The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- This outstanding copy earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them for sound on both sides
- This is the sound we love at Better Records -- both sides are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals
- "Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that's the point: that Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn't give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore,' 'Just One of Those Things,' 'The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On).' And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well." - All Music
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*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 5 moderate pops at the beginning of track 5, I Should Care.
Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and let Nat serenade you from right between your speakers -- he'll be IN THE ROOM with you!
The immediacy of the vocals is startling, and the transparency of this pressing will blow your mind. The bass has the typical "tubby" sound so common to this kind of album, but it's tighter here than on most copies we played.
The overall sound is three-dimensional, with Nat up front and the orchestra behind. The brass sounds wonderful, with just the right amount of bite and more breath than we heard on many pressings.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this record is not one of those "cry in your beer" Sinatra rip-offs. The songs are actually fairly lively: mid-tempo and even up-tempo. Maybe it's the influence of Billy May, the arranger for these sessions. His arrangements keep lifting the spirits of the down in the dumps Nat King Cole (see cover), which is fine by me.
What the best sides of Just One Of Those Things 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 1957
- 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.
We're always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can't be taken seriously -- fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.
At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.
If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the '60s. Many of Nat's albums from that decade are artificial, bright and thin, with especially unpleasant shrill string arrangements.
We assume most audiophiles got turned on to his music from the records that Steve Hoffman remixed and remastered for DCC back in the mid-'90s, For those of you who were customers of ours back then, you know that I count myself among that group. I even went so far as to nominate the DCC of Nat's Greatest Hits as the best album DCC ever made. I know now, as I expect you do, that that's really not saying much, but at the time I thought it was a pretty bold statement.
We can't stand the DCC discs now. At the end of this page we go deeper into the subject.
What We're Listening For on Just One Of Those Things
- 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.
Devoting the Resources
Having long ago given up on Heavy Vinyl LPs by DCC and others of their persuasion -- we call it Making Progress in Audio -- these days we are in a much better position to devote our resources to playing every Nat King Cole album on every pressing we can get our hands on, trying to figure out what are the copies -- from what era, on what label, with what stampers, cut by whom, stereo or mono, import or domestic -- that potentially have the Hot Stamper sound, the very Raison d'être of our business.
We have to play each and every one of the records we've cleaned for our shootout anyway, whether we think it's potentially the best pressing or not. There is no other way to do it. Right Stamper, Wrong Sound is an undeniable reality in the world of records. It's not unheard of for the same stampers to win a shootout, do moderately well on another copy and then come in dead last on a third.
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 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.
Nat on DCC
I really liked the Nat King Cole albums on DCC when they came out back in the '90s. I thought they were a revelation as a matter of fact. Now I find them insufferable. Here are some of my reasons for not liking Hoffman's remix.
Nat's voice is much too forward and loud in the mix; consequently the orchestra is too soft. The balance is off, at least on my stereo at the levels I play the record at the balance seems off. You have a different system, in a different room, and may not feel the way I do.
But without a top pressing to compare how do you know the mix is right or wrong? Like everything in audio, it's relative.
The balance problem is bad enough, but what really sets my teeth on edge is the fact that the Nat King Cole record on DCC doesn't sound remotely like any Nat King Cole record I have ever heard, outside of the ones Hoffman worked on of course.
Where is the Capitol reverb? Nat's records all have it, and although the reverb may be a bit excessive or unnatural in some ways -- to some people -- when you take it away you end up with a sound that never existed before. To my ears, it's a sound that's just wrong for the music. The more I listened to the DCC the less I liked it.
The first full-length commentary I ever wrote in my record catalog in 1994 took Analogue Productions to task for remastering Way Out West and giving it a "new sound," a sound I had never heard coming from any Contemporary pressing, from any era.
I didn't like what Doug Sax did with Way Out West, Jazz Giant, Chet, Waltz for Debby and many, many others, and I don't like what Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray did to Love Is the Thing, The Very Thought of You and Just One Of Those Things.
I have tried to listen to the Gold CD in my car, but even in the car I found the sound insufferable.
Is this the kind of sound you hear on your DCC Nat King Cole records? If it is, we recommend you try a Hot Stamper. If it doesn't sound dramatically better than your DCC pressing, you get your money back.
At the very least it will show you some of the things your DCC is doing differently, and, in our opinion, doing them wrong.
- When Your Lover Has Gone
- A Cottage For Sale
- Who's Sorry Now?
- Once In A While
- These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
- Just For The Fun Of It
- Don't Get Around Much Anymore
- I Understand
- Just One Of Those Things
- The Song Is Ended (But The Melody Lingers On)
- I Should Care
- The Party's Over
Just One of Those Things is a theme album comparable to one of Frank Sinatra's uptempo swing albums of the same period (Come Fly with Me, etc.), and employs the same arranger/conductor, Billy May. Nat King Cole is a bit less effective than Sinatra at uptempo material; he tends to undersing these sprightly standards, and May saves his dramatic horn charts and percussion shots for moments when Cole is away from the microphone. Even so, by the fifth track, "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You," May has retreated to ballad time, and though his embellishments threaten to break out behind the singer, Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that's the point: that Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn't give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Just One of Those Things," "The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On)." And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well.