Top Engineers – Tom Dowd

The Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach

More Allman Brothers

More Southern Rock

  • One of the best copies of Eat A Peach to ever hit the site, with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on sides one, three and four
  • These superb sides have the immediacy that will put these wild and crazy southern rockers right in your living room
  • The heartfelt radio-friendly songs such as “Melissa” and “Little Martha” keep up the energy and add to the enjoyment factor
  • 5 stars: “The record showcases the Allmans at their peak, and it’s hard not to feel sad as the acoustic guitars of “Little Martha” conclude the record, since this tribute isn’t just heartfelt, it offers proof of Duane Allman’s immense talents and contribution to the band.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

What do such high grades give you for this album? Tubey Magical guitars, huge whomp factor on the bottom end, incredible dynamics and life, shocking transparency and clarity, and the kind of immediacy that puts these crazy southern rockers right in your very own living room.

This and Live At Fillmore East are the two most monumental albums these guys ever put out, and they have a lot in common. You know what you’re gonna get with the Allmans: dueling electric guitars, sweet acoustic guitars, energetic drumming, and full-bodied vocals throughout.

There’s obviously a lot of exploration — two complete sides are dedicated to the song “Mountain Jam” — but the heartfelt radio-friendly songs such as “Melissa” and “Little Martha” keep up the energy and provide maximum enjoyment factor.

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John Coltrane / Coltrane’s Sound – Forget the ’70s Reissues

More of the Music of John Coltrane

Recordings that Sound Their Best on the Right Early Pressing

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Just forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings, especially if it plays as quietly as this one does. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables


FURTHER READING

This record sounds best this way:

In Stereo

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

John Coltrane – Giant Steps

More John Coltrane

More 5 Star Albums

  • Coltrane’s Atlantic debut returns to the site on this KILLER vintage pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from the first note to the last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • As is so often the case, the right stampers make all the difference in the world on this album, and these are some of the best, even though the label may not be the right colors
  • It takes us years to find a copy that plays as quietly as this one with no marks in the vinyl – it will be quite a while before another of its kind comes our way
  • It’s big, lively, tubey, present and very transparent – nothing we played could compete with it
  • Credit superb engineering from Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd, who would work on some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums at the label
  • 5 stars: “[Coltrane] was…beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos — the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling.”

As you might expect, the original Blue and Green label pressings have (potentially) superb sound on Giant Steps, but somewhat surprisingly — assuming you’ve heard a Nearly White Hot original — the Red and Green label pressings can sound every bit as good.

The Tubey Magical richness and warmth carried over into the ’70s, at least on some copies of this title, and we’re very glad they did, as finding clean original Coltrane albums from the early ’60s is not so easy these days.

If you know anything about this music, you know that Coltrane builds up a head of steam on practically every track on the album. He is blasting away here and it is a thrill to be sure. The soundfield opens up naturally, with real depth.

The clarity does not come at the expense of brightness or thinness of any kind. In fact, just the opposite is the case — the sound is so rich and tubey you will be practically bowled over by it.

The extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is one of the qualities that often sets the better copies apart from the pack. All the top end and the deep bottom end weight and fullness that are so essential to the sound are simply not to be found on most pressings — but here they are.

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Ray Charles – Have a Smile With Me

More of the Music of Ray Charles

More Soul, Blues, and Rhythm and Blues

  • Have A Smile With Me returns to the site after more than a year with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated to an excellent sounding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The richness in Ray’s vocals and the wonderfully Tubey Magical sound overall makes this killer copy especially impressive
  • It’s not easy to find a Ray Charles stereo pressing from the Sixties that plays this quietly, but marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “…[Charles] elevates the material with soulful vocals and good arrangements, particularly when the Raeletts back him up (as they do on half the tracks).”

We search high and low for Ray’s records and have played them by the score over the years. We hope to keep a good supply on to the site in the coming years, so keep a close eye on the New Arrivals section.

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Jerry Jeff Walker / Mr. Bojangles

More Jerry Jeff Walker

  • Clean and clear, rich and natural, with good vocal presence and wonderful energy throughout
  • The title track sounds amazing, but that’s just one of the great songs with excellent sound on the album
  • The engineering team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle really worked their magic on this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Walker favored the country and folk side of folk-rock much more than the rock side.”

This is only the second title by Jerry Jeff that we’ve been able to do shootouts for. Most of the records we’ve played of his from the ’70s left a lot to be desired sonically and more often than not musically, so we gave up on them.

His Vanguard release from 1969 has superb sound, as does this Atco from 1968. There may be one or two more coming down the pike but that could be many years from now. His records never sold all that well, and not many of them can be found in Southern California.

