SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards (1957) – Verve/ HDTT DVD-A
Published on August 17, 2014
Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards (1957) [TrackList follows] – Verve/ HDTT DVD Audio (192K/24-bit) stereo (avail. in various formats from www.highdeftapetransfers.com) ****:
Joe Williams might be thought of as the last of the great big band singers. His baritone voice rejuvenated the Count Basie Orchestra starting in 1954, and he was with them until 1961. He also made an album with Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan which was a classic, as well as number of more jazz-oriented albums than this one. He also recorded with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy and Oscar Peterson.
However, these dozen treatments of standards from the Great American Songbook are a fine alternate to the usual pop singers and still stand up very well, especially considering the ultimate fidelity of these transfers. Williams’ fine voice had a wonderful believable quality that sounded so natural and intimate, and with the swinging backing of the Basie Band it’s a fabulous combination—reminding me of the Sinatra album with the Basie Band. His version of “Singin’ in the Rain” is certainly different from Gene Kelly’s, and a welcome alternative.
Now that HDTT offers both DSD and double-DSD downloads of their albums, they are being regarded as one of the hi-res leaders in the audiophile community. You can select (at different prices) from these super-high-sampling rates (DSD64 or DSD128) or less memory-hogging sample rates such as 192/24, 96/24, or if you’re not into the hi-res thing, standard old CD format of 44.1K/16-bit. This one is listed as DVD-Audio, but should still play on any DVD player cable of outputting 192K sources. (For this type of material, 96/24 is good enough for my ears.) The hi-res downloads are also encoded as FLAC files, which will play without decoding after burning on some decks such as the Oppo.
HDTT started out using only 2-track and 4-track prerecorded tapes, which were actually extremely good copies of the 15 ips master tapes. Now they are even using LPs as sources on some releases. This one came from a 1957 Verve prerecorded open reel quarter-track tape at 7 1/2 speed. (That was a year before the vinyl stereodisc hit the market.) HDTT uses an array of super-high-end conversion and vibration control gear and gets amazing fidelity out of both the tapes and LPs, with no noticeable hiss or noise intervening, not to mention no concerns of the user about getting tapes that are still good-sounding, keeping an open reel deck in shape, threading the tapes, and all the work connected with open reel analog tape.
TrackList: Thou Swell, There Will Never Be Another You, Love is Here to Stay, ’S Wonderful, My Baby Just Cares for Me, Nevertheless, Singin’ in the Rain, I’m Beginning to See the Light, A Fine Romance, Come Rain or Come Shine, I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me, This Can’t Be Love