Top Engineers – Ted Keep

Julie London – Julie (in Stereo)

  • This STUNNING vintage Liberty stereo pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a Julie London album too (don’t get me started)
  • In-the-room presence, preternaturally breathy vocals, and boatloads of wonderful Tubey Magic
  • This amazing sleeper of a record belongs right up at the top of Ms. London’s oeuvre (25 albums strong) along with Julie Is Her Name – high praise indeed
  • 4 stars: “Usually put into a torch song setting, this release allows London to shed that garment and become jazzy. Instead of being sultry, she becomes dazzling and sparkling. She also becomes more adept at phrasing and timing and takes a risk or two in the tradition of a jazz singer.”
  • If you’re a fan of Julie’s, this is a Top Title from 1957 that we think belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The great Jimmy Rowles plays piano, handled the arrangements and fronts the big group here, taking the music in a wonderfully jazzy direction that suits Julie’s vocal style perfectly. (more…)

Julie London / Julie Is Her Name, Volume 2 – Notes from Our First Shootout

More Julie London

More Recordings Engineered by Ted Keep

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts.

Some copies — or, to be more precise, some sides of some copies –can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one.

The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound!

As good as the best copies of that album are, this record — like the first volume, the 1955 mono recording — takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level.

The notes I took during this shootout lay out just how impressed I was with the sound of this remarkable copy:

  • Wide stereo.
  • Big Bass.
  • Swingin’.
  • Just the right amount of reverb.
  • Tonal perfection.
  • The stereo kills the mono (on this album, on the copies we played anyway).

Condition Is Always a Problem

Some of the copies we will be putting up may well have marks that play for a short while on a track or two (not this one of course), as finding copies that don’t have one flaw or another is difficult when the record is 57 years old, especially considering that the album was also extremely popular in its day. Few have survived in as nice a shape as this one. If some light crackle in the background is not going to cut it for you, it’s unlikely that we will be able to supply you with Hot Stamper sound for a copy of Julie Is Her Name, Volume II.

And we would never point you to the awful Boxstar 45 RPM pressing of volume 1 cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say we actually sold some, but in my defense I can honestly say we never had a single nice thing to say about it.

We found the Tubey Magic on his pressing to be non-existent, as non-existent as it is on practically (there are a few exceptions!) every Classic Records release he cut. If you have his version you are in for quite a treat when you finally get this one home and on your table. There is a world of difference between the sound of the two versions and we would be very surprised if it takes you more than ten seconds to hear it.

Forgotten Sound

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Liberty pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less.

Bud & Travis – …In Concert

More Folk Revival Music

This original Liberty Black and Rainbow Label LP has exceptionally quiet vinyl and very good sound.

About fifteen years ago, I played side one and thoroughly enjoyed it. These guys are very entertaining, especially their between song banter. What was surprising was how dynamic the vocals are on this recording. You would never hear a studio recording with these kinds of dynamics, I can tell you that.

Why does this 1960 recording of live folk music sound so good?

Well, Liberty was a label that tended to produce very good sounding records. We’ve played scores of them, and we did some shootouts for the ones that had music that could justify our high prices the high cost of doing all the time and effort required to find the best sounding copies.

But the most obvious reason this record has such good sound is that Ted Keep recorded it.

You don’t have to, but if you want this kind of sound quality, it pays to go back to the All Tube Recording and Mastering chains of the late ’50s and early ’60s. That is where you are most likely to find it.

If you’re a fan of live folk music, this album from 1960 surely belongs in your collection.

The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

Julie London – About The Blues

More Julie London

  • About The Blues with KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last; we rarely have this title on the site 
  • Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original Mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout
  • 4 stars: “About the Blues … may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths…”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.   (more…)

Julie London – Julie (in Mono)

More Julie London

More Recordings Engineered by Ted Keep

  • This outstanding vintage Liberty MONO pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • In-the-room presence, preternaturally breathy vocals, and boatloads of wonderful Tubey Magic
  • This amazing sleeper of a record belongs right up at the top of Ms. London’s oeuvre (25 albums strong) along with Julie Is Her Name – high praise indeed
  • 4 stars: “Usually put into a torch song setting, this release allows London to shed that garment and become jazzy. Instead of being sultry, she becomes dazzling and sparkling. She also becomes more adept at phrasing and timing and takes a risk or two in the tradition of a jazz singer.”

