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Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl) - Ella Fitzgerald - Whisper Not

Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

Ella Fitzgerald
Whisper Not

Verve LP
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

  • Both sides of this stereo 2-pack have excellent sound, with a Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big, balanced, lively and musical, these two sides had some of the best sound we heard in our most recent shootout
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • "These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers."
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The good sides here are as quiet as any pressings have ever played for us! This vintage Verve 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 51 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.

Ella - What to Listen For

The key to any Ella recording on Verve is to find the pressing with the most presence, breathiness, richness, tubiness and all the other good stuff that vintage analog records can give you, whilst minimizing the midrangy EQ that is found on many of her albums.

And it can be done. This copy is proof! Hardness and honkiness are no strangers to her records, but the best pressings make the EQ on her vocals sound maybe not perfect, but right for the music.

Copies with rich lower mids 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've heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

The Music

A couple of high points: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, the song Ella sang on her masterpiece, Clap Hands, is here rearranged for the players at hand, and the interpretation is fresh and moving. The song I Said No is filled with silly double entendres and is a hoot.

But I have to say those are two high points picked almost at random. Every track on this album is wonderful. I think this is one of her three or four best recordings ever. Another would be the Johnny Mercer songbook album.

Anyway, take it from an Ella fan, you can't go wrong with this one. You could demonstrate your stereo with a record this good. But what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn't heard, and that's the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The First Lady of Song

Until about ten years ago I hadn't run into a clean copy of the record. I had liked a Japanese pressing years before, but even the best Japanese pressings consistently fall short of the better domestic copies in terms of warmth, richness, sweetness, naturalness and all the rest of the stuff that the Japanese don't seem to care much about. (If you have a Japanese pressing of an album in your collection and you can't beat it with a different import or domestic LP, you're just not trying hard enough.)

But I digress. My local record store had one sitting in the bin one day many years ago in lovely condition, presenting me with the perfect opportunity to find out whether this Verve album from 1967 presented the early "good" Ella or the later "bad" Ella.

Sometime in the late '60s, she started making bad records. I know. I've played them. Misty Blue comes to mind. Everything she ever did for Pablo too. Some of you out there have told me that you actually like some of her Pablo material, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for those recordings. In my opinion, she had completely lost it by the time she hooked up with her old buddy Norman Granz in the '70s.

Apparently, I am not alone in this estimation. Just stumbled upon this quote today on Wikipedia:

    Her 11 years on the Verve label had seen her make her most acclaimed recordings, critically and commercially. The jazz critic Will Friedwald described her pre-Verve work on Decca as "seeming a mere prelude", and her "post-Verve years as an afterthought."

This is the second to the last album she did for the label, and the last one recorded for them in the studio. Like the true superstar of song that she was in the fifties and sixties, she left on a high note.

Marty Paich, Arranger Extraordinaire

On the cover of this record Ella looks a little frumpy; I was afraid this album was going to be frumpy too. I'm glad to say that the opposite is true. This album swings with the best she's ever recorded. A lot of the credit must go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. I have been a big fan of his work ever since I first heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record on Contemporary from way back in 1959. The arrangements on Whisper Not just solidify my love for the guy.

Our Famous 2-packs

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each "good" side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork which has been aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of wildly differently quality, in our experience it happens all the time. In fact it's much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade. That's just the way it goes in analog, where there's no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.

Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you'll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We'll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don't want to bother with the other sides you certainly won't have to.

Side One

Sweet Georgia Brown
Whisper Not
I Said No
Thanks for the Memory

One of my favorite tracks on the album. Ella's version here is definitive. This track alone is worth the price of the album.

Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most

Arranged for big band, this interpretation is every bit as emotionally satisfying as the brilliant version Ella does on Clap Hands.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Side Two

Time After Time
You've Changed
I've Got Your Number
Lover Man
Wives and Lovers
Matchmaker (from Fiddler on the Roof)

AMG Review

Paich adds to the overall sound quality by varying the arrangements from song to song, carefully wrapping each tune in the right package. These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers. While both "Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)" and "You've Changed" will be recognized as Billie Holiday classics, Fitzgerald delivers light, elegant versions that are distinctly her own.