1960-best

Gerry Mulligan – The Concert Jazz Band

More Gerry Mulligan

  • This early Verve Stereo pressing was doing practically everything right, with both sides earning stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Huge space, size and clarity, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1960 recording dates of these sessions – the “big band” sound here is really jumping out of the speakers
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “My idea is not so much that we are a big band with a small-band feel, but that we have a big-band feel in the way that a big band ought to be.” – Gerry Mulligan.
  • “Mulligan stages a thrilling musical spectacle in which fierce rivalry, song-like harmony and refined counterpoint play the main roles.”

If you’ve never heard a good All Tube Recording of the baritone sax, buy this record — it will blow your mind!

Huge amounts of ambience fill out the space the extends from wall to wall (and all the way to the back wall of the studio), leaving plenty of room around each of the players.

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days, this record will surely be an unqualified Sonic Treat.

We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog sound found here. (Or your money back.)

Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

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Schubert / Death and the Maiden / Julliard String Quartet

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert

Wow! One of the RAREST and most sought after RCA Shaded Dog pressings (LSC 2378) in BEAUTIFUL CONDITION with SUPERB SOUND (on side two anyway). This Demo Copy has a side two with the kind of richness and sweetness lacking on many of the RCA chamber recordings we’ve played in the past, and in fact is lacking somewhat on side one of this very record.

Side two, which has the third and fourth movement of Death and the Maiden, is wonderful here, earning a sonic grade of A++. It’s very transparent, with real “rosin on the bow” resolution and naturalness.

Side one, with sound that rates something in the range of A to A+, was somewhat lean and midrangy, a common fault with RCA’s chamber recordings. It does have lovely 3-D soundstaging and spaciousness though.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

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Stravinsky / The Firebird – Dorati

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Firebird

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  • One listen to either side of this pressing and you’ll see why this is one of the Top Mercury Titles of All Time
  • The Heavy Vinyl reissues – at 45 or 33, on one disc or four, makes no difference – barely begin to capture the energy and drive Dorati brings to the work
  • “The magic lies in the elaborate orchestration and the excitingly uneven rhythmic writing. Stravinsky changes the orchestration of his themes at each repetition, breaks them down into their constituent parts, pushes their accents across the bar-line, and moves them out of sync with their own accompaniments.”
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

Neither side has peak distortion or Inner Groove Distortion of any kind, which is rare for this exceptionally dynamic title in our experience.

Both sides are so clear, ALIVE, and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression.

This pressing boasts rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘N’ Easy

More Frank Sinatra

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

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  • An early stereo pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for Capitol from this era too
  • The reproduction of Sinatra’s voice is exactly what you would expect from a Hot Stamper – he sounds rich, smooth, tonally correct and above all REAL
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you have in your collection, or your money back
  • 5 stars: “… a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.”

The immediacy of the vocals on this copy is nothing short of stunning. You get real weight down low, serious energy, a fully extended top end, and tons of that old-time analog tubey magic.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 9 / Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • An early London pressing of this definitive performance by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande that was doing just about everything right, earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • The sound here is wonderfully rich, lively and musical yet still clear and spacious, making this a Must Own pressing of Beethoven’s 9th – you will be hard pressed to find any other in its league (a subject we discuss in the listing below)
  • “…the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play very well, facing every challenge with musical integrity that reveals to the listener that emotional engagement with the score is far more meaningful than virtuosity for its own sake.”

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Dynasty

More Charles Mingus

More Jazz Recordings

  • An original 6-Eye Stereo copy with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This pressing is rich and tubey, yet still clear and spacious, with a notably solid and articulate bottom end that does a superb job of captureing the beauty of Mingus’s double bass
  • Bucketfuls of studio ambience, and Tubey Magic to die for – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Be careful though – a record with this kind of sound will make all your Heavy Vinyl pressing sound as washed out, lifeless and veiled as we know them to be, news that may come as quite a shock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mingus Dynasty is still an excellent album; in fact, it’s a testament to just how high a level Mingus was working on that an album of this caliber could have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
  • If you’re a fan of jazz from the Golden Age of the ’50s and ’60s, this Columbia from 1960 undoubtedly belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t? — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. 

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

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John Lewis – The Wonderful World Of Jazz

More John Lewis

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • This Atlantic reissue was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than most other copies we played
  • An outstanding (and very hard-to-find) Jazz LP – a Better Records Top Recommendation from decades ago, and we are pleased to report that the music and the sound still hold up
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of pianist John Lewis’ most rewarding albums outside of his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Three numbers (including a remake of ‘Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West’) showcase his piano in a quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Connie Kay.”

