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White Hot Stamper

Billie Holiday
Music For Torching

  (Item #: holidmusic_1810x) 

Our Price: $349.99

  • A KILLER copy of one of Billie's best, you won't believe how good these Triple Plus (A+++) sides sound!
  • A superb recording of jazz standards with a great lineup and Billie in top form, as well as Tubey Magical sound, with especially breathy vocals
  • Great performances with stellar sound for It Had to Be You, Come Rain or Come Shine, A Fine Romance and too many more to list
  • "The overall feeling on this 1955 recording is strictly after-hours: the party is long over but a few close friends remain for nightcaps and, is that the sun peeking through the windows?"
See all of our Billie Holiday albums in stock


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White Hot Stamper

Barney Kessel
Some Like It Hot

  (Item #: kessesomel_1810) 

Our Price: $249.99

  • This superb 2-pack of Kessel's brilliant 1959 larger group outing has a shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • With Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, and dead on tonality from top to bottom, this is a textbook example of Contemporary's sound at its best
  • An All Star West Coast lineup came together for this one: Art Pepper (on sax and claritnet!), Shelly Manne, Joe Gordon and others
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Such tunes as "I Wanna Be Loved by You," "Runnin' Wild," "Down Among the Sheltering Palms," and "By the Beautiful Sea" are given fairly modern arrangements..."
More Barney Kessel / More Art Pepper


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Super Hot Stamper

Julie London
Julie Is Her Name

  (Item #: londojulieis_1806_1811) 

Our Price: $199.99
Sale Price: $149.00 (You save $50.99 / 25%)


  • A superb sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Julie is in the room with you - intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like nothing you've ever heard
  • Guaranteed to blow your mind - for late night listening this may be the best record of its kind ever made
  • "...one of the purest, most subtle lounge albums of all time (not to mention one of the best vocal jazz albums ever)."
See all of our Julie London albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

  (Item #: beachpetso_1805_1811) 

Our Price: $199.99
Sale Price: $149.00 (You save $50.99 / 25%)


  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from beginning to end -- this pressing has the Pet Sounds you've been looking for
  • Play this against any and all versions you have -- this will be the last Pet Sounds you buy (unless you decide to upgrade to a Triple Plus copy)
  • The Beach Boys revolutionized the popular music of the day with their genius for harmony, and a killer copy like this has their voices sounding the way they should
  • 5 stars: "The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound."
See all of our Beach Boys albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Billie Holiday
All Or Nothing At All

  (Item #: holidallor_1804_1810) 

Our Price: $149.99
Sale Price: $129.00 (You save $20.99 / 14%)


  • An excellent copy with two Double Plus (A+++) sides and two very close to it, on quiet vinyl to boot
  • It's one of the better sounding Billie Holiday records we've heard, any guaranteed to beat any Heavy Vinyl reissue you've wasted your money on
  • This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)
  • "... features some of Billie Holiday's top Verve performances from the mid-'50s... she runs the emotional gamut from summery optimism to pathos-rich musings. Befitting her perennial after-hours mood, the majority of songs here feature Holiday in a low-down mood of the highest order." - All Music
See all of our Billie Holiday albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Billie Holiday
Music For Torching

  (Item #: holidmusic_1809) 

Our Price: $129.99

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is a killer copy of one of Billie's best
  • Not only that, but this pressing plays as quietly as any we can find - Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • A superb recording of jazz standards with a great lineup and Billie in top form, as well as Tubey Magical sound, with especially breathy vocals
  • Great versions (and lovely sound) for It Had to Be You, Come Rain or Come Shine, A Fine Romance, and too many more to list
  • "The overall feeling on this 1955 recording... is strictly after-hours: the party is long over but a few close friends remain for nightcaps and, is that the sun peeking through the windows?" -- Allmusic
See all of our Billie Holiday albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Barney Kessel
Music To Listen To (in Stereo)

  (Item #: kessemusic_1806_1811) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • This Minty Original Black Label Contemporary Stereo LP from 1958 boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • How can you beat a Roy DuNann recording of five reeds, piano, guitar and a rhythm section that includes Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell?
  • The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you've put into your stereo more than pay off
  • Barney Kessel and his five reed players take these standards and make magic with them on this, one of our favorite jazz records
See all of our Barney Kessel albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Barney Kessel
Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

