Recorded April 10-11, 1962

Arrangements: Neal Hefti

Conducted by Neal Hefti

Engineer: Milton Tasker Putnam

Original Release: August, 1962 

(“Love is Just Around the Corner” and “Goody, Goody” released as a single, June, 1962)

Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass - 1962

Hoo boy......more aurally painful Reprise sonic mayhem from Bill Putnam’s United Recorders, giving “Ring-a-Ding Ding” and “All Alone” stiff competition for the title of “worst sounding Sinatra album.”   The album was released in mediocre sounding mono and bad sounding stereo in 1962, and has been remixed and tinkered with repeatedly since then in an effort to wring good sound out of the sponge, with  (pardon the pun) mixed results.

Sonics aside, in musical terms, parts of the album really shine, and I’m a big fan of the Sinatra/Hefti combination, but the sound quality is definitely and regrettably a hinderance in terms of how much enjoyment I get from listening to “Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass.” 

Speaking of the title:  It’s a shame that this album and “Come Swing with Me” did not swap titles, as that earlier album is really a brass-heavy album (using dueling brass sections in stereo “call and response” style), while this album is a traditional swing-band album (with full jazz band and plenty of non-brassy saxophone sound).  The title is cool, yes, but it’s somewhat a misnomer.

Is it the good turtle soup?

A look at the original mono and stereo mixes

Both the original mono and original stereo mixes are problematic, and poor masterings have done them no favors, but the mono mix is the better of the two.  It is, however, downright quirky in places.

Mono Mix Quirks

To convey the typical sound from this mix, here’s a clip from GOODY, GOODY: GoodyClipMono.mp3  It’s not great, but it’s not bad.  It will never win any awards for outstanding hi-fi sound.  The bass is at a decent level, the treble may be a bit rolled off (but not strongly so), things are well balanced and the band sounds connected (something that is not always conveyed well in the w-i-d-e stereo versions, where things are, arguably, a bit disjointed), and there is plenty of (too much, in many spots) reverb on the vocal.

During “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” the reverb on Frank’s vocal is off when Frank comes back in after the sax solo.  Within about three words, it is dialed back in:  I'mBeginningDryVocalClip.mp3

On “Tangerine,” the song starts again with a completely dry vocal, then the reverb knob gets turned higher and higher: tangerineMonoClip 2.mp3

During “Serenade in Blue,” the drummer falls into a cavern.  Listen to the tom-tom note in the middle of the clip.  The mono mix is the “wet” one, and the dry (non-reverberant) version is from the HD version, folded to mono by me:  SerenadeDrums 2.mp3

On the whole, the inherent mono-ness is pleasant, with the band well gelled as a result, and the razor-like tone in the sax section (a Putnam trademark) is somewhat subdued.  Aside from that, there’s not much to recommend here, in my opinion.


Readers of these pages will recall that, in most cases, these early Reprise albums were initially mastered for mono and stereo, sometimes by Ami Hadani, then were remastered, sometimes with dramatic differences in sound, by Columbia Records at some point after Reprise Records was absorbed into Warner Brothers Records.  (Warners did not have their own manufacturing facility, so they contracted with Columbia for this purpose.)  It appears that for SWING ALONG WITH ME, ALL ALONE, and again with SINATRA AND SWINGIN’ BRASS, the pre-Columbia mono masterings were the only ones ever available in the USA.  In the case of at least two of those titles, Columbia Records did provide new mastering for issue in Canada, and while we currently have no clips from such a pressing for SWINGIN’ BRASS, we can point out that in the case of SWING ALONG WITH ME, the Canadian, Columbia-cut (manufactured in Canada by Compo Records) mono LP sounds indistinguishable from the pre-Columbia editions.  That being the case, I would be surprised if a Columbia-cut, Canadian mono LP of SWINGIN’ BRASS were to sound much different from any of the pre-Columbia editions, but “never say never.”  I hope to have a sample to share at some point.

