Michael Fremer Rated 11/11 Music, 11/11 Sound in his December 2014 reviews on www.analogplanet.com!
180g Vinyl LP Pressed at Quality Record Pressings!
Remastered from Original Analog Tapes by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound!
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Michael Fremer's 100 Recommended All-Analog LP Reissues Worth Owning - Rated 1/100!
TAS Super LP List! Special Merit: Informal
2015 Stereophile Magazine Record to Die For!
A historic record - recorded just four years removed from the dawn of the analog tape era!
Masterpieces By Ellington shines from an astonishingly brief period of history that gave the recording industry two of its greatest achievements -- the introduction of magnetic tape recording and the 33 1/3 LP, or long-playing record.
Four years. That's all it took to go from the discovery by Americans, of German advancements in the field of sound recording, to the marketing of tape decks in the U.S. by the Ampex company, to Columbia's unveiling of its 12" LP, and the first long-playing record to be sold to consumers.
The four selections contained here catapulted the Maestro Ellington into the LP era, as the great composer/arranger/pianist and his matchless orchestra took full advantage of the possibilities afforded by magnetic tape recording and the still-new 33 1/3 RPM LP to, for the first time, capture uncut concert arrangements of their signature songs.
Suddenly, for the first time in his career, Ellington was able to forgo the 3 minutes-and-change restrictions afforded by the short running time of the 78 RPM disc. He and his band rose to the occasion with extended (11-minute plus) 'uncut concert arrangements' of three of his signature songs -- "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," with evocative vocals by Yvonne Lanauze, as well as "Solitude." Masterpieces was also notable for the debut of the full-bodied, surprise-laden "The Tattooed Bride," and for the swansongs of three Ellintonian giants of longstanding: drummer Sonny Greer, trombonist Lawrence Brown and alto saxist Johnny Hodges (the latter two would eventually return to the fold).
This album wouldn't have been possible without a chain of events starting at the end of World War II. Recorded in December 1950, just five years after Germany fell to the Allies, revealing the Germans' advances in magnetic tape recording, Ellington's master work holds its wonder still today and the recording quality hands-down betters the sound of many modern-day albums.
Masterpieces is a revelation and a throwback to a golden recording age. So much history and so much luck combined make this album truly special.
The harmonically saturated, transparent mono sound is astonishing for any era of recording. It's sure to leave you swooning, and wondering how and why recorded sound has since gone so far south.
Released in 1950, this was Ellington's first LP, and he used the new medium to stretch out four of his biggest hits. The arrangements are jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the sound just slightly less so. Recorded by Fred Plaut, who later miked Kind of Blue and other Columbia classics, it has the dynamics, depth, and in-your-face tonal realism of a modern (mono) audiophile thumper. Among the best jazz albums ever.
Even in this august company, 'The Tattooed Bride' is a swinging virtuoso piece that, as everyone present must have known, couldn't possibly have been captured in this manner in any era before this session -- this was also one of the last sessions to feature the classic Ellington lineup with Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, and Sonny Greer, before their exodus altered the band's sound, and so it's a doubly precious piece (as is the whole album), among the last written specifically for this lineup.
This one gets well-deserved applause every public play around the world.
- 180g Vinyl
- Plated and pressed at Quality Record Pressings
- Remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound from the original analog tapes
- Gatefold old-school "tip-on" on jacket by Stoughton Printing
- Tracks presented in 'uncut concert arrangements'
- Presented in Original Mono
- Mood Indigo
- Sophisticated Lady
- The Tattooed Bride