Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

Stanley Turrentine with Milt Jackson – Cherry

More Stanley Turrentine

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This original CTI pressing was doing practically everything right, with both sides earning KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Rudy Van Gelder really knocked this one out of the park – the sound here is solid, punchy and present, just the way we like it
  • You will have a very hard time finding a better sounding funky Soul Jazz album than this copy of Cherry
  • “Stanley Turrentine’s husky tenor is a perfect match for Milt Jackson’s soulful vibes, and when Bob James’ masterful work on the Fender Rhodes is thrown into the mix we get a heady blend of soul-jazz, hard bop and the burgeoning funk-jazz sound all wrapped into one cohesive and very enjoyable record.” – The Jazz


Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

More Freddie Hubbard

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

  • This early CTI pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Full-bodied, warm and natural with plenty of space around all of the players, this is the sound of vintage analog – accept no substitutes
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelder‘s recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, alive in that way that modern pressings never are
  • 5 stars: “Recorded between trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s better-known classics Red Clay and First Light, Straight Life is actually arguably Hubbard’s greatest recording.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG

Straight Life is a great album for anyone who wants to hear some well recorded, seriously adventurous jazz. We freely admit that side one is fairly ‘out there,’ but side two balances it out with much more accessible, melodic material. A wonderfully sensitive and emotional version of “Here’s That Rainy Day” closes out the side with George Benson proving to be an especially sympathetic accompanist on guitar.


John Coltrane – The Stardust Session

  • A stunning copy of this Coltrane double album – recorded in one day! – with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on all FOUR sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet, it’s a remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Jazz with the benefits brought about by lower-distortion, wider-bandwidth cutting equipment in the ’70s
  • Superb sound quality courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder‘s engineering (1958/1963) and the superior mastering of David Turner (1972)
  • 4 Stars: “…Coltrane is heard near the end of his ‘sheets of sound’ period, perfecting his distinctive style and taking colorful and aggressive solos.”

These records take their material from three John Coltrane albums: “Bahia,” “Stardust” and “Standard Coltrane.” We would be surprised if the originals of any of them can beat the sound of this reissue.

Note that the complete Standard Coltrane can be found on these four sides, along with a substantial portion of the other two Coltrane albums listed above.


Robert Brook Shoots Out One Flight Up

We have never heard the Tone Poets pressing that Robert played against his Van Gelder cutting he discusses in the commentary below. We have one in stock and are just waiting to do the shootout for the album so that we can compare it to the better pressings we know we will find. You may have read that we were knocked out by a killer copy way back in 2007. We expect to be no less knocked out in 2023.

Robert concludes with his take on the strengths and weaknesses of the two pressings. Here is a small excerpt you may find of interest:

Overall, the Tone Poet is closed, distant and frankly boring to listen to. Where is the energy of the music? Where is the presence of these musicians? Where is the studio space?

He goes on in much more detail, but this is exactly the kind of sound we hear on one Heavy Vinyl pressing after another. For some reason, none of these shortcomings appear to bother the fans of the label. I get why this guy is missing the boat: he actually thinks a system with five inch woofers can play jazz. What excuses do these other people have? [1]

The complete review can be found below. If you are considering following the crowd and buying some of this label’s albums, you might want to take it slow. (Those of you with five inch woofers can charge right ahead. The sonic problems with the Tone Poets releases Robert Brook describes would barely be audible on such a system, so get while the gettin’s good. Just make sure you are never tempted to upgrade to big speakers. You could find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing a new record collection to go along with them. Unlike Tone Poets releases, good records ain’t cheap.)

Dexter Gordon’s ONE FLIGHT UP: One of the Better TONE POETS?

[1] This is rhetorical question. These other folks have no excuses. They have exactly the sound quality they have earned by deploying the two most important audio resources they have at their disposal: time and money.

If they have failed to put in enough of either one or both, they have only themselves to blame for allowing themselves to be fooled by the chalatans currently marketing one meretricious [2] Heavy Vinyl pressing after another.

If they choosee to remedy this sad state of affairs, we are more than happy to guide them in the new and exciting direction we’ve pioneered over the course of the last twenty years or so. The advice we give in the commentary below would be a good place to start:

For another 60+ pieces of record collecting advice, more than enough to keep anyone busy for months, perhaps years, please click here.