  (Item #: kessetoswi_1702_1809) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • Great Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides - only the second copy to hit the site in many years
  • Clean, clear and lively with a big bottom end and loads of Contemporary's trademarked Tubey Magic
  • Relatively quiet vinyl throughout for a recording from 1955 - Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • "Guitarist Barney Kessel's string of recordings for Contemporary in the 1950s included some of the finest work of his career ... highly recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz."
See all of our Barney Kessel albums in stock


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Super Hot Stamper

Dean Martin
Dream With Dean

  (Item #: martidream_1809) 

Our Price: $99.99

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs - the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • These are almost impossible to find in playable condition these days (and even this one is not as quiet as we would like)
  • "It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was."
See all of our Dean Martin albums in stock


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Barney Kessel - Barney Kessel Plays Carmen (Stereo)

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: kessebarne_stereo_2014) 



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

This original Black Label Contemporary stereo LP has a STUNNING side two! Barney Kessel Plays Carmen is one of our favorite jazz guitar recordings of all time, and on a copy like this the sound is absolutely KILLER.

As you can see from looking at the condition notes, this copy is quieter than any other we have listed to from our recent shootout. Fifties jazz doesn't play much better than this copy right here.

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Barney Kessel - Carmen

Transparency Is Key

  (Item #: kessebarne_transparency) 



The best Hot Stamper Original Yellow Label Mono pressings have the Tubey Magic we've come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that most engineers can't begin to understand. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that the original pressings rarely do.

There's a room around this drum kit. So many copies don't show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does. (It's amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is leaned out! If you like that sound buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these wonderful originals to those of us who know the sound we're after.)

More Contemporary jazz


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Barney Kessel - Let's Cook

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: kesseletsc_2012) 



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

We were simply blown away by this Yellow Label pressing, which earned an A+++ for side one and an A++ for side two in a recent shootout. The transparency and clarity are SUPERB, and the amount of tubey magic is unbelievable! Folks, if you like guitar jazz, do not miss out on this album. I guarantee you will be absolutely knocked out by the sound of this pressing, not to mention the fantastic music!

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: kessemusic_2008) 



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

This Minty Original Black Label Contemporary Stereo LP from 1957 has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! No other copy we played was in a class with this bad boy -- it does it ALL. For those of you who appreciate the sound that Roy DuNann (and Howard Holzer on other sessions) were able to achieve in the '50s at Contemporary Records, this LP is a Must-Own (unless you already have it, which is doubtful considering how hard it is to find a copy in clean condition).

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: kessemusic_2017) 



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

This Triple Triple (A+++) mono pressing blew everything else out of the water - nothing could touch it! How can you beat a Roy DuNann recording of five reeds, piano, guitar and a rhythm section that includes Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell? The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you've put into your stereo more than pay off.

The Demo Disc sound on this copy is really something to hear - all tube, live-to-two-track direct from the Contemporary studio.

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Some Like It Hot

Our Shootout Winner from 2005

  (Item #: kessesomel_2005) 



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

Original Contemporary Black Label Stereo LP from 1959 with DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND!

For those of you who appreciate the sound that Roy DuNann and, in this case, Howard Holzer, were able to achieve in the ’50s at Contemporary Records, this LP will be a Must-Own unless you already have it. Their stuff just doesn't get any better than this. Tubey magic, richness, sweetness, dead on timbres from top to bottom -- this is a textbook example of their sound at its best.

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Some Like It Hot

Our Shootout Winner from 2018

  (Item #: kessesomel_2018_) 



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

This is absolutely the right sound for this music. There was simply nothing that could beat the Triple Plus side, in any area of reproduction. If you like the sound of relaxed, All Tube jazz recordings, you can't do much better than Some Like It Hot. Many of the copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good.

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessel - Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

Our Shootout Winner from 2017

  (Item #: kessetoswi_2017) 



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

This Early Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP sure has AMAZING SOUND!

Man, this music is a blast when it sounds this good. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you could do to make this music sound any better! It’s one of the best early mono Contemporary LP I’ve ever played. It's so tubey magical and Kessel's guitar sound is out of this world.

