The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This KILLER Sheffield pressing has outstanding Double Plus (A+++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
- Both sides here fulfill the promise of the direct to disc recording technology in a way that few - very, very few - direct to disc pressings can
- Big Band energy and enthusiasm is key to the better pressings like this one, as well as some of the most natural sounding ambience of any of the copies in our shootout
- This one has most everything going for it, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension and more - it's a real Demo Disc, make no mistake about it
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On the best pressings, the horns are so lively and high-rez, not to mention full-bodied, this could easily become a favorite big band album to demo or test with -- or just to enjoy the hell out of.
Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, this album actually contains real music worth listening to -- but only when the pressing lets the energy of the musicians through, with actual fidelity to the sounds of the real instruments. Brass without bite is boring. Drummers who are too delicate in their drumming will put you to sleep.
Many copies of this album will do exactly that, which is a real shame. During our shootout, the more we played the good copies, the more we appreciated the music these guys were making. They were swinging, a big group of top quality players totally in the groove. When it's played well, and the sound is as good as it is here, there's nothing boring about these Big Band Jazz Classics. The music works. It swings. If you like the kind of big band recordings Basie made -- and who doesn't -- you will find much to like here.
What outstanding sides such as these 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 1976
- 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
The typical pressing of The King James Version leaves much to be desired. As a rule two areas are especially lacking: there is a noticeable lack of presence on most copies, causing the brass to get stuck in the speakers and lose its bite; and, every bit as bad, the sound is often just plain compressed, lacking energy and life. The musicians on most copies are just not giving it their all.
But wait a minute. This is a direct disc. How can it be compressed, or lack transients? Aren’t those tape recorder problems that are supposed to be eliminated by the direct to disc process? Maybe so, but there is some very strong evidence to the contrary, and this record is that evidence.
Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which no doubt affect the sound. The album is pressed in three different countries: the United States, Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the acetates and many, many stampers made from those mothers.
Bottom line? You got to play 'em, just like any other pressing. If no two records sound the same, it follows that no two audiophile records sound the same, a fact that became abundantly clear very early on in the listening. Of course not many audiophiles are in a position to shootout multiple copies of The King James Version, and I'm not sure most would even want to. Here at Better Records we have a whole system set up to do exactly that, so we waited until we had a pile of them, got them all cleaned up, and off to the races we went.
What to Listen For
No matter what copy you have, when you play it notice how the brass in the center of the soundfiield sounds so different from the brass on either side, where, obviously, closer mics allow their solos to be picked up and mixed more easily. There are lovely trumpet solos in the left channel and a baritone sax solo in the right that have amazingly realistic fidelity. Close your eyes and those instruments are RIGHT THERE.
One thing Sheffield got right is tonally-correct, hi-fidelity brass in a real acoustic space. (The latter is where For Duke fails so miserably, although no one ever seems to notice or bother to write about it. To me that dead acoustic is like fingernails on a blackboard, completely inappropriate to the sound.)
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that -- a copy like this one -- it's an entirely different listening experience.
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 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.
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In late July 1976, trumpeter Harry James recorded enough music for two LPs. This particular set gives one a good sampling of his 1976 orchestra and finds James happy to emulate the swing sound of Count Basie.
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