The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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

This Columbia Six-Eye LP has TWO STUNNING SIDES, easily the best we heard in our entire shootout! This is a superb recording, and a copy like this is a true Demo Disc. The vocals are perfection, and every instrument sounds correct and REAL here, with the transparency and clarity to put you right there with the players.

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Side One

A+++, absolutely amazing! Stunningly clear and high-rez with no shortage of energy or tubey magic, this is As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) — which is very good indeed.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, an incredible sounding side in its own right. Side one might have a slight advantage in terms of transparency, but otherwise the sound here is very similar.

Background Story

An audiophile friend of mine played me this record on his big system in a huge dedicated sound room and the effect was glorious. The Hi-Lo’s are a white-bread vocal group from the ’50s that made a lot of forgettable easy listening albums. But one time they hooked up with Marty Paich and his Dek-Tette, which included players like Herb Gellar, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon — top West Cost jazz players all — and recorded this album of standards.

What really makes this album exceptional is the recording itself. The voices are uncannily real. When the jazz musicians take their solos the sound of their instruments is right on the money. You will have a very hard time finding better sound anywhere, especially considering how beautifully spread out the players are on such a wide and deep soundstage.

Marty Paich Is an Arranging Genius

The high point here is Then I’ll Be Tired Of You. The sound is so perfectly suited to the song — everything is exactly where you want it to be, and Marty Paitch’s arrangement is constantly surprising.

The first track on side one is very reminiscent of Art Pepper Plus Eleven, another Marty Paich arranging job that ranks with the best large jazz ensemble works ever recorded.

Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Lena & Gabor

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Lena & Gabor

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space.

See all of our Gabor Szabo albums in stock

When the drums come in on the first track on side one you will hear immediately what I mean. The third track on side two has especially good drums as well. The vocals on that third track, Message to Michael, are some of the most natural on the album as well. Lena can strain a bit on some songs in the loudest passages, but on others she can belt it out and stay clean all the way to the top. Listen track by track to hear how well she holds up when the bigger choruses come in.

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we’ve known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it’s been impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course.

Dave Sanders, a name I — and no doubt most audiophiles — was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. (more…)

Passion Flower Is Better Than For Duke

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This is one of the all time great Pablo sleepers.

Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of the best we have ever played, musically and sonically.
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Doris Day – Hooray For Hollywood

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Doris Day – Hooray For Hollywood

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

This fairly rare, fairly clean Six Eye Columbia original Stereo pressing has TWO SUPERB sounding sides, each earning our Super Hot stamper sonic grade. Frank DeVol did the orchestral arrangements, and it sounds like he let Miss Day have some of the same ones he’d done for Sinatra. Don’t mess with success, right?

The vintage Columbia sound is overflowing with Tubey Magic — it’s about as Big and Rich as it gets! If you don’t mind some heavy-handed reverb, the kind found on practically every vintage Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole record ever made, you will find much to like here.

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here’s a bit of an edge to the vocals that we think has something to do with the reverb interacting with the compressors of the day, but this is all part of the sound of the tape (we’re guessing) and not something that can be altered in the mastering.

Turn Up the Volume on Prez Prado

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Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this Prez Prado record is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve). (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

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

The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra sounds right for once. 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.

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If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, this album is probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male and Female Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. (Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you want a good place to start.)

Like any processing of the sound in the studio — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and ruin everything. For our part we think Astrud Gilberto’s recordings use reverb more or less tastefully. And of course there sure aren’t going to be any versions of this music coming along any time soon without the added echo. Getting the reverb to sound right is one of the things a good Hot Stamper has to do on a record like this. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – At The Piano

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Hampton Hawes – At The Piano

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has THE BEST SOUND and THE BEST MUSIC I have EVER heard on a Hampton Hawes album! When we dropped the needle on this one we could not believe our ears — it’s got The Big Sound, that’s for sure.

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Both sides rate A++ and may very well be As Good As It Gets. I certainly can’t imagine this music sounding any better.The piano has real weight, the bass is deep and tight, and the drums sound correct. The overall sound is rich, sweet, and tonally correct from top to bottom. It’s incredibly open and transparent — you can hear tons of ambience.

Drop the needle on Blue In Green on side two — the sound of the bowed bass is WONDERFUL.

This is my favorite Hampton Hawes record of all time. He died less than a year after these sessions. Looking at the cover, you can almost see in his face his acceptance of the end he knew was coming. He plays with deep emotion here. Ray Brown and Shelly Manne (the same rhythm section who back Joe Sample on my all-time favorite piano trio album)accompany him beautifully. The version of Killing Me Softly With His Song that opens the album is lovely.

One high point of this album is the interview that Lester Koenig conducts with Hampton Hawes on the back cover. Lester died soon thereafter himself.

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame, a Forgotten Classic, and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. He was apparently quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are straightforward and unerringly melodic.

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The co-leader here is Danny Kirwan and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs the band ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering. Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

And Let’s Not Forget Christine McVie

It’s amazing to realize that this album was made by just four guys. Actually that’s not true. Christine McVie (known as Christine Perfect at the time) not only did the lovely artwork for the cover, but she sings uncredited background vocals on some of the songs. Her contribution to Station Man is especially lovely. She would officially join the band on their next album, a personal favorite of mine, Future Games. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record

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Listening in Depth

 

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As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included. But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. This is the band’s MASTERPIECE in my humble opinion. For audiophiles ELO on LP doesn’t get any better.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Tightrope

Both sides start off with a uptempo rocker, and this side’s is Tightrope.

Watch your string tone. If it’s shrill or grainy you are going to find yourself in trouble on practically every song on A New World Record — they all have strings and lots of them.

You need richness in the lower mids, harmonic extension up top, and just plain highly resolving sound if the strings are going to sound right in the mix.

Note that sometimes the highs get better on a record as it plays. Check to see if you don’t have more top end by the second track, or even halfway through this one. Happens to us all the time. (more…)

June Christy – Gone For The Day

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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June Christy – Gone For The Day

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

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for, but this copy gives you something you may never have heard on a vintage pressing before: real frequency EXTENSION, both high and low. Who knew an old record could have extended highs like these and such deep bass?

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

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(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back but that was all pre-upgrades. The sound is far better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Side Two

OFF THE CHARTS A Triple Plus Sound from start to finish. Rich and sweet and present like no copy we have ever heard. No copy out of the four originals we played earned more than a grade of A++, so this side two is a big step up over everything and the best sound we have ever heard for ANY June Christy record.

Side One

Not as tubey magical as the best we heard but earning lots of points for being present and clear. It has some of the top end you will hear on side two, which is also rare in our experience. With more richness and fullness, the kind side two has in spades, this would have been a real contender for side one. No side one earned a higher grade than A++ so this copy was actually not that far off the best we played. It’s this side two that had us gobsmacked and forced us to set a higher standard for the other copies. (more…)