Original Stereo Mix

When I hear the original mono mix, I think to myself, “That could be better” or “that’s weird in places,” but when I hear the original stereo mix, at least in its early masterings, I find myself wishing for somebody to come along and put that poor thing out of its misery.  (Mastering of this mix did improve over time.)

When the stereo LP first hit the racks in 1962, here’s what fans heard when they played it:


(For reference, here again is the same clip from an early mono LP.)

At some point, wiser ears got involved, and mastering did improve.  Here is a clip from SERENADE IN BLUE from the first-released A1 stereo cut: SerenadeA1LPClip-NORM_01.mp3 and here is the same clip from what may be the final LP release of this mix, a circa 1986 LW-1 cut: 10Cap Serenade in Blue-NORM_01-03.mp3.  Clearly, that’s a huge difference.

The original mix was used for two songs from this album that were included in 1990’s The Reprise Collection 3-CD set.  Here is a clip from I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU: IGetAKickClipReprCollCD.mp3

The primary fault of the original stereo mix, in my opinion, is the excessive reverb on the vocal, and bit of a razor-like tone on the saxes.  Poor masterings have accentuated these problems, while better masterings have tamed them somewhat.  (When all is said and done, I remain in awe of just how horrid the sound quality is on the early stereo pressings of this album.)

1992 and Beyond: Stereo Remixes

(1992 CD, 1998 CD, 2014 HD, 2014 LP)

Following 1990’s The Reprise Collection, the original stereo mix was set aside in favor of new remixes created from the 3-track tapes, decreasing the vocal reverb to a large degree.  Newly remixed stereo versions first appeared in the 1992 CD release of the full album (with three bonus tracks added).    While the decrease in reverb was a step in a good direction, the razor-like saxophone tone, if anything, became slightly more bothersome (in spots, at least), and the EQ on some tracks was surprisingly thin.  To understand how thin-sounding the 1992 remix was on some tracks, let’s listen to a 60-second clip (from within the 90-second iTunes free sample window) of DON’CHA GO ‘WAY MAD, broken up this way:

0:00-0:14 = 1990 The Reprise Collection CD, using the original mix, but very tastefully mastered.

0:14-0:31 = 1992 remix

0:31-0:46 =   1990 original mix again

0:46-end = 1992 remix again

Here’s the clip: DonchaClipRColl-Suitcase-RColl-Suitcase.wav

Not all tunes come across as being quite that bright/thin on the 1992 remix.  Listen, for instance, to I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU, again comparing the 1990 original mix and 1992 remixed versions, in (roughly) 15-second segments as done above.  Audio here: IGetAClipRepColl-Suitcase-RepColl-Suitcase.wav

While the 1992 edition has some overall tonal issues (a little thin, a little bright -- some songs moreso than others), the dynamics are wide open from start to finish, and reverb levels are greatly reduced, so all is not lost.

In 1998, the album was remixed again, released as part of the ENTERTAINER OF THE CENTURY (EOTC) series of CDs.  The 1998 CD has a darker tone overall, with markedly reduced dynamics and a general lack of sparkle.  To my ear, the trumpets sound dead and the bass sounds “goosed.”  That said, because the 1992 CD was so inconsistent, there are some spots that fare a little better on the 1998 CD than on the original, but, on the whole, I prefer the sound of the 1992 CD, despite the numerous problems associated with that disc.

Below are some clips.  Each one starts with the original CD, then repeats from the 1998 CD.  If you only listen to one, listen to the PICK YOURSELF UP clip, which most clearly presents the differences between the masterings:

At Long Last Love: AtLongLastLove1992-1998-1992-1998.wav

I’m Beginning to See the Light: I'mBeginningClip1992-1998Alternating.wav

Love Is Just Around the Corner: LoveIsJustAroundtheCorner1992-1998-1992-1998.wav

Ain’t She Sweet: AintSheSweet1992-1998.wav

Pick Yourself Up: PickYourselfUp1992-1998-1992-1998.wav

30- and 90-second clips from these songs are available on iTunes.  (Click “View” above.)

