Top critical review
Full marks for the music, but what about the sound quality of this Dol reissue?
on 7 March 2014
This is a reissue of a marvellous Columbia album that was recorded in December 1953 and January 1954. It features not only Chet Baker but the brilliant West Coast pianist Russ Freeman and the master drummer Shelly Manne. In addition Zoot Sims and Bud Shank put in appearances. So we not only have a stella cast of jazz musicians but also we have arrangements by Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich and Shorty Rogers. You would have thought all that should guarantee an excellent record and you would be perfectly correct in your assumption. No question then 5 stars for the music, but it's the quality of the sound on this Dol reissue that bothers me.
Dol has a good number of reissues listed in its catalouge. The vinyl is 140g rather than 180g favoured by Wax Time and Doxy, but I don't think the weight of the vinyl has much if any effect on the sound quality. Perhaps the packaging is more basic than that you get from Wax Time or Doxy but, in fairness, Dol LPs are significantly less expensive. The question is, where do these companies get their original material from? Do they use the original tapes/digital masters or do they use an existing LP or CD? The better source is obviously the original, but the original tapes of this recording had deteriorated badly as early as 1960. Since then even Columbia themselves have had to rely on copies of copies etc. etc.
Dol do not state where their original came from but it can only have come from a poor LP or CD. They can't have done much to improve the sound, as when I played this LP (on a new Rega Planar turntable) I felt the need to keep checking that no ball of dust had accumulated around the stylus. The sound of the horns was not too bad but the string sound was pretty awful. As it happens I have a copy of a Columbia 'remastered' CD and the sound quality is significantly better. No early mono recording is ever going to sound top class hi-fi, but this CD is perfectly acceptable.
Summing up, I am giving 5 stars for the music but only 1 star for the quality of the sound - an average of 3 stars. It would be unreasonable to judge the entire 'Dol' catalogue on this one LP, so hopefully other reviewers will be able to add further observations. At the time of writing 'Music on Vinyl' also list this recording in their catalogue but 'Wax Time' do not.