Top Engineers – Ray Fowler

Bill Evans – Conception

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  • This wonderful Milestone Two-Fer from 1981 boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on the other three – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • 4 stars: “Even in 1956, Evans had his own chord voicings and a lyrical yet swinging style… A strong start to a significant career.”
  • “In addition, there is a full album of previously unreleased music: an alternate take of ‘No Cover, No Minimum,’ an unaccompanied version of ‘Some Other Time’ from 1958 and four solo pieces that Evans cut in 1962, his first recordings after the tragic death of his bassist Scott LaFaro.”
  • If you’re a Bill Evans fan, this All Tube Recording released in 1957 should make a welcome addition to your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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Sonny Red – Images

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  • A STUNNING copy of Sonny Red’s 1962 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick, thanks to the superb engineering skills of Ray Fowler

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Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate

This is a nice Early Riverside stereo pressing (not as pictured) with excellent sound! It’s also a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played this record, I can see hear how they did it.

First of all, the guitar and the drums are tonally right on the money. Mobile Fidelity of course brightened up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and a phony sounding drum kit, with tizzy cymbals. (The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one.)   

The other reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect.

Mobile Fidelity rarely understood what an acoustic guitar was supposed to sound like. They blew it on all the Cat Stevens masterpieces, brightening up the guitar which emphasized the “picking” at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record. For audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars.

Riverside cut this record, and they knew how to cut it right.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Helpful Advice on Cleaning Your Records

Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

What We’ve Learned from Record Experiments

Thelonious Monk – Misterioso

  • Monk’s live 1958 release makes its Hot Stamper debut, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness – just the right sound for this masterful quartet
  • Recorded live at the Five Spot Cafe in New York City, the energy here is palpable – according to Orrin Keepnews, Monk “played more distinctly here than on his studio albums in response to the audience’s enthusiasm during the performance”
  • 5 stars: “[The quartet’s] overwhelming and instinctual capacities directly contribute to the powerful swingin’ and cohesive sound they could continually reinvent.”

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Red Garland Trio – Bright And Breezy

More Red Garland

If you have full-range speakers some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – The Alternative Wes Montgomery

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

This Milestone Two-Fer LP with EXCELLENT sound has 14 unreleased alternate versions of songs recorded in a variety of settings by guitarist Wes Montgomery during his period with Riverside. In many cases, the versions here are dramatically different from the versions that appear on his original albums. 

Producer Orrin Keepnews, who assembled this collection, notes, “With an artist who insisted on several takes, and the obvious need to eventually pick only one for release, we had to make some rather arbitrary, borderline decisions that at the time seemed to have doomed some excellent music to oblivion.”

This set helps to rescue some of that excellent music. The tracks feature Montgomery playing with notable musicians such as include Milt Jackson, Wynton Kelly, Kenny Burrell, Philly Joe Jones and Victor Feldman.

On compilations of unreleased material such as this, the master tapes are used to make the record. There’s no need for a copy tape to have ever been made.

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