Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off – A Cisco Record We Like

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Sonic Grade: B-

The sound is very good, with correct tonal balance and plenty of life. I was WAY TOO HARD on this album when it first came in. It’s playing right now and really swinging!

I just learned the secret to getting this one to sound right, and I am happy to share it with you. TURN IT UP!. When you get some volume going, the musicians really come to life on this album. It may sound crazy, but you need to play this one as loud as you would play your average rock record.

Billy Higgins whacks the hell out of his snare on the second track on side one. He really goes to town on that thing. Imagine you are sitting twenty feet from him in a jazz club; it would be plenty loud, right? Now find the equivalent volume setting on your preamp, drop the needle and get ready to FEEL the music, the way you would feel it if you were in that club. 

Robert Pincus and Kevin Gray did a great job on this one. I put it right up there with the very best jazz records on Heavy Vinyl being made today. The first track is a tiny bit lean for my taste, but things get better after that.

Of course, how many copies do you really see of an album like this that aren’t beat to death, or minty but hundreds of dollars? Mighty few in our experience, so this has to be seen as a welcome addition to any audiophile’s jazz collection.

 

 

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Not So Special on Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. Neither one in our opinion is worth pursuing.

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — too giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning. (more…)

At Ease With Coleman Hawkins from 1960 – Another Triumph for Rudy Van Gelder

MORE RECORDINGS BY RUDY VAN GELDER

MORE RECORDINGS FROM 1960

 

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This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder. The best pressings of these OJC reissues from 1989 sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.

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But, having critically auditioned literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few years, we’re pretty confidant we know what they are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of this very pressing.

What to Listen For (WTLF) (more…)

Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley – A Certain Sadness…

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley – A Certain Sadness…

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

LOVELY SOUND AND EXCELLENT MUSIC on this unusually quiet, exceptionally good sounding Verve T-Label LP. We compiled enough of these to do a shootout and this was one of the better copies, earning A++ grades for both sides. It’s full of energy with big time immediacy and wonderfully breathy female vocals. The organ sounds gorgeous!

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This is a very enjoyable album but the typical copy may leave you a bit cold. The vocals tend to be drenched in reverb and it takes an exceptionally lively copy to help the vocals break free. This one has all the warmth, all the transparency and all the top end extension you need to let these sweet, simple songs work their magic.

I Just Dropped By To Say Hello – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

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Folks, the later Stereo Impulse pressing of this classic Hartman album we dropped the needle on  recently was so Tubey Magical, RICH yet CLEAR, and above all shockingly natural, it would be hard to imagine a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that could hold a candle to it (outside of the Coltrane-Hartman record from the year before of course).

The Bennett-Evans record we love so much here at Better Records would qualify as a contender, but that album was recorded in 1975. And it doesn’t have half the Tubey Magic this Hartman album from 1963 does.

RVG Knocks Another One Out of the Park

Our hats are off to Rudy Van Gelder once again! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. If only more of them did …

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Kenny Burrell – God Bless The Child

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Kenny Burrell – God Bless The Child

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

This is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others off the top of my head would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

On a killer copy like this the sound is out of this world. Rich and full, open and transparent, this one defeated all comers in our shootout, taking the Top Prize for sound and earning all Three Pluses. (more…)

Rudy Van Gelder Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

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RUDY VAN GELDER is one of our favorite recording and mastering engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Rudy Van Gelder engineered albums, along with plenty of our famous commentary.

The really good RVG pressings (often on the later labels) sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located on a wide and often deep soundstage, surrounded by the natural space and cool air of his New Jersey studio. As our stereo has improved, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has come to impress us more and more.
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The Search for Lush Life – We Broke Through in 2016

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We’ve 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 months ago.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 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. (more…)

Some Amazing Jazz Piano Recordings Currently on the Site

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Triple Plus on side one, Double Plus on side two, this is the best copy of Silver’s 1957 classic we’ve ever heard

The last copy to hit the site went up in 2006 – clean Horace Silver records in stereo with the right stampers and good sound are hard to find!

Rich and solid, this is the kind of sound that makes us sit up and take notice – Thanks RVG!

“All of Silver’s Blue Note quintet recordings are consistently superb and swinging…”

I chanced upon a clean copy of this album in a store last year. When I got home with it I found I loved the music and loved the sound. I then went about buying them up as fast as I could, returning something on the order of half the copies I was sent: some for scratches, some for the wrong labels, some for being mono — you never know what you’re going to get when you order records online! (Except from us of course. Unless something goes terribly wrong you will always get a good sounding record from us.) (more…)

Somethin’ Else – Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz

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COMMENTS TAKEN FROM A RECENT HOT STAMPER SHOOTOUT

The music here is amazing — as I’m sure most of you know, this is as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball himself — but the good news for audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of! When you hear it on a copy like this, it’s just about As Good As It Gets.

Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz

After doing this shootout in 2015 I would like to amend the above remarks for being much too conservative. The current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:

One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.

Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.

Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played). (more…)