The "Casino Royale" soundtrack is an audiophile's delight

beatcomber

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I've read much about how the "Casino Royale" soundtrack is a favorite of audiophiles for its unusually good sound, so I finally decided to track down a copy of the coveted RCA Indianapolis pressing on Colgems with a 3S suffix in the deadwax. My hifi is better than average (my speakers are worth more than many pay for their entire systems), and the involvement of Dusty, Herb and Burt made it irresistible. Fortunately prices have gone down from 30 years ago, when hifi nuts were shelling out hundreds for a copy, and scored on eBay a VG+ copy still in the shrink for about $20.

I gotta say, all of the audiophile buzz is justified. The dynamics are extraordinary (apparently little or no compression or limiting was utilized), the frequency extension is unusually broad for a 1967 vinyl-cutting, and the imaging is absolutely holographic, particularly Dusty's vocal (as often noted).

I know that the album has been re-released on CD, and while I haven't heard it, my understanding is that the sonics are not on par with the 1967 LP.

On top of all that, for an A&M fan, the music is a lot of fun!
 

GDB2LV

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It’s a great and very collectible soundtrack album. The sound is just as you claim. It did sell for big money before EBay came along and ruined the market for many collectible records and cd’s. Most want cd’s, but vinyl sounds so much warmer, sans the pops and ticks included. Quality speakers,amp, and turntable help. My Ortofon cartridge cost as much as my turntable. Thanks Rudy. Lol
Welcome to the Forum beatcomer.
 

Harry

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Congrats on the Colgems soundtrack.

Way back in the dark ages of the 1960's, I'd of course bought the ...SOUNDS LIKE... album from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and really loved the "Casino Royale" track a lot. And one day, a buddy of mine brought over his copy of the CASINO ROYALE soundtrack for me to hear. I couldn't imagine that there'd be any difference - they were both stereo, and after all, the A&M album *should* have the best version, right?

Now my setup at the time wasn't all that great. I had a couple of BSR turntables hooked into a Lafayette tuner-amp and everything played through some modest speakers. And while I didn't have the knowledge or prescience to check runout matrix numbers or stampers or anything like that, I certainly DID notice that the Colgems record somehow sounded better. Audiophiles often talk about "air" around instruments, and that's a great way to describe what I heard from that Colgems pressing, whatever it was.

I've never managed to own any Colgems LPs of CASINO ROYALE, and it all seemed pointless to me once CDs came along. And yet I always remembered that "airiness" of that Colgems record. When I first saw the CASINO ROYALE soundtrack on CD from Varese Sarabande, I snapped it up figuring it would be the ultimate. But it wasn't . In fact, it has annoying droupout at about 2:07 into the track.

Today, I must have somewhere upwards of 25 different CD pressings of the song "Casino Royale" on various albums and compilations, and you know which one sounds best to me? It's the Shout! Factory CD of ...SOUNDS LIKE... The very first time I hear that, I was amazed at how good it sounded to me - and keep in mind that my preferences are for good strong highs - and in that pressing, I can hear more emphasis on Julius' marimba due to the emphasis on highs. The latest HAP Presents version is pretty good too, but I have to give the edge to the Shout! version.

How does it compare to the old Colgems? I couldn't say, since I haven't heard that in years.
 

Rudy

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I never bought this album on vinyl, although I still may at some point in the future. I remember decades ago, even as far back as the 80s, the LP being mentioned as demo quality in the pages of Stereophile. The CD isn't too bad though--not the ultimate version of course but you can get a sense of how the better LPs must sound. My favorite track on the entire album is Dusty Springfield's version of "The Look of Love." She's the only one I've ever heard who performs it correctly. (It's supposed to be slow and sultry, not some brassed-up pop song like others who have covered it.) Per what I've read, the title track was recorded with a full orchestra (led by Burt) in London, with Herb overdubbing his trumpet back here in the states.