[2] To save you the trouble of looking it up, Merrian-Webster defines meretricious as apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity. Used to suggest pretense, insincerity, and cheap or tawdry ornamentation.

For a deeply meretricious release of recent vintage (OBI strip!, custom booklet!, premium heavy vinyl!, fold-open cover!), see The Cars on Rhino. The only thing left out of the package was a good sounding LP.

Further Reading


Lee Morgan – Cornbread

More Lee Morgan

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

  • The Hot Stamper debut of Lee Morgan’s 1967 release, here with killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides of this early Blue Note reissue pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelder‘s recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, alive in that way that modern pressings never are
  • Speaking of modern pressings, we have the Tone Poets LP in stock and will be reporting on its sound soon, and if it’s any good — doubtful, but you never know — we will tell you exactly what’s right and wrong with it
  • Robert Brook tangled with the Tone Poets, as well as their apologists — read the comments section — and filed this report about his experience
  • Even though we’ve never played one of their records, one thing we know for sure is that some systems are not capable of properly reproducing RVG’s (or anybody else’s) recordings, a subject we discuss in some detail here
  • 5 stars: “[Morgan] performs with a perfectly complementary group of open-minded and talented hard bop stylists (altoist Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley on tenor, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Larry Ridley, and drummer Billy Higgins) and creates a Blue Note classic that is heartily recommended.”

This vintage Blue Note pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.


Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch

More Eric Dolphy

More Blue Note Records

  • Out To Lunch is finally back on the site after a four year hiatus, here with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this early pressing
  • Dolphy’s debut for Blue Note is an absolute knockout musically, and the quality of the sound on this pressing was everything we could have ever hoped for
  • Both of these sides are amazingly transparent, with stunning immediacy and exceptional clarity – thanks, RVG!
  • Bobby Hutcherson murders on the vibes on this album – hearing his stellar, groundbreaking work played back on a Top Shelf Hot Stamper copy through a high-end stereo is nothing less than a thrill
  • Turn this one up good and loud and revel in the glory that is Out To Lunch, the man’s Masterpiece, and a Must Own Jazz Album from 1964
  • 5 stars: “Dolphy’s magnum opus, an absolute pinnacle of avant-garde jazz in any form or era.”

Folks, Out To Lunch is one of the ultimate Blue Note titles for both music and stereo sound, and I don’t think you could find another pressing of the album that sounds this good no matter how many you played, realistically speaking of course.

Thankfully for us audiophiles, the sound on the better pressings can be stunning. The trick, of course, is finding those copies. For the lucky customer who snaps this bad boy up, I am positive this White Hot Stamper will prove well worth the wait.

I wish I could tell you to look forward to more great copies like this in the future, but I’m not sure we’d be able to back that up. Clean copies of Out To Lunch are extremely scarce nowadays, and it’s going to take us ages to build up a big enough stack of ’em to get this shootout going again.


John Coltrane – Soultrane Sucks on OJC

More of the Music of John Coltrane

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

The early OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad, but — I’m guessing, never played one so don’t hold me to it — in the opposite way.

The OJC is thin and bright, and the modern reissue (I’m assuming, based on playing scores of them) is probably thick, veiled, overly smooth, lacking in space and boosted in the bass — because that’s the sound that audiophiles record buyers seem to like these days.

Without the excellent sounding ’60s and ’70s reissues that we are still able to find in audiophile playing condition, all that we would have available to us with which to do our shootouts would be the originals.

At the big bucks those records go for nowadays, shootouts would simply be impossibly expensive.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job on these later pressings!

And brickbats to George Horn, who seems to be the guy who cut the original OJC pressings. We like a lot of his work, but in this case he sure let us down.

Forgiveness Held Us Back

Our old system from the 80s and 90s was tubier, tonally darker and dramatically less revealing, which strongly worked to the advantage of leaner, brighter, less Tubey Magical titles such as this one. Pretty much everybody I knew had a system that suffered from those same afflictions.

Like most audiophiles, I thought my stereo sounded great.

And the reality is that no matter how hard I worked or how much money I spent, I would never have been able to achieve the dramatically better sound I now enjoy for one simple reason: most of the critically important revolutions in audio had not yet come to pass. It would take many technological improvements and decades of effort until I would have anything like the system I do now.


Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large enough sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their lack of rigor, among other things, when comparing pressings.

Those who fail to approach the problem of finding top quality pressings with an utter lacks of seriousness can be found on every audiophile forum there is. The youtubers are the worst, but are the self-identified aristocrats of audio any better? I see no evidence to support the proposition.

The methods that all of these folks use do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them, they will never have to worry about coming to grips with that inconvenient truth.

Reviews R Us

We’ve easily played more than a hundred OJC pressings, and here are reviews for some of the ones we’ve auditioned to date:

To be fair, we may have only had one copy of some of the OJC pressings we reviewed. Perhaps another copy would have sounded better, but we are so familiar with the sonic shortcomings of this series that one bad sounding copy was all we cared to bother with.

It would be hard to justify the time and expense of chasing after records that are unlikely to be much better than the copy we already know to have bad sound. That’s just the reality of the record business. There are so many good records that need auditioning, why bother with the second- and third-rate ones? (We’ve actually played less than 1% of all the newer Heavy Vinyl reissues for the same reason.)

Here are some other records with the same problems as this OJC that you may consider prudent to avoid, including many on premium-priced Heavy Vinyl. At least Fantasy had an excuse for making records that don’t sound good: they were cheap.

If you wasted $65 on a crappy sounding pressing of Stand Up, what else would you feel other than ripped off? Sadly, Analogue Productions does not offer refunds.

Sonny Rollins / Tenor Madness – On the Prestige Trident Blue Label

  • This KILLER Prestige “not-very-stereo” pressing has super sound on both sides
  • Like many other Prestige “stereo” reissues, if there is any left-right information, you would never know it without checking for it with a pair of headphones
  • In other words, this ’50s mono recording has been mastered in the ’60s to sound like it’s supposed to sound – there’s absolutely nothing artificial or modern here, which makes this a very special pressing indeed
  • Again and again the notes read “solid, big and rich,” and that’s the kind of sound fifty year old records give you, in spades
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny’s, this is a Top Title from 1956.


Sonny Rollins / Saxophone Colossus and More – We Was Wrong in 2010

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sonny Rollins’ Albums Available Now

In 2010 we thought this two-fer had very good sound for the music contained therein. Here is what we had to say all those years ago:

This Prestige Two-Fer Double LP has FOUR GREAT SIDES with each rating an A+ or better. The stand out sides here are two and four, both rating an A++. Both sides are EXCELLENT and very lively with lots of energy and presence. Side one rates an A+ has a wonderfully extended top end and side three rates an A+ – A++ with clean and clear sound and huge breathy horns.

The album is a compilation of three major sessions from 1956, all with both Sonny Rollins and Max Roach.

“Saxophone Colossus, the album that really made the jazz public fully aware of the majestic talents of Sonny Rollins, is combined here with seven other great performances from the same highly creative period in the long career of this major artist.”

Well, it turns out that in 2010 we had a lot to learn.

We were about to do a shootout for Saxophone Colossus about five years ago, and we decided to pull out some of the two-fer pressings we had sitting in the backroom to see how they would hold up against the early pressings we liked, which you can read about here.

It did not go well. The album sounded like a cheap reissue, which of course it is, but many cheap reissues sound great, so we never hold the price of the record against it when deciding whether or not it is worth cleaning and auditioning. There are scores of budget jazz reissues from the 70s and 80s that sound great, some of them two-fer pressings.

Just not this one. It’s passable at best, and a very far cry from what the best pressings can sound like.


Stanley Turrentine – Rough ‘N Tumble

  • Boasting INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last, we guarantee you’ve never heard this kind of life and energy on any other Stanley Turrentine album – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • It’s rare for us to find New York label stereo pressings in audiophile playing condition, but here’s a killer one, and it simply takes the recording (and the music) to another level
  • This session boasts all the top players: Blue Mitchell, Pepper Adams, McCoy Tyner, Grant Green, Bob Cranshaw, and Mickey Roker and more
  • “…the star of the show is Turrentine, and his warmth and playing make this a necessity, especially for fans ’60s pre-funk Blue Note jazz.”
  • If you’re a fan of Stanley’s, this title from 1966 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding

This vintage Blue Note stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.