Tag Archives: records

Do I Need To Be Collecting Original Pressings Of Old Records Anymore?

One of the reasons I first started collecting original pressings of LPs when I was but a wee lad in Junior High School was — believe it or not — audio quality. It was the mid 1970s and the oil crisis was on resulting in poorer quality vinyl for new releases. In retrospect, I suspect that the major labels were both growing and starting to feel the pinch of economic responsibility as they were evolving into corporate giants with profit incentives to meet.  So, corners were increasingly cut… at least so it seemed to many of us on the front lines buying records. 

Vinyl quality was often poor, records became thinner, warps more common, album graphics on older titles were compromised, sometimes with washed out printing and reduction of gatefold covers to single pocket budget line editions. 

I had grown quickly frustrated by the preponderance of cruddy quality LPs I was getting even at that early period In my life. Now, it’s not like I had a big fancy uber high end stereo system or anything folks… We had some decent gear around. My older brother had a Fisher 500 receiver and Smaller Advent speakers, for example.  My middle brother was busy experimenting fixing old amps he found on junk day. We also had this futuristic-looking Panasonic receiver with built in cassette recorder around for a while. Plus there was this great old idler drive Rek-o-Kut Rondine Jr. turntable he’d restored a bit (which I eventually used all through college, btw). Still, my ear was pretty keen and I could tell when something sounded good or didn’t sound right.

Add to that the thrill thrill of discovery of used record shops as well as thrift shops, garage sales and flea markets and soon I realized that I could stretch my nonexistent teenaged budget quite a bit. 

Then the 1980s happened and the compact disc came along (my first CD player was a Sony CDP 110). But, guess what:  I didn’t purge my vinyl!  One of the first CDs I bought was Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run and I returned it the next day — it sounded awful!  A few other CD purchases made me realize we had a ways to go before the CD would truly deliver on its “perfect sound” promise — digital disc media later improved dramatically with 24-bit mastering, and expanded capacity disc formats like SACD, DVD Audio and Blu-ray). 

Fast forward and here I am decades later still (happily) rooting around in thrift shops and used record stores. I am still collecting vinyl (and some CDs and surround sound Blu-rays when I can). I’m still enjoying the thrill of the hunt for the elusive rarity: from a Beatles “butcher cover” or some rare Blue Note jazz gem from J. R. Monterose (which I found at an estate sale for $2 just five years ago!).  

In the 1980s and ‘90s there was a great series from Fantasy Records called “Original Jazz Classics” (commonly known among collectors as “OJC”). And while those aren’t fancy packages like the new Tone Poet and Acoustic Sounds reissues, they do re-create the original artwork/ labels and tend to be of excellent quality even though they are on standard weight vinyl. From what I have heard from industry friends, much of that series was mastered in the analog realm so there is a genuinely warm and inviting sound there.

The OJC series was a great step in the right direction for creating high quality and affordably priced reissues. I still buy those periodically especially for titles that are difficult to find out in the wilds of record hunting. I recently picked up a mint used copy of a Teddy Charles & Shorty Rogers album from 1956 on an OJC reissue for $10. On all of Discogs there are exactly one original copies of that album available (and it is $200). The last one sold on Popsike went for $141. So, I think I am ok with my OJC edition which sounds terrific.

Especially in the jazz world, the quality of reissues from the major labels have proven to be generally very good in the past couple of years. Universal Music’s Acoustic Sounds and Tone Poet series are excellent as have been many of the reissues from Concord Music’s Craft Recordings series (Prestige, Fantasy, World Pacific catalogs). The latter’s recent Chet Baker reissue series was top notch.  I have been reviewing many of these here on Audiophile Review so do use our search feature to seek out those reviews if you are interested in learning more about them.

As owners of the catalogs of Verve Records, Impulse Records, Decca Records and many others, Universal has hired outside experts from the Acoustic Sounds and Tone Poet boutique reissue labels to curate the reissue series. Most of these are rare enough records that I couldn’t have even begun to even consider getting them in their original form unless I found them out in the wilds of collecting (garage sales, thrift shops, flea markets, etc.).  