The RCA stamper numbers are indicative of how many times the "mother" was used to create each stamper--the lowest-numbered stampers were made from a fresh mother, whereas much later stampers would have been made when the mother was more worn. The most coveted would be a 1S stamper--in all my RCA titles, I only own one record that has 1S stampers on both sides that I know of. A 3S would have been the third stamper made from the mother, so it's still very "fresh" in terms of stampers. It's not uncommon for RCA's pressings to have different stamper numbers on each side. There is one copy of this soundtrack on Discogs with a 3S stamper on one side and 5S on the other.

The only recent LP pressing was a 4-LP, 45 RPM set from 2002 by the now-defunct Classic Records--that is back towards the end of their days when they started to get a bit crazy with their pressings. These LPs were single-sided, which is why there were four records in the set. They also had a 1999 pressing at 33⅓. I'd love to see Analogue Productions do this as a 2-LP, 45 RPM set. (I'll have to ask Chad the next time I see him at one of the audio shows--that is a title he may have tried for, and he would know of any licensing issues. FYI--the legendary mastering studio The Mastering Lab was purchased by Analogue Productions and relocated to Kansas.) There are later LP reissues but they are not on labels that I trust. I'll hold out for one of the known good audiophile labels before grabbing this one. If the tapes are still in good condition, a 45 RPM cut would improve on the original pressing, although a well-mastered 33⅓ would still be welcomed.

Classic Records also released it on a DVD using the HDAD format (a precursor to DVD-Audio) in hi-res, with the same mastering as their 4 LP set, so that would be the digital version to own.
 
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Harry

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Thanks, but I'm not as big a fan of the soundtrack as I am with most of Bacharach's pop stuff, and I certainly have enough copies of Herb's "Casino Royale" track to last a lifetime. Oh, and come to think of it, another one will be on it's way in October...
 

Rudy

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I've finally sorted out the various Classic Records reissues.

Classic Records had a few different versions of this title. The first vinyl version was a single-LP 33⅓ reissue on 180g vinyl. They later mastered the album to their Clarity Vinyl series at 45 RPM, single-sided, so the set includes four discs on a whitish-clear vinyl. To demonstrate the difference between 33⅓ and 45, they cut a 12 inch single of Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love."

Digitally, there were two DVD-based options. There was a rarely used DVD format called HDAD, which featured uncompressed 24-bit/96kHz tracks that could be delivered within a DVD video container--anyone with a DVD player could play this back, in other words. (Audiophiles typically would use a DVD player's digital output to feed it to an outboard DAC.) When DVD-Audio came shortly thereafter, this was reissued as a dual-sided HDAD disc with the original DVD-Video-based version on one side, and a DVD-Audio 24-bit/192kHz version on the other, readable only by players that were DVD-Audio capable.

I think that Bernie Grundman may have mastered this for Classic. (He did a lot of their titles.)

I just got ahold of the second HDAD version (borrowed it from a pal locally who had a copy) and have ripped the 24/192 files to the server.

I haven't had a chance to hear it on the big system yet (I'm at the desk with the KEF LS50s and an EL34-based tube amp), but two things I noted right away. On the main title, Herb's double-tracked trumpet is about as pure as you'll ever hear it, dead center. And Dusty? Jeesh...she's right here on my desk giving goosebumps. (Anything beyond this and we're gonna need to get a room! 😁) One interesting thing that stands out is that edit at the coda of "The Look of Love" (3:41) where the orchestral version is tacked onto the end to fade it out--it's a bit jarring. The mix of this tune and the main title puts all of Bacharach's instrumentation and small combo on the left and right, with Dusty dead center. Other tracks are typical 3-track recordings--everything is mainly left/center/right.

I'll say the Varese Sarabande CD is competent, but not all that noteworthy. Given that this version was done by Classic Records, it's no surprise that it's the best digital version I've heard of the album.
 