30- and 90-second clips from these songs are available on iTunes.  (Click “View” above.)

30- and 90-second clips from these songs are available on iTunes.  (Click “View” above.)

To reiterate:  While the 1992 CD is riddled with shortcomings, I think the 1998 CD brings virtually nothing overtly positive to the table, and the audible effects of compression are troubling on the 1998 CD.  Of the two, I prefer the 1992 mastering by a considerable margin, despite the fact that it is, frankly, not very good.  It’s the lesser of two evils where CD releases are concerned.

In 2014, the album was remixed yet again, and released on LP and as an HD download, the sonic result being a pretty heavy sonic overhaul when compared to previous versions.  To give you some idea of how different this release sounds, here is a clip that contains the same passage four times, in this order:  1.) 1990 THE REPRISE COLLECTION CD (original stereo mix); 2.) 1992 CD (2nd stereo mix); 3.) 1998 CD (3rd stereo mix); 4.) 2014 HD (4th stereo mix).  Audio here: IGetAKick1990-1992-1998-2014HD.wav

This new mix was released in October of 2014 on both LP (mastered by Capitol’s Ron McMaster) and HD (no compact disc release), but the LP mastering did have a significant difference from the HD mastering:  Bass was panned to the center via low-frequency blend, affecting the overall stereo image/width.  How different is the sound?  Here is a clip from GOODY, GOODY that runs in this order:  HD, LP, HD, LP: Goody2014HD-2014LP-2014HD-2014LP.wav, and here is a clip from TANGERINE that starts with the HD version, then switches to LP: Tangerine2014LP-2014HD.wav  Obviously, the bass frequencies move toward the center on the LP clips, but remain “hard left” (as nature and Bill Putnam intended) on the HD clips.

This was not the first time that a stereo LP release had the bass frequencies centered.  Here is a clip from THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME that starts with a circa 1986 WW-4 LP pressing (original stereo mix), then switches to the 2014 LP (stereo mix #4), and both have the bass frequencies centered: TheyCan'tTakeWW1LP-2014LP.wav.  For comparison, here is a clip from LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, that starts with an LW-1 LP pressing (original stereo mix) and switches to the 2014 LP, but in this case, the original mix (LW-1 LP) does NOT have the low frequencies moved to the center: LoveIsJustAroundTheCornerLW1LP-2014LP.wav, and here is the same clip, starting with the 2014 LP (bass centered) and switching to the 2014 HD (bass hard left), both using stereo mix #4, but with the bass frequencies handled differently: LoveIsJustAroundTheCorner2014LP-2014HD.wav.


Let’s listen to some clips of “Don’cha Go ‘Way Mad” from a number of releases.  Click the photos to hear the audio. 

(All clips fall within the free-sample window at iTunes.  Click “VIEW” at right to hear correlating iTunes clips.)

30- and 90-second clips from these songs are available on iTunes.  (Click “View” above.)

Above: R-1005 A2 Mono LP, courtesy Arkoffs

Above: R-1005 B4 Mono LP

Above: R-1005 A5 Mono LP, courtesy stevelucille

Above: R9-1005 A1 Stereo LP

(Stereo Mix #1)

Above: mid ‘80s FS-1005 WW-4 Stereo LP (Stereo Mix #1 with bass blended to center during disk cutting)

Above: 1992 Stereo CD (reused in the 1995 “suitcase”) (Stereo Mix #2)

Above: 2014 Stereo LP (Stereo Mix #4 with bass blended to center during disk cutting) - LP mastered at Capitol Mastering by Ron McMaster

Above: 1998 Stereo CD, courtesy “Rudy”

(Stereo Mix #3)

Above: 2014 Stereo HD Download (presented at 16/44.1) (Stereo Mix #4)

Above: Original S9-1005 7.5 ips tape release, manufactured by Stereotape.  (Label is reflective gold, which does not scan well.  It does not look gray.) (Stereo Mix #1)

Conclusions, Opinions, Recommendations

As far as I can tell, there has been no truly “definitive” release for this album.  Each of them is, to some degree, sonically flawed, but a handful of versions seems to have more pros than cons.  Let’s look at those choices.

