Top Engineers – Lee Herschberg

Frank Sinatra – Francis A. Sinatra & Antonio C. Jobim

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Francis A. Sinatra & Antonio C. Jobim

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  • This outstanding original stereo pressing of Sinatra and Jobim’s sublime collaboration earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides and plays about as quietly as any copy ever does  
  • The Tubey Magical space, ambience and richness of the sound here is the only way we know of to bring the Chairman of the Board and his Brazilian buddy into your listening room
  • This is a magical album from start to finish, one of a handful of a Must Own Sinatra releases, and my personal favorite of all his recordings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After a few plays, the album begins to slowly work its way underneath a listener’s skin, and it emerges as one of his most rewarding albums of the ’60s.”

This is, in our opinion, one of the two best sounding Sinatra album on Reprise (the other being September of My Years from 1965). The recording is so rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical you would think it was prime Capitol period Sinatra — but it’s not, obviously, it just sounds that way. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices… – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This quiet Palm Tree Label pressing is one of the best sounding copies of this album we’ve ever played! We had a massive shootout for this fun album recently and this was the big winner, earning an A+++ grade for the first side and a strong A++ for the second. Drop the needle anywhere on side one; you won’t believe how open, clear and dynamic the sound is. It’s also big, present and spacious with unusually high resolution. No other side one we played came close. Black Water sounds KILLER here! 

We sure don’t find too many copies like this that sound correct from start to finish and play quietly, but this one sure knocked us out. The sound is strong down low with the kind of three-dimensional imaging that bring the music of the Doobs to life in your listening room!

These songs sound every bit as good now as they did thirty plus years ago when they came out. Better, because we can clean their records and play them so much better than we could back then. I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day I was a bit of a snob when it came to bands like this. Too mainstream. Too radio-friendly. Now I realize that the best of this kind of pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is good music that belongs in your collection. (more…)

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes – Another MoFi Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s even fatter, muddier and more compressed than the standard domestic copy, as improbable as that may seem. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts in the history of their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Gerry Rafferty (058) and Blondie (050) you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.  

Ry Cooder – Paradise and Lunch

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

This copy does almost everything you could ask for from this music — good energy, tons of richness and clarity and lots of texture to all of the instruments. You’ll feel like you are right in the studio with Ry and his top-notch crew as they kick out these fun, eccentric jams. LEE HERSCHBERG engineered this one as well as a great many others for Ry Cooder.

I can’t think of another Ry Cooder album with such consistently good material. And since Ry and his pals have such interesting and unusual ideas, there’s a lot here for audiophiles to appreciate.

Take for example the version of Burt Bacharach’s song Mexican Divorce. You’ve got timbales in the left channel, a conga in the right channel, a marimba somewhere in the background, and for good measure, a wonderful sounding mandolin takes center stage! (more…)

Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album.

Side One

Very rich and natural with a strong bottom end and real texture up top. The top end is nice and open, with good separation between parts. So good!

Side Two

Easily the best side two we heard in our shootout! You get a bigger soundstage, more energy, a strong bottom end, and right on the money tonality for the brass and guitars. (more…)

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

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  • This superb 2-pack boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout for Arlo Guthrie’s classic debut – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These stereo pressings on the early Two Tone label are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but here they are
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

The Vices of Production

doobiebrosvices

The best of this kind of mainstream radio-friendly pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is fun music that belongs in your collection.

IF…

IF you get hold of a good pressing, and in our experience this mass-produced stuff leaves a lot to be desired most of the time.

Actually that’s not really fair; the specialty audiophile limited edition pressings of most records are even worse sounding, so the production numbers really don’t have much to do with the final product, now do they?
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Ry Cooder – Jazz – Transparency Is Key

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Jazz. 

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds. (more…)

The L.A. Four Going Home – Review

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

This East Wind Japanese Direct-to-Disc LP has AMAZING SOUND. The boys do a fantastic version of Greensleeves here, flawlessing switching idioms from swing to bossa nova to bop. 

AMG Biography

Altoist/flutist Bud Shank and Brazilian acoustic guitarist Laurindo Almeida first teamed up in the 1950s to create music that predated but strongly hinted at bossa nova. In 1974, they reunited to form the L.A. Four with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Chuck Flores. With Shelly Manne and later Jeff Hamilton replacing Flores on drums, the L.A. Four recorded eight albums for Concord through 1982, breaking up shortly afterward. Their mixture of cool-toned bop, Brazilian-oriented music, and ballads was quite attractive.