Rudy

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Incidentally, the original copy to own is supposedly the Indianapolis pressing. I believe that's the one that all the audiophile magazines raved about, although the others sound quite good. (I guess the Indy pressing has that little extra "something.")

Burt Bacharach - Casino Royale (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

If the stamper number is "3S" and there is an "I" stamped in the vinyl, then it is an Indianapolis pressing.

1600450533063.png

I did finally get to hear the hi-res version on my main system...Dusty's tune is goosebump-inducing. With the rest of it, the tonal balance is on point. Despite the brightness inherent to UK recordings at the time, it tends to sound very natural with nothing overly exaggerated.

From Discogs on the Indy pressing:

Similar to Burt Bacharach - Casino Royale (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), but this is a RCA Records Pressing Plant, Indianapolis pressing as indicated by the stamped "Ⅰ" in the matrix / runout groove.
UZRS = (U)1967, (Z)RCA Source, (R)Classical, (S)Stereo
3S = 3rd Lacquer or stamping
Very specific pressing 3S as opposed to 1S, 2S etc.
Matrix / Runout (Side A [Stamped], variant 1): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4046 - - 3S C4
Matrix / Runout (Side B [Stamped], variant 1): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4047 - - 3S A2
Matrix / Runout (Side A [Stamped], variant 2): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4046 - - 3S D1
Matrix / Runout (Side B [Stamped], variant 2): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4047 - - 3S A2
Matrix / Runout (Side A Label): UZRS-4046
Matrix / Runout (Side B Label): UZRS-4047
 

beatcomber

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Thread Starter
Incidentally, the original copy to own is supposedly the Indianapolis pressing. I believe that's the one that all the audiophile magazines raved about, although the others sound quite good. (I guess the Indy pressing has that little extra "something.")

Burt Bacharach - Casino Royale (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

If the stamper number is "3S" and there is an "I" stamped in the vinyl, then it is an Indianapolis pressing.

View attachment 5853

I did finally get to hear the hi-res version on my main system...Dusty's tune is goosebump-inducing. With the rest of it, the tonal balance is on point. Despite the brightness inherent to UK recordings at the time, it tends to sound very natural with nothing overly exaggerated.

From Discogs on the Indy pressing:

Similar to Burt Bacharach - Casino Royale (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), but this is a RCA Records Pressing Plant, Indianapolis pressing as indicated by the stamped "Ⅰ" in the matrix / runout groove.
UZRS = (U)1967, (Z)RCA Source, (R)Classical, (S)Stereo
3S = 3rd Lacquer or stamping
Very specific pressing 3S as opposed to 1S, 2S etc.
Matrix / Runout (Side A [Stamped], variant 1): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4046 - - 3S C4
Matrix / Runout (Side B [Stamped], variant 1): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4047 - - 3S A2
Matrix / Runout (Side A [Stamped], variant 2): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4046 - - 3S D1
Matrix / Runout (Side B [Stamped], variant 2): Ⅰ UZRS - - 4047 - - 3S A2
Matrix / Runout (Side A Label): UZRS-4046
Matrix / Runout (Side B Label): UZRS-4047


I would have thought that an "H" pressing (= RCA Hollywood mastering) would be best, since presumably that's the one that would have been cut from the 1st gen tapes, but Indianapolis is the one to get, I'm told.

My 3S "I" does sounds pretty amazing.
 

GroovinGarrett

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I would have thought that an "H" pressing (= RCA Hollywood mastering) would be best, since presumably that's the one that would have been cut from the 1st gen tapes, but Indianapolis is the one to get, I'm told.

My 3S "I" does sounds pretty amazing.

Depends on if the album was mastered at Hollywood (6363 Sunset), Chicago (445 North Lake Shore), or New York (24th Street). Most likely the former. Hollywood, Indianapolis, and Rockaway would have all received lacquers from one mastering studio.
 

