Top Engineers – Val Valentin

The Walter Wanderley Trio – Cheganca

More Walter Wanderley

More Bossa Nova

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  • Cheganca finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – both the sound and the bossa-nova-meets-exotica music are nothing but ear candy on the right system
  • Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced and Val Valentin engineered – what’s not to like?
  • Cheganca would be a welcome addition to any bossa nova fan’s collection. The fat, swinging sound of this surprisingly small combo is a marvel even by modern standards. Alongside organ giants like Jimmy Smith or today’s Joey DeFrancesco, Wanderley will go down in history as one of the instrument’s champions.”

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Stan Getz / Luiz Bonfa – Jazz Samba Encore!

More Stan Getz

More Antonio Carlos Jobim

More Bossa Nova

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  • This superb collaboration debuts with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish and ’60s vinyl that’s about as quiet as any we can find
  • Smooth, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, the brilliant Ray Hall engineered this Demo Disc using an All Tube chain back in 1963, and it’s glorious to hear that sound reproduced on modern hi-rez equipment
  • 4 stars: ” Getz relies mostly upon native Brazilians for his backing. Thus, the soft-focused grooves are considerably more attuned to what was actually coming out of Brazil at the time… Two bona fide giants, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá (who gets co-billing), provide the guitars and all of the material, and Maria Toledo contributes an occasional throaty vocal.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella and Basie!

More Count Basie

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  • With a shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this early stereo pressing is a knockout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Ella is rich, Tubey Magical and breathy – this is the way she should sound, and that makes this copy a true Demo Disc
  • To get the vocals AND the brass to sound right on the same copy is the trick, and these two sides pulled it off
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “…this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. The sound is rich and full-bodied, in the proud tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album with big band backup. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably isn’t familiar with, and that’s the best reason to put on an old record.

The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

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  • Stunning sound on this early Verve Mono LP with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++) and playing reasonably quietly
  • As Good As It Gets – no modern pressing can hope to put Ella and Louis right in the room with you the way this one from 1956 can
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”

Click and pop counters might want to give this one a miss. It’s not as quiet as a modern pressing would be, but it’s as quiet as this title can be found on vintage ’50s Verve vinyl. If you have a top quality, heavily tweaked front end and a quiet cartridge, you might be good to go, but if you are picky about your surfaces, we recommend you give this one a miss.

Those of you looking for a cheaper, quieter alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on one of our Hot Stampers should look into the original Speakers Corner pressing or the CD, both of which we’ve played and both of which are quite good. (more…)

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

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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.