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<br>Verve on Vinyl<p> How Did Such Great Recordings<br>Get Made Into Such Bad Sounding LPs?</p>

Verve on Vinyl

How Did Such Great Recordings
Get Made Into Such Bad Sounding LPs?

Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other record label that I know of was responsible for so many wonderful sounding recordings which so often turned into lousy sounding LPs. I could list them for days.

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How Did Such Great Sounding Records Get Made with Such Bad Equipment?

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A Frequently Asked Question

What Exactly Are Hot Stampers?

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For years we would not pick up most Verve titles at anything but a dirt-cheap price, having been burned so many times before. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to play another badly-mastered, noisy LP. Who has the time?

The commentary below concerns a wonderful Wes Montgomery album on Verve. It tells a story that is all too common in our experience: how the typical Verve pressing is so awful it's hard to believe we would make the mistake of continuing to buy them, seemingly throwing good money after bad.

But we did keep buying them, we hung in there, and from time to time -- against all odds -- we would stumble upon a wonderful sounding Verve LP. Some Verve pressings were so much better than we could have ever imagined -- based on the dismal pressings we'd played before -- we had no choice but to call them Hot Stampers. What else could they be?

Finally, The Magic Grooves Appear

After years of searching we are happy to report that Hot Stampers have finally been discovered for this wonderful Wes Montgomery album. THIS is the copy with the real Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in the grooves.

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I used to like, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousness, with far more energy and the kind of "see into the studio" quality that only the real thing ever seems to have.

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair -- and I always am -- the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world.

Verve Problems

Even though we have a bad case of Verve fatigue here at Better Records, this album is musically so special that we took a chance on an open copy at a local store recently, and I'm sure glad we did. It is KILLER. Everything that's good about this era of RVG, Wes himself, as well as those glorious Don Sebesky arrangements, is here. For my part let me just say that this is the best sounding Wes Montgomery record I have ever played.

Oscar Peterson's Verve Story

Excerpts from The Trio - Live From Chicago

Boy, these original Strobe Label (and T label) Verve pressings sure are all over the map. If there's one jazz label that gets an F for consistency, it's Verve. And they typically get an F (or at best a D) for mastering as well, since good sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost on record without causing serious problems.)

As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown's bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen's snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully.

Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But a few -- a very few -- copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected from Verve. This is one of those. It may take us a long time to find another.

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