Steve Sidoruk

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As I have the original Colgems vinyl and the 3 CDs in my collection, this is what I found after a quick review.

Varese Sarabande CD (1990) - Prepared for release on Varese by Tom Null and Robert Townson. Digital Transfer: Neil Devine, Amigo Studios.

CLASSIC CD (2000) - Digital preparation in cooperation with Kevin Halverson and Muse Electronics

KRITZERLAND CD (2011) - Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. Bruce Kimmel produced this release for his label. In addition to the liner notes, he wrote about how the "top audiophile" record lost quality as the CD versions were issued and what he did about it in his release. The master tape was damaged, iron oxide was lost by rewinding at a much too fast speed. It was at a time that the need for certain analog tapes needed to be baked was not so widespread. For this release, the master tape was used and they cleaned up numerous dropouts. On this 3rd CD, they re-sequenced the tunes to match the order of the film. They added some short clips, which were taken from the DVD. And finally, they included a flat transfer to digital from a sealed vinyl record as a super bonus. This is a limited edition, however, you might find some left.
 

Harry

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Gee, Steve, I don't have those latter two, but I have one additional CD:

QUARTET RECORDS (2017) (50th Anniversary Edition) - Reissue produced by Chris Malone, Executive album producer Jose M. Benitez, Restored and mastered by Chris Malone. This one has the main 13 tracks in stereo, then an addition 22 tracks in mono. Another limited edition - 2000 units.

The annoying dropout in the title tune in the Varese version is cleaned up nicely in this Quartet version. As for which sounds best - I still vote for the old Shout! Factory disc.

Discogs notes:
This new edition has been produced, restored and mastered by wizard engineer Chris Malone, rebuilding the score from the ground up. Malone’s work has focused on addressing unintended technical anomalies (such as filling dropouts and covering analogue splices) rather than broadly applying a modern sound palette. He has eschewed dynamic range compression and retained the brilliance of the original recording. Because the LP program derived from the original film recordings (with some edits made for a more pleasure listening), we have included it on our CD and added all the music composed by Bacharach that was not on the LP to make a 77-minute CD.
 

Rudy

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To my ears, the Classic Records version above trounces any other digital version I've heard. Sounds the most natural--makes the musicians and especially the soloists (Dusty, Herb, etc.) sound like they're right in the room. The others fail at this. I don't care for all this revisionist tinkering either. Kind of like George Lucas Richard Carpenter screwing up the old Carpenters recordings.
 

Mike Blakesley

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I've never heard this soundtrack, outside of Herb's song of course. How does it compare to Burt's other soundtrack albums (Butch Cassidy especially)? Better, not as good?
 

Rudy

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I've never heard this soundtrack, outside of Herb's song of course. How does it compare to Burt's other soundtrack albums (Butch Cassidy especially)? Better, not as good?
It's not much like Butch Cassidy but then again, the movies also couldn't be more different.

With this version of the film being more of a James Bond spoof, the songs often have a lot of whimsy. Yet it's unmistakably Bacharach's work--you'd recognize certain flourishes that you've heard on the Butch Cassidy soundtrack, for instance. This album is closer in style to the After The Fox soundtrack (another Peter Sellers comedy), although that one was not as good a project as the Casino Royale film and soundtrack were.

We all know the title track, and it makes a partial reprise to close out the album. Dusty's version of "The Look of Love" is the definitive version of that tune--she's one of the few who actually gets the feeling of the track right. (And to hear the Classic Records mastering of this, she's so lifelike that it'll give you goosebumps and fill your seat with lavender-scented bath bubbles.) A portion of the soundtrack tune "Home James, Don't Spare the Horses" was revived as "Bond Street" on the first Burt A&M record Reach Out is from the soundtrack, expanded into a full arrangement. I knew the song "Moneypenny Goes For Broke" since Cal Tjader covered it on his album Sounds Out Burt Bacharach.

