Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A lovely stereo reissue pressing of this audiophile favorite, one of the best pop vocal recordings we know of, here with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish - fairly quiet vinyl too
- Nat himself sounds especially immediate and real, and the strings are much less of a problem here than they are on most pressings
- If you know the album through the weirdly unnatural remix DCC did (or the awful Analogue Productions vinyl, both are to be avoided), this pressing will be nothing less than a revelation
- 4 1/2 stars: "'When I Fall in Love' is considered by many to be nothing short of definitive; the restrained orchestration perfectly adapts to the singer's verdant vocals. Similarly, 'Stardust' sparkles as a flawless musical alliance is formed with Cole's warm and inviting narrative weaving over Jenkins' intimate score. Simply stated, both songs are unmitigated masterworks"
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Love Is The Thing has always been one of the better Nat "King" Cole recordings we play. The music is sublime, and on the right copy the sound can be superb. Armed with a much larger variety of pressings to play, including some interesting "finds" among them, our recent shootout convinced us that it actually is The Best.
We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the best copies of this very recording.
One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the quality of relaxation in Nat's performance. He sings so effortlessly on the good sounding pressings. On some pressings that casual quality is not nearly as noticeable.
Warmth and sweetness were nearly as important, the distinctive and unmistakable hallmarks of vintage All Tube Analog. These qualities combined to make the music on each of these sides as thoroughly involving and enchanting as practically any album of its kind we have ever offered
Tubey Magic Is Key
This vintage 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 in the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Nat King Cole 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 62+ 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 Love Is The Thing 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.
Naturally 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 it would be. 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 over-produced, bright, thin and shrill.
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.)
What We're Listening For on Love Is The Thing
- 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
Naturally, having long ago given up on Heavy Vinyl LPs by DCC and others of their remastering persuasion, 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.
What we discovered with the more than dozen copies we'd pulled together for our shootout was that different pressings from different eras on different labels can all have the right sound. In fact, while listening to one copy after another, all without the benefit of knowing anything about the specific record on the table, it was simply impossible to predict from the sound alone which label the record was on.
Some of the earlier pressings were rich and tubey, but so were some of the later ones. Same with copies that were lean, hard or transistory -- labels from every era had that sound.
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.
A Must Own Vocal Album
This wonderful recording should be part of any serious Vocal Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- It's All In The Game
- When I Fall In Love
- Ain't Misbehavin'
- When Sunny Gets Blue
- Love Is The Thing
- At Last
- Stay As Sweet As You Are
- I Thought About Marie
- Where Can I Go Without You
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Nat King Cole's collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. Cole's first stereophonic long player, 1957's Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair's undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks.
The opener "When I Fall in Love" is considered by many to be nothing short of definitive; the restrained orchestration perfectly adapts to the singer's verdant vocals. Similarly, "Stardust" sparkles as a flawless musical alliance is formed with Cole's warm and inviting narrative weaving over Jenkins' intimate score. Simply stated, both songs are unmitigated masterworks -- and we're only two cuts into the dozen-song LP.
Another key to the project's success is Jenkins ability to reign in just enough instrumentation to support Cole's uniformly restrained leads. Examples abound throughout, with "Stay as Sweet as You Are," "At Last," and the rural sophistication of "When Sunny Gets Blue." The heartfelt "Love Letters" and even the comparatively light "Ain't Misbehavin'" incorporate a sonic synergy as the airy string section glides between Cole's line by line phrasing.
Also worth mentioning is the Jenkins original "I Thought About Marie," as it sits comfortably beside some of the most time-honored tunes in 20th century popular music.