1961-best

Bizet / Saint-Saens / Gounod, et al. – Ballet Highlights From French Opera

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

    • With top grades on both sides, this original Mercury stereo pressing of these renowned ballet works features some of the BEST sound we’ve heard from Paray
    • Listen to the lush strings and the overall weighty, rich sound on the Massenet piece on side two – that is the sound of a Shootout Winning pressing
    • The Ballet Music from Faust may just give the impossibly rare RCA (LSC 2449) a run for its money in terms of sound and performance
    • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
    • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
    • If you’re a fan of delightful orchestral showpieces such as these ballet highlights, this LP from 1961 belongs in your collection
    • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bernstein – Conducts Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

More music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This vintage Columbia stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • The best copies are out of this world, reproducing some of the most dynamic, exciting, richest, and most spacious sound we have ever heard from Columbia records, especially those conducted by Leonard Bernstein
  • The music is wonderful of course, with the Suites giving you all the best parts of his marvelous compositions with none of the filler
  • These vibrant orchestrations are played with tremendous energy, and that, coupled with rich and tubey analog sound, combine for an especially immersive and engrossing listening experience, particularly on side one here
  • For those of you playing along at home, it should be obvious why side one earned the higher grade – some of the qualities important to the sound are in greater abundance on side one, and this is not in any way difficult to hear

This is one of the great Columbia recordings. I suspected it might have been done at their legendary Columbia studios in New York but I was wrong, Manhattan Center’s huge stage served as the venue. Either way the sound is no less glorious.

One of the biggest advantages this copy had over most of what we played is fuller brass. The shrill sounding horns on most Columbia albums is what gets them tossed into the trade pile. Fortunately for us audiophiles who care about these sorts of things, the sound here is rich and clean, with solid, deep bass. The stage is huge, with the multi-miking kept to a minimum so that you can really hear the space this big group of musicians occupies.

There is a HUGE amount of top end on this recording. Wildly splashing cymbals and other percussion instruments are everywhere, and they are a joy to hear. No original was as clean up top as this reissue, and without a clear, (mostly) distortion-free top end, the work will simply not sound the way Bernstein wanted it to.

All that percussion is in the score. The high-frequency energy – perhaps the most I have ever heard from any recording of his music — is there for a reason. He conducted his own score, and one can only assume he liked the way it came out. We sure did. (more…)

Ellington-Basie / First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

More Duke Ellington

More Count Basie

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this early Columbia 6-Eye pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl too, considering its age – how many early ’60s Columbia Stereo pressings survived with audiophile playing surfaces the way this one did?
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1961 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”
  • If you’re a fan of either or both of these jazz giants, this Classic from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Chet Atkins – Chet Atkins in Hollywood (1961)

More Chet Atkins

More Recordings in Living Stereo

  • A vintage RCA pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound or very close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, with no marks that play or issues with the inner grooves
  • This is the superior sounding re-recording from 1961, produced this time by Dick Peirce
  • Chet took the orchestra tapes back to his home studio in 1961 and re-recorded his parts over them, and he managed to do a much better job the second time around
  • This TAS List recording will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.
  • Some of our notes about this very copy: “Awesome detail and space,” “So rich and full bodied,” “Guitar 3-D and rich,” “Big bottom / weight here,” and on and on we went…
  • 4 1/2 stars: “If the cover of At Home evokes the 1950s, the music on In Hollywood IS the 1950s: a warm, cozy, sophisticated album of mood music in the best sense.”

DEMO DISC SOUND! Fairly quiet and unusually clean for a record of its age. TAS List of course, and full of Living Stereo Magic. You can feel the cool air of the studio the minute the needle hits the groove!

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this copy is very special indeed.

But I would bet a very large amount of money that the pressing that Harry liked and recommended on his list is the inferior original recording, the one with the guitar superimposed over the cityscape.

Leave it to us, the guys who actually play lots of records and listen to them critically, to recognize how much better the 1961 version is compared to the original from 1959.