Clips from four songs (Tangerine, Love is Just Around the Corner, Ain't She Sweet, Serenade in Blue), original A4 mono LP

CONS: A little too much reverb on everything; It's mono; A little mid-range hump-y; a little dull.

PROS: Very cohesive, of course.  Generally pleasant, if a bit boring, tone.

Clips from the same four songs, circa 1962 UK stereo LP version: 7-10clipsUK stereo LP from Pieter-NORM_01-07.wav (audio courtesy Pieter Kozak -- thank you!)

CONS: Too much reverb on the voice, cymbals sound kind of odd;

PROS: Punchy, full-bodied

Clips from same four songs, circa 1986 LW-1 LP, pressed at Capitol for Warner Brothers:

CONS: The instruments are a little anemic; the vocals sound a little dark, tonally; too much reverb on the voice

PROS: We have midrange to go with the bass and treble!!!!!  I think the band sounds good, but thin compared to that UK LP. Dynamics are excellent.  

Clips from the same four songs, 1992 CD (with apologies for a couple of stray clicky-clickies that cropped up during the rip):

CONS: Too fluffy and airy.  Thin in a lot of places.

PROS: It's not compressed; Reverb levels are reduced and pleasant


Clips from the 2014 HD version:

CONS: Midrange suck-out (funky, "hard" EQ); bass goosed a little; compressed a little.

PROS: WIDE stereo is retained.  Reverb is minimized.

Clips from the 2014 LP version:

CONS: Midrange suck-out (funky, "hard" EQ); narrowed stereo (bass panned in)’

PROS: Better dynamics than HD; Un-goosed bass levels.

30- and 90-second clips from these songs are available on iTunes.  (Click “View” below.)

In the end, like some other Reprise titles we’ve examined, this one really needs a remix done the right way by the right person.

While the two 2014 releases have their supporters and detractors, the thing about each of them that, in the end, bugs me most is their EQ, a “midrange suck-out” as SHTV’s aoxomoxoa once put it.  It’s pretty severe, as visible in this graph comparing the 1992 CD and 2014 HD versions.

As attractive as the 2014 releases are in some ways, there’s a tonal character that seems “not quite right” to me, so I really have a tough time putting them in a true “top tier” position.....but then, none of the others really have earned that spot either, I suppose.

For years, I have been hyper-critical of the sound quality on this album.  Special thanks to Pieter Kozak for bringing the early-pressing UK stereo LP, apparently mastered at UK Decca, to our attention, and for sharing clips.  I am reticent to recommend an edition that I do not personally own, but I have heard some large pieces of this disk, and feel confident recommending it as a good choice.  Similarly, my own c. 1986 LW-1 stereo LP, pressed for Warner by Capitol, has a very open, relaxed sound, and is worth picking up.

It’s possible that some other un-tapped, top-notch version exists out there (for instance, a 1960s F-1005 mono or FS-1005 stereo release of high quality), but until such a time as that emerges, UK LPs such as the one Pieter has shared, and later (1980s) LW cuts are my “top choices.” If push came to shove, I’d probably stick with my 1986 pressing, but I do like what I’ve heard of Pieter’s LP.

Thanks again, Pieter!

Please join the discussion of this album at the Steve Hoffman Music Forums.

Above: UK R9-1005 A-2L Stereo LP (manufactured by Pye Records), courtesy SH.TV member Pieter Kozak

(Stereo Mix #1)