Top Engineers – Phil Ramone

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto – Japanese Pressing

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Audiophile Pressing reviewed.

This is a Minty looking Verve Japanese Import LP. It’s not competitive with the best domestic pressings but you could definitely do worse. Trying to find domestic copies that aren’t trashed is virtually impossible, so if you’re a click and pop counter, this copy may be the ticket! Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side 1 has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz.

Side two for me is even more magical. Getz fires up and lets loose some of his most emotionally intense playing. These sad, poetic songs are about feeling more than anything else and Getz communicates that so completely you don’t have to speak Portugese to know what Jobim is saying. Call it cool jazz with feeling.

Billy Joel – The Stranger

More Billy Joel

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  • With solid Double Plus (A++) sound, this pressing of Joel’s 1977 breakthrough album (thanks Phil!) is outstanding from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tonally correct, solid, open, clear, with plenty of hard-rockin’ energy and present vocals, what’s not to like?
  • The Stranger, Only the Good Die Young, Vienna, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, She’s Always A Woman – some of Joel’s strongest songwriting can be found right here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as “Just the Way You Are”; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as “Only the Good Die Young”; and the glossy production of “She’s Always a Woman” disguises its latent misogynist streak… Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.”

We recently completed a shootout for the album and this was one of the better copies we heard. After playing a stack of mediocre Strangers, we are completely confident in saying that you’ll have a very hard time finding a copy that sounds this good.

The Stranger is chock full of some of Joel’s biggest hits, including Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young and She’s Always A Woman. AMG raves about this one (4 1/2 stars) and it’s easy to see why — this is the kind of pop music that still sounds fresh 40 years (!) after it was recorded and might just be good for another forty years. (more…)

Chicago – Chicago VI

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  • An outstanding copy of Chicago VI, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key and these sides have the horns sounding clear and really jumping out of the speakers
  • VI was propelled to the top of the charts for five full weeks by two of the band’s best tracks: “Just You ‘n’ Me” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”
  • 4 stars: “Chicago VI is an undeniably strong effort – supported at the time by its chart-topping status…”

The background vocals on these sides are breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith – Blue Bash!

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish
  • With richness, clarity, space and timbral accuracy, this is guaranteed to be one of the best sounding bluesy jazz records you’ve heard in a while
  • Val Valentin, Phil Ramone and Rudy Van Gelder engineered, and the results are every bit as good as you would expect from these pros, assuming you have a vintage stereo copy that sounds like this one
  • 5 stars: “Kenny Burrell’s smooth, tasteful guitar greatness and Jimmy Smith’s intense, fire breathing approach on the Hammond B-3 had been complementing in sheer harmony between each other since the two jazz masters first recorded together in 1957, until they decided to record this superb duet album in July of 1963.”

(more…)

Burt Bacharach – Make It Easy On Yourself

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  • Two great sounding Double Plus (A++) sides – big, tubey, balanced and above all, natural, on quiet vinyl too
  • With engineering by the legendary Phil Ramone, this is an exceptionally well-recorded album, as this pressing makes clear
  • The brass is great on both sides, rich and full with the right amount of bite, not to mention lively and DYNAMIC
  • “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” are great songs that solidify Bacharach as a master of quirk.” – Allmusic

If you’re a fan of the Casino Royale soundtrack, you should definitely check out this crazy album. The best material on here is loads of fun, and when you get a great copy like this one the sound is WONDERFUL. The brass sounds lively on both sides of this copy, rich and full with the right amount of bite. The overall sound is surprisingly DYNAMIC!

This pressing is Tubey Magical — what A&M pressing from 1970 wouldn’t be? — but also highly resolving of subtle musical information, the kind you notice when you play a pile of copies one after another. Listen to the orchestra on Do You Know The Way To San Jose — you can really hear the sound of the rosiny bows being pulled across the strings. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

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The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra sounds right for once. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

More Astrud Gilberto

If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, this album is probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male and Female Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. (Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you want a good place to start.)

Like any processing of the sound in the studio — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and ruin everything. For our part we think Astrud Gilberto’s recordings use reverb more or less tastefully. And of course there sure aren’t going to be any versions of this music coming along any time soon without the added echo. Getting the reverb to sound right is one of the things a good Hot Stamper has to do on a record like this. (more…)

Chicago – Chicago VI – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

The background vocals on these sides are super-breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Reach Out

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard on Reach Out
  • This copy was super full-bodied and dynamic with real weight down low, nice bite to the brass, tons of energy and a lot of Tubey Magic. 
  • Tons of hits – The Look Of Love, Message To Michael, Alfie, What The World Needs Now, I Say A Little Prayer and more
  • Engineering by Phil Ramone (Casino Royale) and Henry Lewy (Sergio Mendes, Joni Mitchell) each doing their own tracks – compare and contrast for yourself
  • “[Reach Out] present[s] Bacharach’s vision of his work at its most straightforward, and it is enjoyable on its own terms, as a snapshot of his own sensibilities at that time.”

We were surprised at how lively and dynamic the best pressings of Reach Out can be. (more…)

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Stan Getz

More Getz-Gilberto

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

We have been trying to find great sound (on reasonable surfaces) for this album for YEARS — I kid you not — but this 2-pack is the first Hot Stamper version to ever hit the site. We have fired up this shootout multiple times since 2006 and been left empty-handed each and every time until the last go-around. We have sunk an insane amount of dough into trying to get a few killer copies because we love the music so much, but we just haven’t had much to show for it. If you love this Brazilian-flavored cool jazz as much as we do, you might want to snap this one up because who knows when or if we’ll find another one.

Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side one has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz. (more…)

Stan Getz Jazz Samba Encore

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More Jazz Samba Encore

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

Yet another wonderful Getz Samba record, the third in the series. Some of our faourite music has this Samba syncopation: Sergio Mendes, first and foremost of course, but also Airto, and all the wonderful Getz albums from this period. Their enchanting Brazilian rhythms make their music fun. 

Thanks go to all the engineers involved in this recording:

VAL VALENTIN

BOB SIMPSON

PHIL RAMONE

RAY HALL (more…)