Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- McLean's 1959 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two - exceptionally quiet vinyl for the most part as well
- Surprisingly rich, lively and clear, with plenty of space for this exceptional group to occupy
- Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the swinging energy of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
- 4 stars: "McLean never really copied Charlie Parker and was one of the first in his generation to develop his own sound."
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*NOTE: A mark makes 2 moderately light stitches during the intro and one moderate stitch near the end of track 1, Gone With The Wind. There is nothing to fault in the sound of side one of this pressing , and side two was nearly as good - what a record!
Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track -- assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.
Based on what I'm hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.
The fact that practically nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days -- certainly not as good sounding as this one -- tells me that in fact I'm wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades.
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 McLean's Scene 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 1959
- 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 space of the studio
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.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top 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 air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings 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.
What We're Listening For on McLean's Scene
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Jackie McLean - alto sax Bill Hardman - trumpet Red Garland - piano Paul Chambers - bass Jackie McLean - alto sax Mal Waldron - piano Arthur Phipps - bass Art Taylor - drums
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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
Gone With The Wind
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Mean To Me
Altoist Jackie McLean tended to downgrade his Prestige recordings due to the low pay, the little prior preparation, and the jam session feel of the music. Although all of the above is true, the music (while not on a par with his Blue Note recordings of the '60s) is still pretty worthy, particularly when compared to the output of his contemporaries. McLean never really copied Charlie Parker and was one of the first in his generation to develop his own sound.
Three of the six selections on this LP (a pair of standards and a blues) feature McLean with trumpeter Bill Hardman, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Art Taylor. The remainder of the set is from a marathon quartet set with pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Arthur Phipps, and drummer Art Taylor, which would result in material that was used as part of five separate albums. McLean is in lyrical form on "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "Old Folks" while playing with great intensity on his accurately titled original "Outburst."
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