are interested.)

I would be surprised if the DCC Gold CD isn’t even better than their vinyl pressing.

They usually are.

Steve Hoffmann brilliantly mastered many classic albums for DCC. I like DCC’s CDs much better than their records.

Their records did not have to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-rez, modern transistor cutting system, a subject we discussed in some depth here.

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Sonny Rollins / Tenor Madness – On the Often Wonderful Prestige Trident Blue Label

  • This KILLER Prestige not-very-stereo pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to its on both sides
  • Like many other Prestige “stereo” reissues, if there is any left-right information, you would never know it without checking it on a pair of headphones
  • In other words, this ’50s mono recording has been mastered in the ’60s to sound like it’s supposed to sound – there’s absolutely nothing artificial or modern here, which makes this a very special pressing indeed
  • Again and again the notes read “solid, big and rich,” and that’s the kind of sound fifty year old records give you, in spades
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny’s, this is a Top Title from 1956. The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)