Top Engineers – Val Valentin

Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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  • A superb pressing of Ella’s wonderful 1967 release with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing everything right– it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than nearly almost everything else we played
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “Whoever decided to put pianist Marty Paich and Ella Fitzgerald together in the studio in 1966 deserves a bit of credit for the great music on Whisper Not. Together, Fitzgerald and Paich deliver a dozen beautifully sung, carefully arranged standards.”

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The Monty Alexander 7 / Jamento – Listening for Speed and Smear

What to Listen For – Smear

What to Listen For – Speed

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Clear piano notes, first and foremost. Any smear or loss of speed (a problem with hi-fi equipment since the beginning of time) detracts from the fun. 

Next, the tonality of the best copies is rich and solid; accept nothing less.

And, finally, the proper reproduction of the percussion instruments is critically important to the energy and drive of the music. The better you hear them — without losing the weight and richness of the piano — the more you will enjoy your copy of the record.

No two copies will reproduce all these elements equally well. On high quality equipment with the volume turned up good and loud the winners are easily separated from the losers. (more…)

Jimmy Witherspoon – The Blues Is Now

More Jimmy Witherspoon

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  • Witherspoon’s wonderful 1967 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • Spacious and transparent, this copy has the three-dimensional soundstaging and natural vocal reproduction that makes these kinds of records such a joy to play (and in the process a record this good makes a mockery of the veiled, lifeless, ambience-free sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue)
  • 4 stars: “The Blues Is Now is arguably the finest of these [late ’60s Verve] recordings, and Witherspoon’s voice is in top form and hugely expressive. A late-night blues classic, this is Witherspoon at his most relaxed and assured and is a joy to listen to.”

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Harry “Sweets” Edison & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis / Simply Sweets – A Sleeper from Pablo

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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  • This outstanding copy of Simply Sweets boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and relatively quiet vinyl too 
  • The sound of this superb jazz quintet is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time Pablo favorites
  • “Trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison and tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis always made a potent pair. They both possessed immediately identifiable sounds, were veterans of Count Basie’s Orchestra and never had any difficulty swinging.” — Allmusic

Both sides of this outstanding pressing are big, rich, tubey and clear. Few other copies in our shootout held this kind of sound.

Titles such as this one are the reason we put so much time and money into hunting down and auditioning every Pablo jazz record we can get our hands on — because some of them sound like this one. Who else was recording jazz this good in the late ’70s and well into the ’80s?

And don’t say Concord. There are maybe five great sounding records on that label. Pablo has ten or twenty times that many, and that’s a conservative estimate. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Norman Granz for starting the Pablo label and keeping the quality as high as he did. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • This Mono pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound good, play quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early pressing will put Ella in the room with you – more than anything else, it lets her performance come to life
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.”

Folks, if you’re in the market for one of the most magical female vocal recordings ever made, today is your lucky day.

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Our last shootout was early 2019. Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)

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.

Kenny Burrell with Gil Evans – Guitar Forms

More Kenny Burrell

More Gil Evans

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  • A superb sounding original stereo pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Gil Evans wrote the superb orchestral arrangements and Rudy Van Gelder captured them on lovely analog tape – what’s not to like? 
  • We’ve really been digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now – it may not be serious jazz, but it’s no less interesting and captivating for it
  • “His landmark 1965 collaboration with Gil Evans, Guitar Forms rivals anything the arranger did with Miles Davis. Indeed, the track “Lotus Land” has a bolero form very reminiscent of Sketches of Spain. Throughout, Burrell takes thoughtful, concise, and utterly musical solos, and even switches to acoustic classical guitar on “Prelude #2” and “Loie.””

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1965 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (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.”

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Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin’

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this copy handily won our shootout
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth and smoothness that we make listening to records so involving
  • Some pop tunes, some Ellington and more, all of which has a real funky feel to it, with Jimmy really getting into it and grunting along with the music
  • “This 1965 Verve release finds the B-3 innovator mixing it up with organ and guitar combo swingers and big band charts compliments of arranger Oliver Nelson.”

This copy was just plain bigger and richer and tubier, as well as more dynamic than the others we played! (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Astrud Gilberto Album

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides or close to them, this Van Gelder mastered copy was one of the best we played in our shootout (but the vinyl is iffy at best)
  • The sound here has real texture to the strings and breath to the vocals, key elements if this music is going to work
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Astrud Gilberto Album was at least as good as Getz/Gilberto (despite what jazz fans say), for several reasons. Gilberto sounded beautiful on a range of material, from the sentimental “Dindi” to the playful “Agua de Beber,” and as long as intelligent musicians were playing to her strengths (as they do here), the results were splendid.”

If you can tolerate the slightly noisier surfaces of this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album,we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund including the domestic return postage.


This is an early stereo LP – the monos may be five times more common, but every last one we played was awful!

Check out this list of top jazz players:

Astrud Gilberto – vocals
Antônio Carlos Jobim – vocals, guitar (track 2)
João Gilberto – guitar
Joe Mondragon – bass
Bud Shank – alto sax, flute
João Donato – piano
Stu Williamson – trumpet
Milt Bernhart – trombone
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