Parts of it are similar to other soundtrack albums where a theme is repeated--the "Moneypenny Goes For Broke" theme is reprised as "Hi There Miss Goodthighs." The Casino Royale theme is reprised in a few places as well (the beginning of "Flying Saucer/First Stop Berlin," the final portion of "Home James," etc.). "The Look of Love" also gets an instrumental version, and comprises the last half of "Dream On James, You're Winning." I realize it seems repetitive when soundtracks do this, but that's part of the glue or continuity of composing the music for the film--having recurring themes tends to hold the film together better.

I'd say the overall sound is typical of many British albums--it's on the brighter side of the spectrum. Remember, Burt recorded this album in London.

The entire original album is on YouTube, complete with track timings:

 

JOv2

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I've never heard this soundtrack, outside of Herb's song of course. How does it compare to Burt's other soundtrack albums (Butch Cassidy especially)? Better, not as good?
Mike, Rudy sums it up well. Butch Cassidy doesn't contain any themes or link music like Royale or Burt's other two '60s s/ts (as we all know, two songs on Butch Cassidy are even repeated three times each). Both What's New, Pussy Cat? ('65) and After The Fox ('66) contain a fair share of reworked klezmer-type ditties ala Bond Street. Pussy Cat, whose principal theme is used throughout Royale, also features the famous Tom Jones vocal on the main theme and fair amount of additional themes (my Ryko version comes with two memorable songs by Dionne Warwick and Manfred Mann). After The Fox has the main theme by The Hollies and Peter Sellers (with both Burt and George Martin co-producing) with the balance featuring themes but no additional "songs" per se. Then there's Promises, Promises, which is another kettle of fish. (I have the Kritzerland version. Among other things, they pitch-correct all of Jerry Orbach's dreadful singing...)

As I have the original Colgems vinyl and the 3 CDs in my collection, this is what I found after a quick review.

Varese Sarabande CD (1990) - Prepared for release on Varese by Tom Null and Robert Townson. Digital Transfer: Neil Devine, Amigo Studios.

CLASSIC CD (2000) - Digital preparation in cooperation with Kevin Halverson and Muse Electronics

KRITZERLAND CD (2011) - Mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. Bruce Kimmel produced this release for his label. In addition to the liner notes, he wrote about how the "top audiophile" record lost quality as the CD versions were issued and what he did about it in his release. The master tape was damaged, iron oxide was lost by rewinding at a much too fast speed. It was at a time that the need for certain analog tapes needed to be baked was not so widespread. For this release, the master tape was used and they cleaned up numerous dropouts. On this 3rd CD, they re-sequenced the tunes to match the order of the film. They added some short clips, which were taken from the DVD. And finally, they included a flat transfer to digital from a sealed vinyl record as a super bonus. This is a limited edition, however, you might find some left.
Thanks, Steve.

I have the Varese Sarabande CD, which is downright dreadful in places. I also have the Kritzerland CD, which is quite good! The bonus flat LP transfer is a gem; and in comparison to Kimmel's rescued digital version, I can report that Kimmel's is brighter and exhibits more bass (find a CD that doesn't do this and I'll whistle Handel's complete Messiah underwater for you) -- but not aggressively so. Seriously, Kimmel did a fine job in repairing the obvious sonic damage, where it occurred.

As for the merits of the recording, I cannot deny the vocal beauty of Dusty's performance and fully agree with Rudy regarding other artists' disappointing renditions (ever since B66's Gruisinized version became a hit, the delicacy of the song has seemingly been forever sacrificed...in deference to Dusty, for my nickel Claudine delivered the most Sensual version...with a capitol S...if you're a guy anyways...); that "air around the instruments" (i.e., definition) that Harry mentioned is very noticeable in places and very easy on the ears. That said, there are, however, two places where the recording over-modulates. A musical friend played the LP for me on his system many years ago, but, aside from a handful of selections, I don't really get all the brouhaha. Although there are several other late '60s LPs I'd use as reference recordings before this one, the Dusty selection -- before the coda edit -- is about as good as it gets: it is spin-tingling.
 

