The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- This Verve stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout - fairly quiet vinyl too
- The sound is rich and full-bodied, in the proud tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album with big band backup
- It's very difficult to get the vocals AND the brass to sound right on the same LP, but these sides pull that trick off nicely
- 4 1/2 stars: "Surprisingly enough this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years."
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*NOTE: On side one, two marks make 4 light ticks at the end of Track 3, Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall, and 10 light ticks at the beginning of Track 5, Dream a Little Dream of Me.
Take it from an Ella fan, you can't go wrong with this one. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably isn't familiar with, and that's the best reason to put on an old record.
The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.
This vintage stereo LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real ELLA FITZGERALD singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 55 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of Ella and Basie! have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The First Lady of Song
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record. We know, we heard them all. There is a marked tendency on this recording to have a bit of honk or squawk, but our best copies are free from this problem.
We're glad to report this copy was doing more of what we wanted it to do than most of the other copies we played. And we know a fair bit about Ella's recordings at this point. As of today we've done commentaries for more than a dozen different Ella Fitzgerald albums, and that's not counting the sixteen (yes, 16!) titles we put in our Hall of Shame.
We've searched high and low for her records and played them by the score over the years. We plan to keep a good supply on to the site in the coming years so watch for new arrivals in the Vocal section (linked to the left).
What We're Listening For on Ella and Basie!
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Hardness and Brashness
Want to know what we are on about with all this talk of hardness and brashness? Easy, just play the average copy. Unless you are exceptionally fortunate and chanced upon a properly mastered and pressed and cared for copy, you will hear plenty of both.
It's one of the main reasons we have such a hard time doing shootouts for Ella's '50s and '60s albums. The other of course is the poor condition most copies are in. Few pressings do not have marks that play or damaged grooves. The record players of the '50s and '60s, not to mention their owners, were ruinous on the albums of the day.
Which is simply another reason not to expect another top copy of this album to come to the site any time soon. Give us two or three years or so and we might be able to find another batch with which to do a shootout. In that time we will surely look at fifty copies, buy ten, and end up with five that are worth playing.
Obviously we wouldn't bother if the music and sound weren't so good. When you are lucky enough to find a copy that sounds as good as this one, full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.
VAL VALENTIN's engineering credits run for days. Some high points are of course Ella and Louis and Getz/Gilberto.
Recently we played a copy of We Get Requests by the Oscar Peterson Trio that blew our mind. And we have been big fans of Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley for more than a decade.
Pull up his credits on Allmusic. No one I am familiar with other than Rudy Van Gelder recorded more great jazz and vocals, and in our opinion Valentin's recordings are quite a bit more natural sounding than Rudy's.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Stereo Vs. Mono
It is our opinion that the mono takes all the fun out of the Quincy Jones' deliberately wide, spacious orchestral presentation surrounding Ella. Which is too bad -- the mono pressings are five times as common as the stereo ones.
- Honeysuckle Rose
- 'Deed I Do
- Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall
- Them There Eyes
- Dream a Little Dream of Me
- Tea for Two
- Satin Dollt
- I'm Beginning to See the Lightt
- Shiny Stockingst
- My Last Affairt
- Ain't Misbehavin't
- On the Sunny Side of the Street
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Surprisingly enough this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years.