And they are hard to find in audiophile playing condition. (more…)

Ornette Coleman / Ornette on Tenor – Demo Disc Jazz Sound

More Ornette Coleman

  • This is one of the BEST sounding jazz albums we have played in many months – it is ALIVE with energy and dynamic contrasts
  • We had a superb original Plum and Orange Mono pressing and as good as that one may be, this stereo pressing takes the music to another level entirely (on big speakers at loud levels of course)
  • Compare this pressing to anything ever recorded by Rudy Van Gelder and you may be in for quite a shock
  • Engineered by the team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle, the men behind some of Coltrane’s most iconic, best sounding albums for Atlantic
  • 5 stars in Downbeat – Allmusic notes: “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.

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Ray Charles – Soul Meeting

More Ray Charles

More Milt Jackson

  • This killer pressing of Ray Charles and Milt Jackson’s 1958 collaboration boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for this title too
  • Full-bodied, warm and natural with plenty of space around all of the players, this is the sound of vintage analog – accept no substitutes
  • Kenny Burrell lends his innovative guitar stylings to this soulful jazz collaboration
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Oscar Pettiford, Connie Kay, and Kenny Burrell in the various lineups, this is bluesy jazz in a laid-back manner; it surprised many hardcore R&B fans when these albums were originally issued.”

This wonderful pressing has superb sound throughout! It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of this title in anything but beat condition. (more…)

John Coltrane / Coltrane’s Sound – A Very Good Reissue by Bernie Grundman

More John Coltrane

Sonic Grade: B+ (at least)

This is one of the better sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played recently.

What makes it different from so many others that fail to live up to the remastering hype that surrounds them (and irritates the hell out of those of use who know what a good record is actually supposed to sound like)?

  • It’s tonally correct from top to bottom. At most five or ten per cent of the audiophile repressings we’ve played in the last ten years can make that claim.
  • The bass is not boosted or poorly defined. This eliminates at a minimum 95+% of all the Mobile Fidelity pressings we have ever played. Nobody seems to notice how bad the bass is on their records. A real puzzler, that fact.
  • It’s not exceptionally veiled or recessed. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Heavy Vinyl pressings that are not much too veiled and recessed to compete with their vintage vinyl brethren.

It is slightly veiled, and lacks some of the life, the space and obviously some of the presence of the real thing, the real thing in this case being an early stereo pressing on the Blue and Green Atlantic label.

Still, for your money you are getting one helluva good record. One of the top two or three Rhino records to date.

(Bernie did a great job on this Coltrane album, but whatever you do, don’t waste your money on his recut of Lush Life. It is just plain awful, a Hall of Shame pressing that’s so bad it defies understanding. Something sure went wrong somewhere, I can tell you that. Stay tuned for my review.)

• Lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman
• LPs cut from the original analog masters
• Packages replicated to the finest detail manufactured with more care than ever

OUR PREVIOUS COMMENTARY

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice on Which Pressings to Buy

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables.

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Cream / Disraeli Gears – Live and Learn

More of the Music of Cream

A classic case of Live and Learn

Our shootout quite a while ago for Cream’s classic second album provided proof positive that We Was Wrong when we said:

“No reissue we’ve ever played sounded especially good and none likely ever will.”

Ah, but some do! We would love to tell you exactly what to look for so that you can go find one for yourself, but that’s bad for business as I’m sure you can see. Let’s just say there will be at least one later reissue of the album with very good grades coming soon to a site near you.

We also have to admit to being wrong about this:

If you’re expecting Sunshine of Your Love to rock on record like you remember it rockin’ on the radio back in the day, forget it. When you heard that song your brain added the bass and dynamics that are missing from the record. Either that or you did it through the loudness control on your old receiver. There’s maybe five db of dynamic range on that song and there can never be more than that.

There are copies with dynamic vocals on that track. The vocals are practically the only thing that do get loud, but on some copies they do; we heard it. Likewise, on some copies the drums have much more body and punch than than they do on most.

So, when it comes to bass and dynamics, yes, some copies have some, maybe even more than you remember. (more…)

Ray Charles – The Best of Ray Charles

xxxxx

  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Like any compilation the sound varies from track to track, but most of the material here sounds WONDERFUL
  • This collection of instrumentals gives you a taste of Ray’s prowess at the piano, with surprisingly good sound to boot
  • All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too.

If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Ray Charles was a genius (it’s his nickname for heaven’s sake!) and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of that fact.

You may have noticed that Tom Dowd, the recording engineer for these tracks, receives a fair amount of criticism on our site. We’re not always fans of his work on rock albums, but on jazz music he usually managed to do a great job. The sound is open, sweet, transparent, rich — all the stuff we like here at Better Records.

Just drop the needle on the first track, Hard Times. The brass is breathy and full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the vocals sound Right On The Money. The extended solos by David Newman on tenor sax are especially brilliant.

If you want a good Blues based Jazz record, performed by men who were at the height of their powers, you can’t go wrong with this one. All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival. (more…)