Rudy

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As for the merits of the recording, I cannot deny the vocal beauty of Dusty's performance and fully agree with Rudy regarding other artists' disappointing renditions (ever since B66's Gruisinized version became a hit, the delicacy of the song has seemingly been forever sacrificed...
That's one of my "poster child" examples on how not to redo a sensual song as a pop song--it's trivialized in desperate search of a hit record. I almost got the feeling that it was an unwritten rule at A&M that everyone had to record it in order to try and make it a hit. The Baja version is positively dreadful. Even as a kid, years before I even knew what a Dusty Springfield was 😉, I would skip that one since it was depressing, like a dirge.

That said, there are, however, two places where the recording over-modulates.
That was a popular tactic back in the day, and it seemed to affect some British recordings more so than others--they wanted it to appear to sound louder, so they'd overmodulate. Burt's album for Kapp suffers from this quite a bit (and the notes in the Bacharach "Something Big" A&M box set even mention this). Even some CTi recordings suffer from this--look at "Stone Flower" by Jobim, although I don't know if that was intentional or not. (Then again, Van Gelder's recordings weren't exactly the cream of the crop.)

Although there are several other late '60s LPs I'd use as reference recordings before this one, the Dusty selection -- before the coda edit -- is about as good as it gets: it is spin-tingling.
That coda is strange--it's tacked onto the end of two versions of the tune on this album. It's an "orchestra" recording whereas the Dusty version is a small combo. But given how the tracks were recorded, a logical "ending" to the Dusty version (after the sax) was probably never recorded. The same combo, fading out at the end with the same theme, would have sounded better.

The Classic Records version is demo-worthy since it uncovers the murk in the CD versions--"Sir James' Trip to Find Mata" is a great example. It has a few percussion parts where you hear what sounds like a percussion instrument being struck, vs. a "tocking sound" in the background. Dusty's voice here is so immediate and "in the room" that it induces the goosebumps. And I've never heard Herb's trumpet also sound like it was right in the room, vs. the screechy mess on the Shout Factory version or the muffled and/or digitally processed versions of other versions (especially the atrocious Varese CD). It was straight off the master tapes and mastered by Bernie Grundman. I've never heard an original RCA pressing of the album, but I have the Varese and have borrowed a couple of the others in recent times and none impressed me enough to buy them. So I didn't quite get why it was "demo worthy" until I heard this version of it.

I'm trying to get ahold of the 45 RPM, 4-LP (single-sided) Classic Records "Clarity Vinyl" version so I can at least listen to it. It may edge out the HDAD version slightly. The Dusty track is available on a demo 12" single cut at 33⅓ on one side and 45 on the other...but even that one is so rare that clean copies now sell in excess of $40.

I do have to say, though, that the album is growing on me the more I hear it.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
That's one of my "poster child" examples on how not to redo a sensual song as a pop song--it's trivialized in desperate search of a hit record.
My last trumpet teacher (a jazz artist based in Oakland) taught me to always learn the lyrics of the song and play the words through your horn; he told me to use that to help build the tension/release aspect of soloing... In his B66 arrangement, Grusin clearly ignored lyric content and its intimacy.

That was a popular tactic back in the day, and it seemed to affect some British recordings more so than others--they wanted it to appear to sound louder, so they'd overmodulate. Burt's album for Kapp suffers from this quite a bit
Thanks for clearing up yet another mystery! My Japanese Kapp CD was unbearable; I dumped it and found the '69 Kapp re-issue, which is at least listenable.

That coda is strange--it's tacked onto the end of two versions of the tune on this album. It's an "orchestra" recording whereas the Dusty version is a small combo. But given how the tracks were recorded, a logical "ending" to the Dusty version (after the sax) was probably never recorded. The same combo, fading out at the end with the same theme, would have sounded better.
Agreed.