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Debussy / Images for Orchestra / Ansermet – London Versus Decca

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout this early London Wideband Stereo pressing
  • Our Shootout Winner here was exceptionally lively and dynamic – the RCA with Munch was slightly richer and sweeter, but you will find very little to fault in the sound of this record if you don’t have the right stampers for that one
  • And we’re eager to point out that the Decca pressings were not in the same sonic league as our best Londons, something that we run into on a regular basis but for some reason surprises audiophile record lovers to this very day, why we have no idea — all the pressings we play in our shootouts are mastered by Decca in England from the same tapes
  • There are about 100 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.

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Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story (Original Soundtrack)

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

More Soundtrack Albums

  • You’ll find INCREDIBLE Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides of this original Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Spacious, rich and smooth – only vintage analog seems capable of reproducing all three of these qualities without sacrificing resolution, staging, imaging or presence
  • Tonality is the hardest thing to get right on this album, and here it is practically right on the money
  • For those of you who like to do your own shootouts, good luck, you will need a lot of originals to find one that sounds as good as this one does
  • The biggest selling album of the ’60s – 54 weeks at Number One (!)
  • 5 stars: “The soundtrack of the West Side Story film is deservedly one of the most popular soundtrack recordings of all time, and one of the relatively few to have attained long-term popularity beyond a specialized soundtrack/theatrical musical audience.”
  • If you’re a fan of Leonard Bernstein’s, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album is at least five times more common in mono than it is in stereo, and finding a clean stereo original ended up taking us three to five years, so don’t expect to see another one of this caliber any time soon.

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Charles Mingus – Pre Bird

More Charles Mingus

More Jazz Recordings

  • You’ll find INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this original Mercury Stereo LP, only the second time this pressing has made it to the site
  • We used to think the early Limelight pressing was impossible to beat, but this killer original Mercury showed us just how wrong we were – it takes the recording to another level
  • This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which is exactly what it was
  • The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording (released in 1961, and again in 1965 as Mingus Revisited) is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it
  • Two tracks are contrapuntal arrangements of two swing era pieces, whereby “Take the “A” Train” (left channel) is paired with a simultaneous “Exactly Like You” (right channel), and likewise “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” with “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”.

The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe (assuming your room can do a good job of recreating their room). The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it -so high-resolution too.

If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Mingus was a genius and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of the undeniability of that fact.

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out (Mono)

More Dave Brubeck

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this vintage 6-Eye Mono pressing will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s extremely unlikely that any mono pressing will win a shootout, but just to keep us on our toes, we like to put some monos of famous albums in our shootouts from time to time to see how they measure up
  • This 2+ early pressing was the best of the bunch, and it’s guaranteed to beat the pants off any modern Heavy Vinyl pressing ever made
  • These sides are so Tubey Magical, rich, full-bodied and warm, yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The selections, which range in time signatures from 5/4 to 9/8, are handled with apparent ease (or at least not too much difficulty) by pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello on this near-classic.”
  • Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room, these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording.

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Beethoven – Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

Hot Stamper Pressings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

Do you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test? Well this is that record! That violin is REAL. As you compare equipment or tweak your system, you will hear the sound of that violin change and it should be obvious when it gets better and when it gets worse. 

The piano is also very well recorded. If you lose some body to the piano you’re probably going in the wrong direction. But since that direction would make the violin almost unbearable sounding, I’m going to guess that would be easily recognized as a mistake.

The balance between those two instruments on this recording is perfection, so if you get this record right, you’re making progress of the most important kind: toward musical naturalness.

Otherwise this violin, at least on the Kreutzer Sonata, is going to tear your head off.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie in Stereo

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • A STUNNING pressing of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound this good, play this quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early stereo pressing will put Ella in the room with you – it lets her performance come to life
  • Only the best pressings bring her performance to life the way this one does
  • 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.” [It is definitely not underrated by us, we think it’s the best record the lady ever made]
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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.

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…)