Top Engineers – Allen Sides

Zoot Sims / “Quietly There” – Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel

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A Top Pablo Recording

  • This KILLER Pablo LP, engineered by the brilliant Allen Sides, has killer sound from start to finish – which is to be expected from this amazing engineer, responsible for recordings like 88 Basie Street
  • The overall impression one gets of this recording is BIG – big stage and full size instruments
  • This is Cinerama sound, wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • The recording is so transparent you can clearly hear the contribution his reed makes to his sound
  • 4 stars: “… Norman Granz’s idea to match Zoot Sims’ lyrical, swinging tenor sax with Johnny Mandel’s equally arresting compositions was a masterful one. Sims’ tart, alternately lush and furious solos were wonderfully spotlighted on such tunes as “Cinnamon and Cloves,” “Emily” and “Zoot.”

This is one of the best Zoot Sims records. He plays beautifully. This melodic, smooth material is what he excels at. His breathy saxophone style will remind you of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. This recording captures that sound perfectly.

The other Must-Own Zoot Sims record is Passion Flower, also on Pablo. If you see one, grab it. Amazing audiophile quality sound.

Note the length of the tunes on this album. The first side has two 7+ minute long explorations and on side two 2 songs clock in at 6 minutes and the ballad Emily at more than 9 minutes. Cinnamon & Cloves is probably my favorite track on the album. Zoot plays samba as well as Stan Getz — he’s just not as famous for it.

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Benny Carter / Meets Oscar Peterson – A Pablo We Liked Back in the Day

We used to like this record back in the day. Have not played it in 15 years so it’s hard to say what we would think of it now. Probably still pretty good, somewhere in the B range.

“Benny Carter had recorded with pianist Oscar Peterson back in the early ’50s for Norman Granz’s Verve label. More than 30 years, later he teamed up with Peterson again, this time for Granz’s Pablo company. There was no sign of decline or disillusionment in either of the co-leaders’ playing; in fact, if anything, they had improved with age. Joined by guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Dave Young and drummer Martin Drew, Carter and Peterson are both in a joyous mood and in typically swinging form on six standards and a blues.” — AMG (more…)

Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

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  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • 4 stars: “Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar… a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie Cleanhead Vinson – Not As Good As We Thought, Sorry!

Hot Stamper Pablo Recordings Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Pablo Recordings

The last time I played this album in preparation for a new shootout, which was some time in early 2020, I was not thrilled with either the sound or the music.

I found the lack of ambience and overall artificiality of the recording not to my liking. In the old days — the review below was probably from the early 2000s — my system was not remotely as good as it is now. I can play the space in a recording much better than I could then, and the lack of natural space now bothers me no end, when before it usually did not.

Live and Learn we say!

Many of Allen Sides‘ recordings suffer from a lack of ambience. The musicians do not seem to have much air around them to breathe. Many audiophile recordings, especially direct to disc recordings from the ’70s, are insufferable in this respect, with too much multi-miking and not enough studio space.

A good example of how some audiophiles with modern high-tech recording equipment but little in the way of experience or understanding end up producing records that are not remotely the equal of those that were commonly made twenty years before is this Bach recording by Virgil Fox for Crystal Clear.

Other records that are good for testing Ambience, Size and Space can be found all over this blog.

Two of the Worst

Of course, some of the most ambience-challenged records available today are on Heavy Vinyl. I could link to a hundred of them, but here are two that should get the point across well enough.

This album on DCC, like much of their dubious output, has very little of the breathing space of the vintage pressings we sell.

And the disgraceful label that released this title can be relied upon to press records that no audiophile with a decent stereo and two working ears should want anything to do with.

Our Old Review

Take the following review from decades ago with a very large grain of salt and don’t pay too much for this album if you see one around.

This is a long out of print Pablo LP with AMAZING sound and music. It’s one of those superb Allan Sides engineered recordings at Ocean Way, like Basie 88 Street. Demo disc quality sound is the result! With players like these, the music is every bit as good as any jazz record I know of. In other words, I really like this album.

George Cables – Cables’ Vision

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • George Cables’ superb 1980 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout 
  • I’ve known about this Allen Sides Oceanway recording for decades – his stuff is smooth, punchy, solid, and alive with energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the most satisfying recordings to be released in 1980… this date features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Ernie Watts in fiery form; the two horn players took time off from their much more commercial efforts for other labels. The solos overall are concise and make expert use of each note. Cables’ tunes are generally catchy and memorable while “Byrdlike” gives the virtuosos an up-tempo blues to romp through. This well-paced set is a gem that is highly recommended.”

This Contemporary pressing has wonderful sound. This should not be too surprising as it was recorded by one of our favorite engineers, Allen Sides, working out of his Oceanway studios. (Supposedly he is a big fan of vintage mics and the like. with many superb and valuable examples.)

On top of that the album was mastered by Bernie Grundman, who was at the time still cutting very good sounding records, this being 1980. Since then he has gone precipitously downhill, as we have noted on the site numerous times.

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