Overall, it's a very good s/t in that it flows nicely (the Kritzerland version particularly -- which follows film order and includes that odd vocal version that closes the film). I think I still like What's New, Pussy Cat? as my fave (then again, I added a few more versions of some of the songs: Burt had a couple different vocalists take a stab at two of the numbers + there's the infamous Love version...you know, the one that apparently Burt hated because Arthur Lee ignored most of the chords).
 

Rudy

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Despite my amplifier situation being slightly compromised, I had a chance to compare both of the Classic Records versions. I have the 24-bit/192kHz digital version and now the 4-LP 45 RPM Clarity Vinyl version I have on loan.

Unfortunately the vinyl isn't pristine (a couple of minor issues) but it slightly edges out the 24/192 digital version just in terms of sounding more analog and "whole"--the music just sounds that little more full-bodied in the vinyl version. These are both straight off the two-track masters, and Bernie Grundman mastered the Clarity Vinyl version. Unfortunately neither Herb nor Dusty had the same presence due to my temporary change in amplifiers, but I could interpolate from how the 24/192 sounded prior to my amp malfunction that the LP "has it." I can see why it is highly regarded. It's not sonic perfection, but in the more orchestral pieces, it is so much easier to hear everything going on.

I scrounged up a coupe of the CD versions also (loaners) and sorry, but they sound doctored, and I do not like the upsetting of the track order. Soundtrack albums were made to be listened to as music presentations, not follow the film's sequencing. They also suffer from that "flattening" of sound that comes with CD-resolution digital, including that sense of space that is lost due to the 16-bit resolution that is killing off the reverb trails.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
They also suffer from that "flattening" of sound that comes with CD-resolution digital, including that sense of space that is lost due to the 16-bit resolution
You've got a pair of golden ears there! I wish I could hear with such detail. (I know my hearing isn't stellar -- compromised by too much loud live amplified music years ago combined with old age.) I have one friend who like you seems to hear musical detail that the rest of us cannot similarly discern. Back in '79 when Ry Cooder / Bop Till You Drop was all the rage he wasn't impressed. Although he liked the reduced noise floor and added presence, all told he concluded the digital approach yielded sonics that were not realistic sounding. In any event, thanks for sharing as it's always good to know how those with acute hearing articulate these things.
 

Rudy

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You've got a pair of golden ears there! I wish I could hear with such detail. (I know my hearing isn't stellar -- compromised by too much loud live amplified music years ago combined with old age.) I have one friend who like you seems to hear musical detail that the rest of us cannot similarly discern. Back in '79 when Ry Cooder / Bop Till You Drop was all the rage he wasn't impressed. Although he liked the reduced noise floor and added presence, all told he concluded the digital approach yielded sonics that were not realistic sounding. In any event, thanks for sharing as it's always good to know how those with acute hearing articulate these things.
It's actually not that hard to hear these things--it's almost like saying "Once you hear it, you can't unhear it." 😁 Similar to how your significant other may hear a faint noise in the car and think it's a problem, something you've never noticed before....only, you hear it all the time now when you drive it, now that it's brought to your attention.

One thing I noticed the most is how "present" the sound is--it sounds more like real instruments being played vs. sounding like a recording. Herb's trumpet is so "in the room" that it borders on creepy. 😁 (It sounds like someone in the room is playing trumpet, standing between the speakers, playing along with the orchestra on the left and right.) It's something I don't hear so much on the A&M TJB LPs, but that's not a knock on the engineering--those TJB records were mixed a certain way, and recorded as a band vs. being presented as a soloist (in the mix) in front of an orchestra.

It's pretty cool to hear these things. And it's not like you have to listen hard--they just grab your attention. I can't tell you how many times in recordings I've heard dozens of times (and across decades) that I'll hear something new.
 

