Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end on this famous Pablo, one we consider The Best Basie Big Band Record We've Ever Played
- Both sides are exceptionally clear, rich, and full of Tubey Magic, with a solid bottom end and huge amounts of three-dimensional studio space
- Demo Disc sound - guaranteed to beat the pants off of any Heavy Vinyl pressing, at any speed, of any title
- Allmusic: "This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years."
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Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the mid- to late-'70s through the early '80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best. Sonically it's another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we've done lately, we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we've ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves -- after all, we haven't done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we'll just call this one First Among Equals.
And when you hear it sounding as good as it does here, it truly qualifies as a Big As Life DEMO DISC.
Some general guidelines as to what we listen for when playing these Basie Big Band recordings and what the better pressings do that the lesser ones cannot.
What the best sides of Farmers Market Barbecue 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 1982
- 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 space of the studio
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.
What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are two qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and lack of smear. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambiance and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for.
(Note that most Heavy Vinyl pressings being produced these days seem to be inordinately Transparency Challenged. Lots of important musical information -- the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings -- is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a whole -- including those that pass themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press -- do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.)
Lack of Smear
Lack of smear is also important, especially on a recording with this many horns, where the leading edge transients are so critical to their proper reproduction. If the sharply differing characteristics of the various brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, and three kinds of saxes) smear together into an amorphous blob, as if the sound were being fed through '50s vintage tube amps (for those of you who know that sound), half the fun goes right out of the music.
Richness is important -- horns need to be full-bodied if they are to sound like the real thing -- but so are speed and clarity, two qualities that insure that all the horns have the proper bite and timbre.
What We're Listening For on Farmers Market Barbecue
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 for the guitars, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
A problem we noted on many copies in addition to smear and opacity was blurry bass. Most copies are rich and full-bodied, with plenty of bottom end. So far so good. However, when the bottom is not well-defined, you can't hear Freddie Green strumming along nearly as well as you can on the copies where the bass is tight and note-like.
The same is true for the baritone sax; it got lost in the murky depths of some of the copies we played. And of course the way we know that is when we drop the needle on a randomly chosen copy and -- suddenly -- there it is! Now we're hearing the instrument clearly and correctly. Who knew it could sound like that? Only on these very special copies are we given the opportunity to appreciate the baritone's contribution to the music.
What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That's what we at Better Records mean by "Hi-Fi," not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There's no boosted top, there's no bloated bottom, there's no sucked-out midrange.
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I'm pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.
Mint Minus Minus 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 later 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 originals.
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.
Way Out Basie
St. Louis Blues
Lester Leaps In
Blues for the Barbecue
I Don't Know Yet
Ain't That Something
Jumpin' at the Woodside
This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years. Actually, half of this album features a medium-sized group from Basie’s big band, but his orchestra usually had the feel of a small group anyway. Soloists at this late stage include Eric Dixon and Kenny Hing on tenors, trombonist Booty Wood, altoist Danny Turner and four different trumpeters. The rhythm section is of course instantly recognizable and the music is very much in the Basie tradition.
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