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Barney Kessel - Workin' Out

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: kesseworki_2013) 



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

This is a 2-pack set of original pressings that gives you wonderful sound for both sides of this great Contemporary album, A++ for the first and A+++ for the second. There is a catch, however, one that won't bother some of you at all but will drive a few of you crazy: the side one pressing is in mono and the side two is in stereo. All that mattered to us was that they both sounded great, and a quick flip to the not-so-hot side of either pressing will quickly show you why we paired these up.

More Barney Kessel


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Barney Kessell - Easy Like

Reviewed in 2005

  (Item #: kesseeasyl_2005) 



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

This is an original Mono Contemporary Yellow Label DEMO LP. The record plays EX++ to Mint Minus Minus -- if you can stand some surface noise this is a very good sounding LP. The sound is good; however, it's almost impossible to find quiet pressings of these old Contemporary albums. This is about as quiet as they get!

More Contemporary jazz


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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

Analogue Productions Debunked

  (Item #: cartejazzg_ap_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

You may remember that Acoustic Sounds did a version back in the '90s, which was a complete disaster. I haven't heard the new 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts. (Actually the records themselves set the standards; we simply grade them on the curve they establish.)

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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: cartejazzg_2011) 



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

HUGE DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary LP sounds AMAZING -- it has a wide and open soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music. Drop the needle on track three (Carter’s Own ’A Walkin’ Thing’) to hear these guys really swinging! The sound is so natural, and it really jumps out of the speakers. This knocked our original Stereo Records pressing out of the ballpark -- it wasn't even close.

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Benny Carter - Jazz Giant

The Amazing Sounding Mono Copy We Played in 2005

  (Item #: cartejazzg_2005) 



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

This Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this! Midrange magic doesn’t get anymore magical. I don’t care who remasters this record, I don't think they can do it as well as it was done in 1958.

I haven't heard the new 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this. It wouldn't be done on vintage tube cutting equipment, and that sound is the sound we love here at Better Records.

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Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing

Our Black Label Shootout Winner

  (Item #: humessongs_blk_2007) 



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

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It has that classic tube-mastered sound -- warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings with more breath of life.

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Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing

Our Yellow Label Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: humessongs_2008) 



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

Side one has OFF THE CHARTS, A+++ Master Tape Sound. It's amazingly tubey magical, yet incredibly clean and clear -- something you can't get from the tube-mastered originals. Helen's voice is PERFECTION -- breathy, full, and sweet. The orchestra sounds JUST RIGHT -- just listen to the nice bite of the brass. The overall sound is super full-bodied and rich and very transparent.

More Helen Humes


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

A Boxstar Bomb

  (Item #: londojulieis_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where's the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right?

See all of our Julie London albums in stock


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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What a Record!

  (Item #: londojulieis_2016) 



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

We award this copy's side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a given recording to a level we've never experienced before and had no idea could even exist. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can't get much more rare than that.

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Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulieis_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel's guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

More Julie London


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Sonny Rollins - Alternate Takes

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: rollialter_2015) 



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

An absolutely killer pressing of one of our favorite jazz albums! The album is comprised of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, sound amazing!

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Sonny Rollins - Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: rolliconte_2013) 



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

SUPERB SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary Green Label LP has THE BIG SOUND -- rich and so full-bodied with amazing presence and immediacy. The bass is PERFECTION -- deep, rock solid, and note-like. There’s lots of extension on the top end, letting Shelley Manne's fantastic work on the cymbals really come to life. The clarity on this copy is superb -- just listen to those leading edge transients on Sonny's sax. The guitar has the tubey qualities that we love here at Better Records -- it's warm, rich, and sweet with lots of ambience.

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The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: beachpetso_2014) 



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

We've obviously been at this Hot Stamper business for a long, long time. Well folks, today is the day that an amazing A+++ copy of Pet Sounds finally makes it onto the site (we've found a few before, but they always sold before they got a chance to be listed!). I'm not sure if you want to hear the story of how we finally found these good pressings or just snap this one up before the next man does -- I think we all know this record isn't going to last long here!

More Beach Boys


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The Poll Winners - Straight Ahead

Our Shootout Winner from 2008

  (Item #: pollwstrai_2008) 



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

This is a Minty looking Contemporary Records LP with SUPERB MUSIC AND SOUND! We pulled together enough copies to do a small shootout, and this copy was the champion for BOTH SIDES! The sound is very clean and clear, yet tubey magical.

Shelly Manne / Ray Brown / Barney Kessel


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