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Beethoven / The Emperor Concerto / Backhaus – Reviewed in 2010

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings by Decca

Another top London, recorded with more of a mid-hall approach, and smooth sound that reminds me much more of a live concert than most recordings do.

This is a demo quality disc, if what you are intent on demonstrating is the kind of realistic piano sound and natural, relaxed presentation found in the concert hall.

These may be qualities that not all audiophiles appreciate, but we sure as hell do.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

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Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit

More Duke Ellington

More Jazz Recordings

  • An outstanding original Columbia Six Eye stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and Tubey Magic by the boatload – this amazing 30th Street recording from 1960 shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “…an album worth tracking down, if only to hear the band run through a lighter side of its sound — indeed, it captures the essence of a late-night recording date that was as much a loose jam as a formal studio date, balancing the spontaneity of the former and the technical polish of the latter.”
  • Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut the engineer for these sessions in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio
  • It’s yet another Tubey Magical Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1959-1960 Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

If Large Group Jazz Music is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red-blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Ellington recordings on Columbia from this era. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you might own right out of the water. 

Both sides of this very special original stereo pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Our Favorite for Performance and Sound

More music conducted by Fritz Reiner

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this Shaded Dog pressing of Reiners’s excellent 1960 recording had the glorious Living Stereo sound we were looking for
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • There were only three performances with audiophile quality sound in our shootout, and the Shaded Dog pressings not only had the best performances, but the sound that the team of Mohr/Layton managed to achieve was second to none
  • In other words, Harry was right to put this on his TAS Super Disc list – it really is a super disc
  • If you know anything about these works, you know that have tons of top and bottom end, and it is the rare pressing that can capture both
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the Living Stereo strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Reiner and the CSO brought to these difficult and demanding works so many years ago
  • There are roughly 150 orchestral recordings that we think offer the discriminating audiophile the best combination of Superior Performances with Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.

This shootout has been at least five years in the making, and the case could be made that something like fifteen is closer to the truth. Around 2016 we surveyed the recordings of the work we had on hand — close to a dozen different performances, I think — and found them all wanting, save three: this one (which is still on the TAS List), a Reader’s Digest pressing with Kempe (our second favorite), and a London with Kertesz.

If a particular performance had any distortion or limitation problems in the higher frequencies, it was quickly rejected out of hand. Same with low end whomp and weight. On these works both are crucial.

No other pieces of music of which we are aware have so much going on up high and down low. This narrowed the field of potential Hot Stampers considerably. Great performances by top conductors could not get over these hurdles — high and low — time and time again.

For these reasons, it took us years to find the right recordings. We knew the Reiner would be hard to beat, but we kept trying record after record hoping that we could find one to wrest the crown away from what is widely considered the greatest recording of the works ever made.

We never did find something better. Our best Shaded Dog ended up winning the shootout. The best RCA pressings were doing everything right. There was plenty of top end, with virtually no harmonic distortion, and when I say plenty, I mean the right amount. Not many engineers managed to get all the highs correctly onto the tape, but Lewis Layton nailed it — in 1960!

So many recordings had screechy strings and horns. When the music would get loud, and both the Pines and the Fountains get very loud indeed, assuming the recording will let it, the sound would become unbearably harsh and unpleasant. This is the opposite of what should happen, and it was obvious that those recordings would not make it past the first round.

All three of the finalists could claim enthusiastic performances with powerful energy and top quality orchestral playing. Still, with the best copies going head to head with each other, Reiner had more of all the qualities we were looking for.

How did the famous 1S/1S pressing fare? No idea. I haven’t seen one in twenty years. It may be better than the White Hot copy we are offering here. I certainly would not make the mistake of saying what it sounds without having played it. If someone has one and wants to send it to me to audition, I would love to give it a spin.

Some recordings we played lacked transparency, as well as the relaxed sense of involvement that eases one’s ability to be tricked into thinking “you (really) are there.”

The famous 1977 Maazel recording for Decca, which was on the TAS List for a long time, suffered from a bad case of multi-miking and the transparency issue mentioned above. What do you expect from 1977?

This is, of course, the knock on the Modern Heavy Vinyl Pressing — where is the transparency? The space? The three-dimensional depth? If your stereo can reproduce these qualities — a big if, since even as recently as twenty years ago mine could not — you should have given up on these opaque and airless frauds years ago.

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