Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing 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. In our opinion neither one 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.

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They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – The Stylings of Silver

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  • With superb Triple Plus (A+++) grades on side two and Double Plus (A++) sound on side one, this is one of the best copies of Silver’s 1957 classic we’ve ever heard
  • The last copy to hit the site went up in 2016 – 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, we love your work (when it sounds like this)
  • “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 I 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, reasonably quiet record from us.

RVG in ’57

The best copies are just bigger, fuller and more present than others. The sound is natural and REAL, with exceptional space and see-through transparency, something that practically no heavy vinyl modern pressing we’ve ever played can reproduce.

Classic Records remastered the album, Music Matters remastered it, and there are plenty of copies of both out there. If you have either one, do yourself a favor and order up this Hot Stamper. We’re pretty sure you will be amazed at how much more musical involvement you will find on it, involvement that will be lacking when you go back to the Heavy Vinyl LP.

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Gabor Szabo – Rambler

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Yet another brilliant pop jazz recording from RVG in 1973 – he was plenty hot in the ’70s too. 

We had this to say about another favorite RVG recording from 1973:

The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.

For those of you who have not been on our site for long, the record we are referring to is Grover Washington Jr.’s All The King’s Horses, one of RVG’s triumphs and a record we have offered Hot Stamper pressings of practically from the start. On big speakers at loud volumes the sound is glorious. (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack

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  • Back at the Chicken Shack makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on this New York label mono pressing
  • Joining Jimmy Smith is one of our favorite bluesy sax players, Stanley Turrentine – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and Burrell is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 5 stars: “Recorded in 1960 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums, and Turrentine, the group reaches the peak of funky soul jazz that all other challengers of the genre would have to live up to.”

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Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce

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  • Tjader’s 1965 Latin Cool Jazz release – dubbed “Mambo Without a Migraine” – arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply bigger, livelier and more palpable than any of the other copies we played
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Soul Sauce features jazz legends Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, and Jimmy Heath
  • 4 stars: “Soul Sauce is one of the highlights from Tjader’s catalog with its appealing mixture of mambo, samba, bolero, and boogaloo styles… he dodged the “Latin lounge” label with an album full of smart arrangements, subtly provocative vibe solos, and intricate percussion backing.”

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Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin’ – Reviewed in 2010

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Verve Stereo LP with RVG Stampers and very good sound. This album has that analog richness, warmth and smoothness that we prize so highly here at Better Records. Jimmy does some pop tunes, some Ellington and more on this one, which has a real funky feel to it, with Jimmy really getting into it and grunting along with the music in places.

This copy (especially on side one) was just plain bigger and richer and tubier, as well as more dynamic than the others we played. (more…)

George Benson – Tell It Like It Is – A&M Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty — pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.

Gene Ammons – Angel Eyes

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  • This original Prestige stereo LP has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end – fairly quiet vinyl for an original pressing
  • Both sides here are doing justice to Rudy Van Gelder’s live-in-the-studio sound – they were bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more space, more energy, more everything that makes a vintage analog pressing the thrill we know it can be
  • For half the album “Ammons is heard in 1962 with pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Ed Thigpen playing with great warmth on the ballads “You Go to My Head” and “It’s the Talk of the Town.” The latter set was one of Ammons’ final ones before serving a long prison sentence (drug-related), yet his interpretations are full of optimism. Recommended.”

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Standard Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound…

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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: how they 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. (more…)

Oliver Nelson and RVG – Mastering Better than the Master?

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The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this pressing will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true.

We tested this very proposition in our recent shootout, as well as in previous ones of course. It is our contention, based on the experience of hearing quite a number of copies over the years, that Rudy did not cut the original record as well as he should have. For those of you who would like to know who did, we proudly offer this copy to make the case.

Three words say it all: Hearing is believing.

(And if you own any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue we would love for you to be able to appreciate all the musical information that you’ve been missing when playing it. I remember the one from the ’90s on Impulse being nothing special, and the Speakers Corner pressing in the 2000s if memory serves was passable at best.) (more…)