Top Engineers – Frank Laico

Tony Bennett – I Left My Heart In San Francisco

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More 5 Star Albums

  • A superb Columbia Black Print “360 Sound” Stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience (maybe too much ambience!), dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1962 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • The title track became a gold-selling Top Ten hit that stayed on the charts for almost three years (!) and earned Bennett two Grammy Awards (Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance)
  • To hear the real Tony Bennett, play “Once Upon a Time” – it’s here and nobody sings it better
  • 5 stars: “…Bennett had been searching for a … musical approach beyond his long-gone pop work…. With this album, [he] found the key, not only by happening across a signature song in the title track, but also in the approach to songs like ‘Once Upon a Time’…and Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s ‘The Best Is Yet to Come,’ which Bennett helped make a standard.”

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Tony Bennett – Frank Laico Knocks Another One Out of the Park

More Recordings by Frank Laico

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Frank Laico

Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios

We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Bill Evans / Symbiosis – One of the Few MPS Pressings with (Potentially) Top Sound

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More Jazz Piano Recordings

  • An outstanding copy of Evans’ wonderful 1974 album accompanied by symphony orchestra with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • We dropped the needle on a copy years ago and heard wonderful audiophile sound right from the get-go
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than most other copies we played
  • We are not big fans of the MPS label — most of their stuff, especially the Oscar Peterson records they made, is not very good — but we sure liked this one
  • “… a special and unique entry in Evans’ huge catalog… Not your “typical” Bill Evans album–but that’s what makes SYMBIOSIS such a fine, gently challenging listen.”
  • If you’re a Bill Evans fan, this 1974 release might be a perfect fit for your collection.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Tony Bennett – I’ve Gotta Be Me

More of the Music of Tony Bennett

More Vintage Columbia Hot Stamper Pressings

  • This vintage Columbia 360 label pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with Double Plus (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Brilliant engineering by Frank Laico, the man who recorded I Left My Heart In San Francisco and Sketches of Spain, among others
  • Tony Bennett was in fine form and still able to sing the hell out of these songs in 1969 – when you hear the quality of his voice on this very album you will perhaps appreciate the toll this century has taken on him
  • Vintage record guys with top quality turntables – like us – get to hear Tony the way he should be heard, with his voice at the peak of its powers

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Bill Evans – The Paris Concert, Edition Two

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  • A superb original pressing with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish and fairly quiet vinyl
  • These sides are doing most everything right – as befits a live concert, there’s an overall unprocessed quality to the sound and superb space around all three players
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[T]his could be considered Bill Evans’ final recording and serves as evidence that, rather than declining, he was showing a renewed vitality and enthusiasm in his last year.”

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Miles Davis / Bitches Brew

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More Jazz Rock Fusion

  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on sides two and four with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides
  • These sides are clean, clear, lively and present with tons of space around all of the players; you can hear right in to the soundfield, and you can be sure that there’s a whole lot going on in there
  • It’s not an easy album to find in clean condition, let alone a copy that sounds like this and plays mostly quietly throughout!
  • If jazz-fusion is your bag, sides two and four of this copy will take you on a trip like few other records could
  • “Thought by many to be the most revolutionary album in jazz history, having virtually created the genre known as jazz-rock fusion (for better or worse) and being the jazz album to most influence rock and funk musicians, Bitches Brew is, by its very nature, mercurial.”” – All Music, 5 Stars

The incredible musicianship and Teo Macero’s innovative production each help take these jazz-fusion soundscapes to places most folks had never imagined before. And a copy like this one takes the entire production to a whole new level. I can’t begin to tell you how many crappy copies have hit our table over the years, but after finding this one I’m really glad we never gave up on this album.

I remember buying this record when I was in college and I had a hell of a time trying to make any sense of it. I also bought the first two Weather Report albums and had a hell of a time with those. But then when Sweetnighter came out, which was angular but still accessible, this kind of music started to make sense to me. This is music for those who want to be challenged. It’s as true today as it was 39 years ago when this record came out.

Our favorite track on this album, Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, is found on the A+++ side four, which means the sound for it is OFF THE CHARTS. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Cycles

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  • A STUNNING copy of Cycles with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • Big, full-bodied and musical, with exceptional presence for the most important element of the recording, Sinatra’s clear, richly expressive bourbon baritone
  • The midrange reproduction is superb – breathy and natural, with dramatically more Tubey Magic than you will hear on any other copy you can find, guaranteed
  • “Cycles was Frank Sinatra’s first full-fledged pop/rock-oriented album, concentrating on a more orchestrated variation on the popular folk-rock of the late ’60s.”

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Frank Sinatra – Trilogy: Past, Present and Future

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More Billy May

More Gordon Jenkins

  • An outstanding copy of Sinatra’s superb 1980 release with solid sound on all SIX sides
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
  • Credit the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico for the excellent sound – this record doesn’t sound like 1980, and that’s a very, very good thing
  • “An audacious, ambitious way to stage a comeback, each of the album’s three records was conceived as an individual work, and each was arranged by one of Sinatra’s major collaborators. . . the best moments are triumphant, proving that the Voice was still vital in his fourth decade of recording.”

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Dave Brubeck / Bossa Nova USA – Who Are We to Talk?

Who knew? Not us and not anybody else it seems. We are not aware that any of the audiophile cognoscenti have ever taken this recording seriously, but that just goes to show how uninformed — or perhaps more likely underinformed — they’ve always been.

Gems such as this sit undiscovered even after thousands of pages of audiophile record reviews have been written. Then, along come a handful of guys in Thousand Oaks, California many years later, 52 to be exact, and reveal to the world a heretofore all but unknown yet nonetheless amazing Brubeck record.

And they back up everything they say with actual records that sound as good as they say they will.

But wait just a minute. We sold an early pressing ourselves back in 2010 for $30 as a “nice sounding” record, nothing more, so who are we to talk?

Which simply goes to show that the decade we spent perfecting the Record Shootout has finally paid off for Bossa Nova U.S.A. Now we can clean them better, play them better, hear them better, and, with a big stack to work with, find one that sounds as good as this one does.

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

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Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

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Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)