The great Jimmy Rowles plays piano, handled the arrangements and fronts the big group here, taking the music in a wonderfully jazzy direction that suits Julie’s vocal style perfectly.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Julie London singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now more than 63 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

Julie London in 1957 – Make Love To Me

More Julie London

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • One of the best copies from our most recent shootout with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Julie is in the room with you – her voice is intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard 
  • Unusually clean surfaces, playing Mint Minus Minus (w/ caveats, see below), a step up from most of the copies we’ve been running into lately
  • “Her subtle sensuality and lightly swinging style made for a potent combination.” – All Music

Thanks to superb engineering and vintage All Tube mastering, this 1957 LP is wonderfully rich and sweet, with a breathy, intimate Julie London performing live in your listening room.

This original Liberty Turquoise Mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Volume 2

More Julie London

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • The superb follow-up to Julie’s stunning debut finally arrives on the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • No marks are audible, and the vinyl is about as quiet as any Black Label Liberty stereo pressing we’ve ever played, which makes this a very special copy indeed
  • On a copy this good, London will appear as a living, breathing (albeit disembodied) person right in your very own listening room. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • Every three to five years or so we run into a copy that plays this quietly and sounds this good – the last one was in 2018, so if you have a few years to wait, you can be sure there will be another coming down the pike
  • 4 stars: ” London’s breathy vocals aren’t that different [from her debut], but she seems more confident and she swings more, even on the ballads. . . This album was also better recorded than London’s debut and the release has a fuller, richer sound to it.”

The reliably brilliant Ted Keep was the engineer for these sessions from 1958. The stereo tape came out in 1958, along with the mono LP, but those of you who wanted a stereo record had to wait until 1959! (more…)

Martin Denny – Exotica – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This second label very quiet Liberty Stereo LP has at least Super Hot Stamper EXOTIC SOUND on both sides, with a side two that may be White Hot. It’s hard to know for sure whether side two can get any better than this — it’s pretty darn amazing, some of the most Magically Delicious sound we played in our recent shootout.  

Recorded in 1958, you can imagine there is a healthy amount of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, although this second label copy seems to be cut a bit more cleanly and correctly than some of the first label Denny records we auditioned. The tonality is dead on the money, a quality that the most tubey recordings rarely exhibit; they can easily get overly lush and appear murky. (more…)

Martin Denny – Forbidden Island – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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More Forbidden Island

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

This original looking Liberty Black Label Stereo LP has White Hot Stamper WONDERFULLY EXOTIC SOUND. This copy is so super spacious and sweet it’s positively dripping with ambience. It’s EXACTLY the kind of sound you expect from Denny and his Island bandmates.  

We played a big pile of Martin Denny records during our shootout, not having enough clean copies of any one of them to do it the way we would with rock or jazz records, and this pressing was CLEARLY the best of the bunch.

Picture yourself on a beautiful South Pacific island. Now imagine you’re in a jazz bar on the mainland. Combine the two moods into one glorious sound and you have the music of Martin Denny! (more…)

Martin Denny – Primitiva – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Martin Denny

More Primitiva

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

This original looking and fairly quiet Liberty Black Label Stereo LP has Super Hot Stamper EXOTIC SOUND on both sides. The cover says it’s The Ultimate in Transistorized Stereophonic Hi-Fidelity Sound, but I hear an awful lot of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness — maybe not quite as much as some of the best early Denny recordings, but plenty nevertheless. The tonality is actually dead on the money, a quality that the most tubey recordings rarely exhibit; they can easily get overly lush and turn murky. (more…)