Here are LPs by two of Blue Notes more prolific saxophonists alto man Lou Donaldson and tenor star Dexter Gordon. Both were at the top of their game when they recorded these albums. Both recorded in a quartet setting, Donaldson with the Three Sounds -- Gene Harris, Andy Simpkins and Bill Dowdy -- and Gordon with Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Both recordings are prime examples of the swinging hard bop favored by Blue Note founder Alfred Lion. On both, the saxophone sound streams out from the left channel, with the rhythm section anchored in the right -- though it does spread a bit into the middle as well. You can hear so very clearly Gordons muscular tenor filling the room and Donaldsons very reedy alto beaming at you, and the clearly defined size of both instruments.
The Music Matters LPs -- a pair of beautifully pressed 45s -- take that great Blue Note sound and ratchets it up a notch or two, while the Acoustic Sounds 45s seem to spit-shine the master tape with the technological advances engineers enjoy today. Which are better? I give the nod to the Music Matters LPs, as they offer a greater sense of space along with more organic wholeness to go with the clean, clear sound. The Acoustic Sounds LPs are very fine, as long as you like the original Blue Note sound but with a cleaner signature. They seem to spotlight the individual instruments a bit more too, almost as if the musicians were recorded in sound booths. (They werent, of course.) And when you toss in the packaging, well, its no contest: Music Matters gives you a product that makes you happy you spent the $50 entry fee (if thats possible).
Whats interesting is that Steve Hoffman, who is handling the mastering of both reissue series, claims hes doing nothing different. All I can say is that there is definitely a sonic difference that is easily heard, at least between these two releases. But no matter which you choose, 45rpm playback makes the music come alive in ways 33 1/3 never could.
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