UPDATE February 3rd: LJC reader from The Netherlands Mattyman has posted in a rip from his Toshiba 1992 reissue of Open Sesame. As a bonus he has included some whizzy waveform pictures. See and hear for yourself at foot of post.
The last MM post seems to have attracted a lot of comments, highest ever number of page views for a post, obviously something a lot of people are interested in (but still only one comment per hundred viewers. You can do better guys!). So I thought, why not give them both barrels?
Perhaps many of us would like “Blue Note originals” but with perhaps with only a few hundred quality copies in existence for some titles, it is time for compromise, to find the next best alternative. This time, it’s a home match for alternatives, pits US vintage against modern.
BN 4040 / BNST 84040 Freddie Hubbard Open Sesame goes Head to Head
A familiar problem, actually tougher to afford top condition original than the previous unaffordable, Kenny Drew Undercurrent
However help is at hand, all is not lost:
In the previous post we pitted the latest MM33 against vintage King, Japan . This time I bring something new to the table, one of Blue Notes better kept secrets, vintage contender Blue Note Records – Division of United Artists (1971-3) and the heavy weight MM45 (2009). Head to head comparison is limited to where I have two contenders, not necessarily perfect match in this case, but at least the hifi rig is held a constant.
What are we looking for?
Is age an advantage? Does size really matter? Is two better than one? Judge for yourself. I’m staying out of it – for now.
Division of United Artists ’70s classic titles reissue project – mono, unlike most issues around this time, re-mastered by UA engineers I guess if not from original or at least 1st generation copy tape.
Hard to find but nor rare, and not expensive, at least before this post is published.
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone) McCoy Tyner (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Clifford Jarvis (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 19, 1960
This head to head is really an excuse to play one of my favourite Blue Notes, BLP 4040 Open Sesame. Whilst Hubbard is on peak form, his tone burnished gold, McCoy Tyner’s melodic comping serenades in the background, the album is notable for the raw unpolished talent of Tina Brooks on tenor, the vigour of youth rather than the refinement of fully polished players of the old school. His youthful departure left a preciously small legacy of recorded work.
Brook’s solo on the self-titled track, which is his own composition, is a delight. Like an erratically misfiring rocket, he racing helter-skelter through the register, painting himself metaphorically into a corner, then escaping through an unexpected backflip into another figure; a second’s hesitation, then he’s off in a different direction, chasing up a scale and with a twist passing himself on the way back down, but backwards, reaching for a bluesy climax in a strangulated squeal. After a generous length of time to work out his ideas, Tina finds his way back to the convoluted principle melodic line, handing over to Tyner. I’m left exhausted, having ridden pillion over the whole journey.
All of the tracks are a joy, especially Gypsy Blue… but we need to get back to the comparison story.
Division of United Artists pressing, vinyl weight 130gm – respectable and entirely sufficient for purpose, typical of ’70s pressing.
The Division of United Artists series dates I believe back to between 1971-3. All bar one or two that I have seen remain faithfully mono, though no doubt some of our resident experts will chip in with whether true mono or two track electronically processed for mono. The series cherry-picked many of the best of the 1500 series and a few of the early 4000 series Blue Notes, this being one of them.
Unless I’ve missed it somewhere, Blue Note discographers Cuscuna and Ruppli are silent on the existence of this series of records. I have a notion they were intended for the Japanese collector market but somehow it never happened, and they were quietly dumped within the US market at that time preoccupied with stereo, having halted mono production. Mono issues – right idea guys, wrong time. Anyone with any better theories can speak up.
Medium thick card, flat sheen unlaminated, no great beauty. Characteristic dual identity, Liberty Records marketing-only identity, and United Artists Music and Records Group in small print, dating it to 1972/3. Probably, no one knows.
Facsimile of the original issue, the catalogue number in large font exactly as original Blue Note and quite unlike the reduced font of Liberty and later United Artists years. Paste-up paper rear slick as original Blue Note, vintage printing technology seemingly
not able to be reproduced by modern printing technology. Its over forty years old.
Music Matters 2×45 series (2009)
Heavyweight champion, in certain quarters
Selection: ♫ Open Sesame ♫ (same title, but stereo) Music Matters 2×45
Usual superb gatefold presentation, the artists in performance, in large fine-art quality black and white print. Francis Wolff, the Van Gelder of the camera, simply beautiful.
Vinyl: 183gm and 190gm respectively.
That large empty space on the runout, so tempting to slip in some bonus tracks, no? I hate seeing all that vinyl land going to waste.
I don’t think an original Blue Note pressing of Open Sesame will be coming my way any time soon, too rich for me, so I am content to seek out the best alternative for much-loved music.
Some of the more fly auditioners here might want to compare the previous post MM33 with this MM45 title from five years ago. Though the album is different, it’s still van Gelder recording, early ’60s source tapes and all the relevant hifi parameters are exactly the same, so its a fair comparison in some ways. Have those cabling improvements at MM made a big difference? (I think they have, enormously. But then I’m a cable guy.)
Previous Post: Kenny Drew Undercurrent – Funk-cosity Music Matters 33 rpm
What is an unfair test is the comparison between mono and stereo presentation, but since our friends at MM don’t offer a mono option, you might think that is fair game to weigh into the comparison.
What’s your verdict? Which do you prefer, and what’s more important, why? Don’t fall into the trap of saying which “is better”. That’s OK for sports cars but this is music. Your preference is yours, no one else knows what you hear. There’s no right and wrong.
Reminder: ♫ Open Sesame (Brooks) ♫ mono! Division of United Artists (1972)
Reminder: ♫ Open Sesame (Brooks) ♫ Stereo! Music Matters 2×45 (2009)
Poll open for one week, usual rules of Polldaddy, comment floor is open. Take your beef to the LJC Forum if you wanna fight..
The cover, no contest, MM ‘s gatefold is But Beautiful. However the Sound of Music…
Well this could make me even more unpopular than I am right now, but I prefer… prefer… the… ummm, the mono Division of United Artists. There, I’ve said it. For me the stereo of this title breaks up the unity of the ensemble, replacing it with spatial information which doesn’t add anything, for me anyway. My heart belongs to mono, though my head sometimes strays.
The 2×45 rpm © 2009 edition doesn’t have the freshness and vitality of the new MM33 to my ears (ymmv). There is nothing really wrong with it, but my immediate emotional reaction was that it didn’t excite me and make me want to listen. Addicted as I am to the visceral punch of original Blue Note, it’s too laid back for this listener, something missing. This was the same reaction I had to my other 2×45, (not that there is any confirmation bias here)
The MM33 are in a different league. I’m ordering some more, there’s a few on my list of originals I’ll never see. Just don’t think I’m converting to modern audiophile. Anyway, a man who knows of such things tells me Meridian MQA is the next big thing . I’ll believe that when I hear it.
The floor is yours.
UPDATE February 3rd – late entry – Toshiba-EMI vintage 1992, courtesy of Mattyman. 320kbps rip from a Technics SL-1200 MK2 turntable with integrated tonearm and Ortofon Concorde cartridge.
For the technically minded, Matty has included a spectral something or other and a wave form something else, no idea what they tell you, but it looks impressive. Another first at LJC.