Harry

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Herb's trumpet is so "in the room" that it borders on creepy. 😁 (It sounds like someone in the room is playing trumpet, standing between the speakers, playing along with the orchestra on the left and right.) It's something I don't hear so much on the A&M TJB LPs, but that's not a knock on the engineering--those TJB records were mixed a certain way, and recorded as a band vs. being presented as a soloist (in the mix) in front of an orchestra.
I believe that this is an effect of proper channel alignment on the soundtrack versus most of the A&M issues of the song "Casino Royale". To prove this to myself, I used the "OOPS" method to cancel out Herb's center channel trumpet. On the soundtrack version that I have - a 50th anniversary CD, Herb's trumpet is in near total cancellation, which means that when played back in regular stereo, the "image" of his trumpet is dead center.

Now when I try that with any old A&M version or even the latest Herb Alpert Is... version, I find louder traces of Herb's trumpet when using the OOPS method. I can somewhat correct some of these with a slight movement of one channel or the other - when looked at in Audacity or I suppose any audio editor, and looked at at the sample level, with a section of Herb's trumpet dominating the proceedings, I can see that the peaks and valleys of the waves between the channels are not quite in alignment. Usually it's a one or two sample move in one direction or the other that put's Herb's trumpet more in phase so that the cancellation is closer to total.

But just doing that is still not quite as good a total cancellation as the CASINO ROYALE soundtrack version - and I'm limited to CD. I'd bet those original vinyl records that are supposedly audiophiles' delights are probably very much in phase alignment, adding to the solid stereo image.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
it sounds more like real instruments being played vs. sounding like a recording
That's interesting. I've always resigned myself to the thought that electronically recorded and reproduced music is not supposed to sound like music captured by our ears. Those odd times when they actually do seem to sound similar, its akin to a Dutch still life...otherwise, it just different. The stereophonic illusion can be a treat when the music hall is accurately captured; yet, panning close-micd instruments here and there just to separate sounds sources is not realistic and not how anyone would naturally hear the music. I guess what I'm saying is that I put on a different hat when I listen to pre-recorded music and the expectations are far lower -- and I just try to imagine how it would sound if I was there in person. I guess that's how the 78 crowd did it, eh?
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
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I think I was trying to convey more of the sense of hearing an actual instrument, vs. "that sounds like some percussion being hit." Or, more a sense of the sounds of the individual instruments coming through vs. sounding like a mass of sound. On the Peter Gunn soundtrack, the Shearing-esque track "Soft Sounds" features Victor Feldman on vibes. They sound like vibes on every version, but on the better remasters and with decent equipment, you can hear the mallets striking the vibes, and the nuances Feldman puts into them, much better. Even with what seems like an oddball choice--"My Little Drum," the third track from the Charlie Brown Christmas album. The recent Kevin Gray remaster (and the SH/KG 45 RPM remaster from a decade earlier) allow us to hear the individual children's voices in the vocal group. Or in any well-recorded jazz tune, hearing that attack and shimmering decay of a cymbal being struck.

It's a bit like cleaning a dirty windshield, in other words. In a musical sense, it is easier to focus on an instrument or vocalist, just as we would if we were listening in person, since they are better delineated.

Recordings will never match "being there" in person, but a good recording, well-reproduced, can take us a bit further into the experience. And there's this sense on the better AAA remasters that we are practically hearing what was on those original master tapes, all those years ago, as perfect (or as perfectly flawed) as the day they were committed to tape.

I have to say there's a less desirable flip side to this also. Some of the audiophile labels from the 80s tried to make things sound too realistic, and they could be odd experiences to listen to. Or the high-regarded "Sheffield Drum Record," to me, always sounded like someone pounding on a set of cardboard boxes; having been feet if not inches away from a drum set with the drummer playing full-out, what I was hearing on that record (in a demo at an audio store) was nothing like what I heard in person. These were the early days of direct-to-disc recordings, and some of it was a bit questionable, in my experience.
 
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