Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This outstanding copy of Mingus' 1962 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish - fairly quiet vinyl too
- This is vintage Sixties Living Stereo at its best - big, rich and Tubey Magical like you will not believe
- 5 stars: "Mingus at the time said that this was his greatest recording, and it certainly ranks near the top. The passionate playing, exciting ensembles, and high-quality compositions make this a real gem, and it represents one of Charles Mingus' finest hours."
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This vintage RCA pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
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 Tiajuana Moods 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 1962
- 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.
What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are reproduced with remarkable fidelity. Now that's what we at Better Records mean by "Hi-Fi", not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There's no boosted top, there's no bloated bottom, there's no sucked-out midrange. There's no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I'm pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this one up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.
What We're Listening For on Tiajuana Moods
- 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 for the bass, horns and drums, 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.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
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 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.
Ysabel's Table Dance
Tijuana Gift Shop
Los Mariachis (The Street Musicians)
Inspired by a trip to Tijuana, Tijuana Moods was recorded in 1957 but was sat on by RCA until its release in 1962. Bassist/composer Charles Mingus at the time said that this was his greatest recording, and it certainly ranks near the top. The original version, which was usually edited together from a few different takes, consisted of just five performances.
It has often been said that Mingus forced and pressured his sidemen to play above their potential, and that is certainly true of this project. Altoist Shafi Hadi (who doubles on tenor) is in blazing form on "Ysabel's Table Dance," while trumpeter Clarence Shaw (who was praised by Mingus for his short lyrical solo on "Flamingo") sounds quite haunting on "Los Mariachis." Trombonist Jimmy Knepper and drummer Dannie Richmond made other great recordings, but they are in particularly superior form throughout this session, as is the obscure pianist Bill Triglia. Completing the band is Ysabel Morel on vocals and Frankie Dunlop on castanets. While "Dizzy's Moods" is based on "Woody'N You," and "Flamingo" is given a fresh treatment, the other three songs are quite original, with "Tijuana Gift Shop" having a catchy, dissonant riff that sticks in one's mind.
The passionate playing, exciting ensembles, and high-quality compositions make this a real gem, and it represents one of Charles Mingus' finest hours. [In the '80s, Tijuana Moods doubled in size with the release of two versions of each of the songs, and beginning in the 2000s, some reissues appeared with 22 performances.]
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