These new reissues are often superior to the originals – – many are pressed on 180-gram vinyl, featuring laminated covers, gatefold packaging, original label artwork and most importantly high-quality mastering and pressing, etc.

At least a couple of these reissues have eclipsed originals in my collection in terms of fidelity and almost always in terms of condition. In some instances, I am getting rid of my originals because there is simply no need for it anymore. It is a case by case thing, really. I talk about that at the end of my review of the recent Ray Charles reissue on Impulse Records (click here to read that). I have already purged my “OG” copy of The Band’s Stage Fright because the new reissue is far far superior in every way (click here for my review of that new boxed set)

My Frank Zappa collection is very interesting because the new re-issues are generally excellent, some with expanded versions of the performances, high-quality remastering, great pressing quality and original cover art and so on. Perhaps the only anomaly is that they don’t use the original label designs because those are owned by another entity… I’m OK with that because I could (and probably will) hold onto my originals of those favorite albums. However, when it comes to regular play, some of those re-issues sound at least as good if not better than my originals and will be my go-tos for basic listening.

All this raises a conundrum for me (and perhaps some of you, Dear Readers), thus inspiring this little thought piece here today here at Audiophile Review.  That question is:  with the record labels finally understanding what collectors want and mostly delivering on those demands, do we need to keep searching for certain original editions? 

I probably couldn’t afford buying a whole a whole batch of Grant Green original Blue Notes but the reissues are certainly lovingly crafted. Each sells for about $25-$30 a piece which while not exactly “cheap” (like the $10-15 OJCs) it is also nowhere near as expensive as finding certain first pressings (especially those in great condition).

Whats a dedicated collector to do?

In this instance, I think it would be wise for all of us to be snapping up these great reissues while they last. Original pressings are elusive for a reason. Many from the 1950s especially were produced and/or sold small quantities. I suspect that distribution centered on major Jazz markets of the time (NY, LA, San Francisco, Chicago and some important secondary cities like New Orleans and Kansas City). 

Many of these records were played hard, often beat up on lower quality record players and automatic changers. Many were used in party situations — if some of those albums could talk, I bet they’d have some great stories to tell! 

It is really really hard to find any that are in even halfway decent shape that are fairly affordable. Now, I personally don’t mind a light scratch or two… a click here and there, a pop, crackle or occasional snap… I’ve even written about the joys of a Mono cartridge which can minimize the surface noise of certain pre-1958 Monaural records (click here for that article). 

But, if I can get a pristine reissue that looks and feels like the real thing and more or less sounds like the real thing if not better – – and in many cases they do sound technically better because they’re not compressed as much —  then why not just buy them, enjoy them and be done with it?  It makes good sense to me. 

That said, I look forward to seeing you out in your favorite record stores picking up those latest Blue Note Tone Poets, Verve Acoustic Sounds and Craft Recordings special editions.

Grab ‘em while you can!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Classic Chet Baker, Kevin Gray Remastered On RTI-Pressed Craft Recordings Vinyl (Part 2)

In part one of my exploration of the new Chet Baker vinyl reissues from Craft Recordings, I discussed the need for these still remarkably rare recordings to be offered again in high quality, audiophile-worthy editions. I also explored the album Chet Stereo in some detail, my favorite release of the series. In case you missed that first review, please click here to jump to it as there is some information there you may find interesting. 

Generally, these reissues are consistently quite beautiful — clean and rich, some delivering a nice sense of air around the music. The pressings are dead quiet, so there are no issues with quality controls that I can see/hear. Each of these albums are pressed in 180-gram vinyl at the respected RTI manufacturing plant. 

While I don’t have original pressings to compare these albums to, I suspect these new masters are a bit brighter than the 1958-59 editions (less compression used in in mastering, higher quality vinyl, audiophile grade pressing, etc.). In general these albums sound nice, a couple of them might even become demo discs for some of you.

Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner and Loewe

Listening to Chet Stereo, I realized that one of the things I like most about Chet Baker’s trumpet playing is his buttery lyricism which shines on slower paced tunes. His phrasing is masterful and I enjoy being able to relish every note. That said, Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner and Loewe is my second favorite among these reissues as it — in some ways — continues the cool West Coast vibe. Some of the connective glue to both albums is the presence of piano legend Bill Evans who anchors about half of this collection. While not all of the arrangements of the Lerner and Loewe classics from My Fair Lady are entirely to my liking — I prefer treatments by Oscar Peterson and Shelly Manne from that period — in general Chet’s playing is sublime throughout.  Having support from Zoot Sims and Pepper Adams on saxophones doesn’t hurt either.  

Chet In New York 

This is an interesting affair which at times approaches the fantastic (my third favorite in the series). A sweet set, here Chet is backed by a stellar rhythm sections featuring no less than Philly Joe Jones on drums and Paul Chambers on bass. True to the title and intent of the album, this pairs Baker — ‘the most notable of “cool” West Coast stars’ according to the liner notes — with  some of the best East Coast players of the period. Accordingly, this swinging set at times gets into some harder bop flavors and Baker rises to the occasion, no doubt. But I think he is in his sweet spot on the more laid back arrangements which inject a shot of East Coast energy beneath the chill West Coast vibe. Tracks like “Soft Winds” and “Blue Thoughts” are smokey and rich. Baker likewise finds that comfort zone on Miles Davis’ “Solar.” “Polka Dots & Moonbeams” has some beautiful soloing on it. 

It Could Happen To You – Chet Baker Sings

Don’t hate me folks, but I wanted to like this album more than I did (gasp! blasphemy!). I’m not a huge fan of Chet’s singing but I do love his Trumpet playing. However, on this album I did come to appreciate his very horn like “scat” vocalizing — it is at those points in the album that his voice comes alive and rings true to my ear. Sure his timing and phrasing is quite nice but I find his voice just a  a bit too clean for my tastes.

Its a little like the difference between Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, with Sarah perhaps having a more raw technique but bringing out an — and this is just my opinion folks, not the gospel! — more street-wise jazz feel than Ella’s crisp precision. Or consider two singers which Chet’s voice reminds me of: June Christy and Chris Connor.

I find June has more swing and some of that Sarah-like sassiness in her interpretations as opposed to Chris’ coloring-within-the-lines approach. So Chet — for me at least — feels a bit more like a male Chris Connor. And for many of you that may be a good thing!

For me, I’d rather simply listen to his horn playing. Still, its nice to finally hear this album which is highly revered and does indeed sound great from a listening standpoint.

All four of these new releases are in high demand. In fact, many of the pre-orders seem to be sold out already! Check back at Amazon by clicking the links embedded in the titles here (above) or here.  Also check Craft Recording’s website in case they announce a repressing.  

If you have trouble finding these Craft Recordings reissues online, check with your favorite music stores. You can also find them streaming in 96 kHz, 24-bit MQA (click here) via Tidal and at 192 kHz, 24 Bit High Res via Qobuz (click here). 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Exploring David Axelrod’s Heavy Axe, Colored Vinyl Reissue

I had high anticipation for this particular album in the new series of high quality reissues from Jazz Dispensary, the boutique-within-a-boutique imprint from Craft Recordings:  Heavy Axe by David Axelrod. Prior to last Fall, I’d only “heard of” Mr. Axelrod but never really actually heard his music. 

Then I got my hands on a sweet soul-jazz compilation which came out on Record Store Day late last year called Orange Sunset (which I reviewed, click here) which opens up with a track by him called “Everything Counts.”  That song knocked me out, a fairly epic production with big horns and a sweeping build that could easily be a final scene in a film (perhaps the next Guardians of the Galaxy?).

It turns out that opening track on Orange Sunset was actually the final song on Axelrod’s Heavy Axe. So when I put the full album on I had some fairly high expectations. 

Sonics wise this reissue is just fine. The rich brown “timber” colored vinyl is well centered and quiet, pressed at RTI and mastered by Cohearant Audio (as all of the albums in this series have been).  So the physical, technical sound of the album wasn’t of any issue for me — it sounds good for what it is.  

