Top Engineers – Val Valentin

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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Astrud Gilberto & Walter Wanderley – A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb collaboration with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical with wonderfully breathy vocals, excellent clarity and solid down low
  • “Wanderley’s organ playing is as enthusiastic and fluffy as ever, while Gilberto’s singing (in both English and Portuguese) remains smile-inducing. Both manage to create an incredibly warm sound, and when Wanderley plays some piano (as on the beautiful “A Certain Sadness”), you can sense a spark between the two.” 

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Stan Getz – Getz with Almeida

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Another Getz Bossa Nova Classic, recorded immediately after Getz/Gilberto, with comparable sound quality from Val Valentin’s All Tube Recording Chain
  • “Continuing his practice of running through one star guitarist after another, this time Getz has Laurindo Almeida as the designated rhythm man, featured composer, and solo foil. Jobim’s “Outra Vez” is a particularly lovely example of Getz’s freedom and effortless lyricism contrasted against Almeida’s anchored embroidering. [I]n the long view, one should be thankful that these musicians were recording so much cherishable material.”

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Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin’ – Reviewed in 2010

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Verve Stereo LP with RVG Stampers and very good sound. This album has that analog richness, warmth and smoothness that we prize so highly here at Better Records. Jimmy does some pop tunes, some Ellington and more on this one, which has a real funky feel to it, with Jimmy really getting into it and grunting along with the music in places.

This copy (especially on side one) was just plain bigger and richer and tubier, as well as more dynamic than the others we played. (more…)

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame from 1967.

What to listen for you ask? That’s an easy one. Just listen for the best sounding Mothers record ever made, because that’s what the best copies can (and should) sound like.

Absolutely Free is much bigger, smoother, richer, livelier and more free from harshness, dryness and distortion than any other album we’ve ever played from Zappa’s early period, pre-Waka Jawaka let’s say. The only other records I can think of that can sound remotely as good as Absolutely Free are Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968) and Hot Rats (1969), and even then I really don’t think they are quite in this league.

  • BY FAR the best copy to ever hit the site – White Hot on side one and Nearly White on side two
  • You will not believe how rich and Tubey Magical this copy is, and yet so CLEAR and undistorted
  • If you’ve suffered through reissues or the dreadful CD you are going to flip out over the sound of this copy
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “By turns hilarious, inscrutable, and virtuosically complex, Absolutely Free is… a fabulously inventive record…”

Credit the incredibly talented Val Valentin with engineering that to our ears gives every indication of being a clear step up over everything else Zappa released in the ’60s.

Our last shootout was in 2007 — yes, about nine years ago. We can’t even find one clean copy of this album a year (at prices we can afford to pay of course). To be honest, one copy in our shootout was exceptionally quiet but the sound is a big step down from this one. (more…)

Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges – Blues Summit – Better Sound than the Originals?

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  • This superb jazz double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • What surprised during our shootout was that this later pressing from 1976 actually sounded quite a bit better than virtually all the early pressings we put it up against
  • The Classic Records pressings from 1995 aren’t bad, but they head to head they can’t begin to compete with a pressing as good as this one
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “… this very enjoyable double LP includes two related sessions… Highly recommended in one form or another.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Loves Cole

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  • Ella’s superb 1972 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • This copy is balanced and natural, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that no one seems to know how to record anymore
  • Fitzgerald’s second artful collection of Cole Porter masterpieces, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time favorite albums on Verve and Pablo

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