Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish, this TAS-approved Living Stereo pressing will be very hard to beat, practically impossible even
- Originally produced as a sampler record for the Living Stereo line, it is an absolute MUST OWN for serious audiophiles looking to take their system to the next level
- Our reference copy here at Better Records is so vital to our operation that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price!
- Minor marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings - there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- 4 stars: "The gleefully cacophonous Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band takes the prize for providing the most unusual musical selection, but the overall program is extremely diverse [and] the comedy and music are enjoyable."
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*NOTE: On side 1, there is a mark that plays 6 times at a moderate level about 1/8" (approx. 40 seconds) from the end of track 2, "Riders In The Sky." On side 2, there is a mark that plays 7 times at a moderate level at the start of track 1, "The First Noël."
Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment -- we seem to do them almost weekly these days -- has to pass one test and one test only: The Bob and Ray Test.
This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: "The Song of the Volga Boatman."
For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is "The Song of the Volga Boatman" on Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.
There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change, some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.
It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.
All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test, as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last several years.
Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding -- when the system is working right. When it’s not working right, the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.
If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one. It will be invaluable to you in the long run.
The copy we have is so good, and is so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.
This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, 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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular 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 1958
- 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.
What We're Listening For On Bob and Ray Throw A Stereo Spectacular
- 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, full-bodied 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.
The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test
One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through "The Song of the Volga Boatman." I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better.
What To Listen For (Side One)
That first crack of thunder on side one is an obvious test for bottom end size and weight. On the better copies it really rattles the room.
But the real test for side one is "Buck Dance." For one of our top copies a while back we wrote:
Without a doubt this is the best sound I have ever heard for side one of this album. The sound here is so amazing I’m willing to go out on a limb and make the following recklessly bold statement. "Buck Dance" on this pressing has the most extended, natural and harmonically correct high frequencies I have ever heard from my speakers (or anyone else’s for that matter).
And the crazy thing about it is, when played against an actual original pressing of Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp, this copy, which one would assume is made from a dub, sounds far better. Now of course we don’t have ten copies of LSP 1866, which would allow us to find one with an even better "Buck Dance" than the one heard here on Bob and Ray, which means we cannot be definitive in any way about the disparity in sound between the two albums.
We can only judge the records we have in hand, not the ones we might have heard years ago or — even worse — speculate about the sound of records we have not actually played, recently or otherwise. So we will stick to the facts, and the facts of this side one are that it is absolutely amazing sounding.
Bob and Ray and the TAS List
The album is comprised of a group of selections taken from the best of the early Living Stereo releases, some of which obviously sound better than others, all interspersed with hilarious dialogue and sound effects by Bob and Ray. From start to finish this record is a blast. The entertainment value is off the scale.
Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs. When you hear a copy sound as good as this one does you will have no doubt that it belongs there. (Other records on the list, not so much. Played Summer Side of Life or Warm Shade of Ivory lately? These aren’t even good records, let alone Super Discs.)
We all owe HP a huge debt of gratitude for turning us on to this wonderful record, which also happens to be my favorite LSP of all time. I might not have ever played it were it not for the TAS List. (That’s actually a bit disingenuous; any classic Living Stereo gets played around here because the potential for good sound — and therefore a sizable return on investment — is fairly high.)
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.
This album ranks fairly high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using anything but the highest quality equipment.
- Bob And Ray Visit Dr. Ahkbar At The Castle — Narration with sound effects by Bob and Ray
- Riders In The Sky — George Melachrino and his orchestra, from the LP “Under Western Skies”
- Minuet On The Rocks — Skitch Henderson and his Orchette
- Bob And Ray In The Round Room — Narration with sound effects by Bob and Ray
- Buck Dance — Dick Schory’s New Percussion Ensemble, from the LP “Music For Bang, Baa-Room and Harp”
- New-Fangled Tango — Lena Horne
- The Thing — Narration with sound effects by Bob and Ray
- The Second Hungarian — Rhapsody Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band, from the LP “Music For Non-thinkers”
- The First Noël — Radio City Music Hall Organ – Richard Leiber, from the LP “Christmas Holidays At Radio City Music Hall”
- We'll Gather Lilacs In The Spring — Julie Andrews
- Song Of The Volga Boatman — Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, from the LP “Memories Of Goodman and Miller"
- Bob And Ray In The Laboratory / Rifles - Surf - Cat Fight — Narration with sound effects by Bob and Ray
- Whatever Lola Wants — Abbe Lane
- The Ox Drivers — The Belafonte Singers
- The End — Narration with sound effects by Bob and Ray
AMG 4 Star Review
Bob & Ray's first album for RCA Victor, Bob & Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular, is actually a sampler record for the label's Living Stereo line with a handful of comedy bits appearing between cuts from other albums in the series. Bob & Ray's portion depicts their visit to the castle of Dr. Ahkbar, a mad scientist (voiced by Bob Elliot) whose bizarre experiments give the comedians an excuse to fool around with stereo sound effects. Listening with headphones is advantageous, but most of the humor holds up independently of the stereo effects.
The one exception is "Bob and Ray in the Laboratory," which consists of practically nothing but sound effects. The music ranges from the orchestral instrumental pop of George Melachrino, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, and Skitch Henderson to vocal performances by Abbe Lane and Julie Andrews. Richard Leiber plays "The First Noel" on the pipe organ, Lena Horne performs the suggestive "New-Fangled Tango" live in concert, and Harry Belafonte's Belafonte Singers contribute the folk song "The Ox Drivers."
The gleefully cacophonous Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band takes the prize for providing the most unusual musical selection, but the overall program is extremely diverse. Whether Living Stereo collectors want to hear Bob & Ray -- or Bob & Ray fans want to hear a Living Stereo sampler -- is another matter, but the comedy and music are enjoyable.