As I’ve listened to it a number of times, however, I do wish however this actual recording had been fully remixed, not just remastered. “Why,” you ask?  Well, there are some neat bass synthesizer parts which are pretty much buried in the mix (either played by George Duke or Rudy Copeland). I mean, really, there is not a lot of distinctive bass on this album but everything else is quite clear: drums, scratchy funky guitars, punchy horn sections, etc.  

Don’t get me wrong. The low end is there but it is very muted, so when they go break out into a solo, it feels a bit like something is missing from the mix. Curiously, when I checked out the album on Tidal and Qobuz, the bass — while still not super satisfying and balanced, especially volume-wise in relation to the kick drum— it is a wee bit more apparent there.  

Heavy Axe opens up encouragingly with “Get Up Off Your Knees” (written by producer Julian “Cannonball” Adderly).  I could do without the covers of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” and Carly Simon’s “Your So Vain.” 

The side one closer is an Axelrod original called “My Family” and it rings much truer. To that — for me at least — Axelrod’s originals are the focus on this album, which comprise about half of the tracks here. “It Ain’t For You” is a groovy little funk swinger but again, the bass parts are sort of buried so … well… its a little hard to get down and boogie (if you will) without a prominent bass line! 

That first track I mentioned, “Everything Counts” somehow works, probably because there is so much else going on in the tracks — big shimmering strings, chime-y Fender Rhodes textures and so on. 

All that said and given the price point on Heavy Axe, you might want to explore the album first on a CD or stream to see if you like the album enough to want to own it on vinyl. You can find it streaming on Tidal in 192 kHz, 24-bit MQA format (click here) and on Qobuz in Hi Res format (click here).  Heavy Axe is a good album.  But if you already have Orange Sunset, you have a pretty good idea what this album is about and that might well be all you need. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Hi-Fi: Why Do Records Sound Better? | The Ivory Tower

Into The Groove Why do a lot of us audiophiles (and casual listener types) prefer the sound of records over the same music released digitally? Is it something about the inferiority of digital? Are vinyl records, without those sacrilegious anti-aliasing filters and stair-step samples, somehow higher in resolution? Or is it simply the much-heralded warmth of vinyl? Some would say digital is superior without the surface noise, side length limitations, and inner groove distortion. So what’s the point of putting digital mixes on an analog record? Records should be cut from an analog master, right? I’m not talking about the ritual of owning and playing records. Putting aside the factors of having a tangible object that requires more care and intention, along with the fun of combing bins for used treasures and everything else that goes with being a record collector, let’s explore the sonics and what’s responsible for that warm and fuzzy feeling we often get when having a platter party. Words and Photos by Dave McNair Everyone hears things differently. Folks have different tastes for what lights up that pleasure center in our brains. It’s a subject I talk about a lot with my audiophile friends, especially the [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Pro-Ject Announces Debut Carbon EVO Turntable

MISTELBACH, AUSTRIA – The new Debut Carbon EVO turntable features the Pro-Ject’s famous one-piece carbon-fiber tonearm, electronic speed selection, and the big cherry on top — a factory mounted Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge. The ‘EVO is available in a range of nine stunning finishes. The name says it all, the Debut Carbon has evolved. Long live the king! Press release enclosed, along with a slew of photos and the detailed brochure. Enjoy! PRO-JECT ANNOUNCES NEW DEBUT CARBON EVOLUTION TURNTABLE The Brand is Thrilled to Launch an Updated and Refined Version of Their Most Beloved Turntable Design Pro-Ject Audio Systems is excited to unveil the new Debut Carbon Evolution turntable as an addition to its critically-acclaimed Debut Collection. The new product features the brand’s famous one-piece carbon fiber tonearm technology, electronic speed selection, suspension elements from the EISA award winning X1, and a factory mounted Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge. From the very beginning, Pro-Ject has believed in the power of analog music. From the mid-1990s, at the height of the CD, Pro-Ject gained a global reputation for their phenomenal sound quality and premium build at an affordable price. After more than 20 years, The Debut is one of the best-selling products [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile