Acoustic Sounds

Wes Montgomery

Full House: Wes Montgomery recorded 'live' at Tsubo—Berkeley, California



Label: Craft

Produced By: Orrin Keepnews

Engineered By: Wally Heider

Mixed By: Wally Heider

Mastered By: Joe Tarantino

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray

By: Michael Fremer

December 21st, 2023





Finally, the Full "Full House"—Wes M. With Miles D.'s Rhythm Section + J. Griffin—Released on 3 LPs

Riverside original and OJC reissues left out much of the performance

The Miles Davis Sextet was in San Francisco and had off the night of June 25th, 1962. Wes Montgomery was in town and with the rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, plus tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, played to a full house at Tsubo in Berkeley, California.

The great recording engineer Wally Heider set up his gear in a storeroom behind the club, which, thanks to newspaper articles and word-of-mouth, overflowed with fans anxious to witness the historic one night stand. Heider set up speakers in the parking lot so those who couldn't get in could hear the performance—and what a set it was!

Originally released in seriously truncated form in 1962 (Riverside RS 9434) and then on the OJC series in 1984 (OJC-106) and still later (2002) as a double 45rpm edition on Analogue Productions (AJAZ 9434) and as a single LP OJC pressed on 180g vinyl using the OJC metal parts and released by Acoustic Sounds, the epic June 25th 1962 concert had an extended release in 2007 on CD. That disc included the six tracks on the original record plus five bonus tracks.

This new three LP expanded set contains the six originals along with all of the alternative takes plus two previously unreleased takes. In addition, the original version of the title track, which opens the record has always been a composite, with Montgomery's solo from another take edited in. That composite version is kept intact here as it's always been, but the actual "Full House" as originally performed opens side one of the second disc.

Housed in a triple gatefold package (with obi) that includes great photos of the musicians, technicians, the recording gear and even a photo of the crowd outside Tsubo, plus detailed and useful annotation by Bill Milkowski, the triple-LP set's lacquers were cut by Kevin Gray using Joe Tarantino's digital transfers.

The problem is the sound is absolutely awful—and you know it's not the late Wally Heider's fault. Kevin won't talk, so there's no point in asking him but clearly no one involved in this bothered to listen and if they did they didn't know what to listen for and who knows on what they listened.

The bass is seriously attenuated. I've been playing for years both the OJC 180g and the Kevin Gray cut from tape double 45 Analogue Productions and when I dropped the stylus on the first record I didn't recognize the recording. Here it's hard, brittle, bright and bass shy. What should be an open invite to Tsubo is a 'turn it down my ears ache' I'm going outside rendering.

What a $75.00 shame. Below is a YouTube audio in which you will hear about two minutes of the opening track "Full House" twice: once from the double 45 Kevin Gray cut from tape decades ago and once from the 33 1/3 version he recently cut from Tarantino's files. I'm not saying which is which.

You tell me which sounds better! The music, of course, is super-great and it's nice to have all of the extra takes. plus the Optimal pressing quality is outstanding.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: CR00681


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: digital files

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-12-22 05:09:24 AM

    PeterG wrote:

    Yes, sad but true. I've enjoyed the Full House CD for years, so jumped on this pre-order. Lost interest immediately. Can't muster the energy to play the whole thing. Such a bummer.

  • 2023-12-22 06:31:52 AM

    Dennis Poggenburg wrote:

    Yep, I couldn’t agree more. I was a few minutes into side one and pulled out my AP 45 rpm edition to compare.

    Setting aside the benefits of 45 rpm, this reissue sounds like those sketchy overseas labels’ (Doxy, WaxTime, etc) that reissue Blue Note titles and which scream “sourced from CD!” A major disappointment.

  • 2023-12-22 08:02:36 AM

    tim davis wrote:

    There is better defined bass on the 2nd version on the YT video fer shore.

  • 2023-12-22 11:56:44 AM

    Come on wrote:

    That’s what I expected when I read it’s cut from the digital files. Not because that’s always bad, but because if they do it with such a vintage release, it will probably be. They simply don’t understand their business.

    I’m sorry that great mastering engineers like Kevin have to borrow their good name for such projects to keep their business and customers on the long run. But it makes clear, what we experienced here and there: the name Grundman or Gray etc. doesn’t guarantee great sound, because we never know what was delivered to them. tThey will also do the bad ones, simply to earn money.

    The second track has the flesh (at least on my EarPods over iPad), the first is dead.

    • 2023-12-22 12:33:56 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      Yes of course second is from AAA

    • 2023-12-22 10:33:28 PM

      bwb wrote:

      do you have anything to back that up?

      I mean, didn't you just declare that Gray and Grundman have no integrity? They are basically audio whores who will do any job that pays no matter the outcome?

      did I misinterpret what you said?

      • 2023-12-22 10:42:39 PM

        Come on wrote:

        I didn’t mean that critically, just as a fact. And indeed Kevin said even exactly that (even using the word “…whore” with a wink) in an interview on one of the YouTube channels of Michael45 or Steve Westman. I think it’s nothing to get upset about. If you’d ask them, they’d say, sure they take the job and don’t refuse it, even if it doesn’t meet what they’d prefer.

      • 2023-12-22 11:57:14 PM

        Michael Fremer wrote:

        bwb: Take it easy! These guys have a job to do. They are given assignments from clients and do the work. They won't turn down a project over some kind of sonic principle. I'm sure KG would have preferred to have been handed the tapes so he could cut and assemble them to conform to sides and then return the tapes to how they originally arrived. In this case, Gray would have cut sides one and two as delivered and then to produce the original take of "Full House" he would have unspliced the solo inserted into the original album version, put it back into the original version, assemble and cut side three and then put the tape back together as he found it. Doing it that way, and then actually mastering the project would have produced a KG project as we'd have liked it but that wasn't the assignment.

        • 2023-12-23 03:47:49 AM

          bwb wrote:

          "They won't turn down a project over some kind of sonic principle."

          Really ??? It is OK for industry professionals held by most in the highest regard based on high sonic standards to take on anything even if they know it sounds "absolutely awful" because they will collect a check? I really don't think that's the way professionals are supposed to operate.

          You are proposing that it is ok that KG puts his name on something that sounds "absolutely awful" just because he got paid to do it? Would you take $$ to associate your name with an inferior product knowing many would buy it just because they respect your reputation?

          The implication from Craft is that we can charge a premium because we hired one of the best in the business and therefore as a consumer you can reasonably expect it to be first rate. Then it turns out to be "absolutely awful" and everyone is supposed to be ok with this deception? If deception is too strong for you then it is at least a calculated misdirection on the part of Craft to pony up the $$ to put the name of an industry leader on a project they must know is sub par.

          I'm sorry, but your position on this is untenable.

          • 2023-12-23 06:29:26 AM

            Malachi Lui wrote:

            mastering engineers need work. they'll work with the material that clients give them, and they'll do the job the way the clients want this. for example, that's why so many modern recordings are mastered rather loud, because everyone expects that. some clients will even demand revisions for their records to be made louder.

            guys like kevin gray might not be making things super loud, but they still have demands to meet. in this case, the demand was probably to cut this crap digital file onto lacquer with minimal changes. hence, the final result.

          • 2023-12-23 02:49:12 PM

            Michael Fremer wrote:

            I'm sorry, but my position is in line with the real world.

            • 2023-12-26 01:57:34 PM

              Bigmule wrote:

              In the real world, when someone hires a business to do a substandard job, and the business completes the substandard job as requested, it is the business’s reputation that is typically accountable, not the customer.

              Put it in a different context. If I hired Bob Vila to install a tile floor in my house and told him my budget was minimal so he would have to cut some corners…then it is up to Bob Vila to determine if completing the job is worth the likely risk to his reputation, knowing the finished product was not up to his standards.

              Fast forward to my neighbors coming over to see my new tile floor and how awful it looks, who are they going to associate that bad job with ? Even when I inform them, I told Bob Vila to cut corners, they will likely now associate Bob Vila as a bad tile installer who is choosing money over integrity.

              Kevin Gray, Bernie Grundman, etc are the Bob Vilas of our industry.

              Sure, Kevin Gray is 100% free to do any job he wants, but when his name is intentionally attached to a $75 record reissue it is reasonably implied that record should be remarkably better sounding then say a standard issue album.

              So yes, he can do any cash grab job he chooses and his reputation may suffer for it.

              bwb was correct stating Michael and Malachi's position is untenable.

          • 2023-12-23 03:14:42 PM

            PeterG wrote:

            At the risk of sounding like an Ayn Rand throwback--bwb's position implies a weird ownership of Kevin Gray the person, as if he is an indentured servant to the audiophile community. KG is free to work on whatever he'd like, and to put his name on whatever he'd like. Keep in mind that unlike, say, Michael and Malachi, Kevin has not issued a sonic rating on the album; he has simply stated that he mastered it. He is a free man, and this is an honest statement.

            Kevin may do this at the cost of some "brand value". But since he has not put some sort of seal of approval, as he clearly did with Kristen Edkins, what bwb asks for is none of our damn business.

            Cut to Howard Roark soliloquy...

            • 2023-12-23 05:25:11 PM

              bwb wrote:

              Then I stand corrected , disappointed, and embarrassed at my naïveté.

              It is undeniable that Music Matters, Acoustic Sounds, Blue Note, Craft, and others use the names of these men the same as Good Housekeeping uses their seal of approval. Why would they put their name at the top of their blurbs promoting these issues if they did not want me to believe that this somehow meant sonic excellence?

              Whether or not they state it directly the implication is clear

              I agree these men are free to take on whatever they want, but I would go further than to say they "may do this at the cost of some "brand value". In my mind that value has been severely damaged.

              Thank you all for opening my eyes to the real world.

              • 2023-12-24 02:22:26 AM

                Malachi Lui wrote:

                this wes montgomery record is advertised as 'mastered by joe tarantino, cut by kevin gray'. what craft tells you by using kevin gray's name and services is that this lacquer cut is as accurate to the digital files as possible, maybe even enhanced. (that's not always the case - many lacquer cuts from files sound worse than the original files.) in this case, they're not hiring kevin gray for his own mastering preferences, they're hiring him for the quality of his cutting system. and of course, his name is a bonus, but anyone who knows how to read properly will know that just because he cut lacquers, doesn't mean it'll sound good if the source files suck.

                • 2023-12-24 04:08:06 AM

                  bwb wrote:

                  "but anyone who knows how to read properly "

                  FYI not all of us have an in depth knowledge of these processes. We are learning and rely on others to share their expertise. Hopefully the others do so in a manner that encourages an open exchange.

                  In this case, your condescension and dismissal is duly noted.

                  Happy Holidays

  • 2023-12-22 12:35:51 PM

    Michael Fremer wrote:

    Clearly second sample is from KG’s early AAA double 45. But the OJC at 33 is equally good in terms of tonal balance.

  • 2023-12-23 05:51:48 AM

    Josquin des Prez wrote:

    My wife, our most precious rescue rottie, and I are listening to the AP45 of this now. We clearly don't see a need to spend $75 on digitally-sourced out-takes of what we already have as a great AAA remaster. We all think that FOMO is not going to take priority over the most excellent doggie treats, IPAs, and gin we enjoy for what we didn't spend on yet another silly, shortsighted reissue.

  • 2023-12-23 07:42:57 AM

    John Hudson wrote:

    Micheal, When you wrote “ on the OJC series in 1984 (OJC-106) and still later (2002) as a double 45rpm edition on Analogue Productions (AJAZ 9434) and as a single LP OJC pressed on 180g vinyl using the OJC metal parts and released by Acoustic Sounds, “ - Referring to the metal parts of the Acoustic Sounds 33 OJC, were those metal parts from the 1984 OJC or from something AS made when they made the 45 metal ?

    • 2023-12-23 02:53:38 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      Acoustic Sounds released a series of OJCs using Fantasy's original metal parts probably cut by George Horn. It was a start set that sounded great and usually better than the Fantasy budget issues pressed from the same parts. The AS 45s are obviously a later cut by Kevin Gray.

  • 2023-12-23 10:42:09 PM

    Jamie Howarth wrote:

    That’s a machine repro alignment, unless it’s the worst converter ever. A good take digitization won’t sound thin or bright. The lack of bass is the interpretation of the tone reel or lack thereof.

    Blaming it on digital files is simply naive. Our experience with the prodigious Phil Lesh bass on Rhino vinyl from digital files belies that canard. It’s the mastering, not the format, every time.

    • 2023-12-24 12:10:08 AM

      Come on wrote:

      Yes, we are definitely aware, that digital transfers can be much better. But my experience also is, that digital recordings or transfers start to approach the resolution we are used to from analog, from DXD or DSD128 upwards. The difference towards the lower resolutions is very essential in my opinion.

  • 2023-12-24 04:17:00 AM

    Bruce Nelson wrote:

    I streamed this and loved it!

    There is a raw quality to this recording that makes it sound like an FM simulcast from way back when. It really sounds alive. And it's great music.

    As for the integrity debate, I am on the side of holding industry professionals to account.

  • 2023-12-27 06:44:32 PM

    Ronan O’Gorman wrote:

    This is a plea to everyone who comments to not denigrate this web site. Recently there have been some negative comments about record companies and individuals who master the records (Pretzel Logic and Full House are examples). There are many positive comments about Craft and Analogue Productions ( Bill Evans, Steely Dan) and the reviews and comments back up that this is a great time to be collecting high quality records and equipment. Free speech is welcome. Please let's have some civility in our comments. If someone doesn't like a recording then comment on that. Unless someone has had a conversation with Kevin Gray, then we don't know what his intent was when working on the project. Each of us have the final say on these records, if you don't like the review, don't buy the record.

    • 2023-12-31 02:10:27 PM

      tim davis wrote:

      Well said sir, I've had many a frustrating experience anytime I've engaged an archived discussion on any topic amongst audiophile groups going back for decades in that you can't get beyond the 1st ten comments or so without having someone turn it into an argument. Often I suspect that some alleged audiophiles don't actually enjoy music or their high end gear at all & the only thing that brings them real joy is attacking & tearing down by starting quarrels with others from behind the safety of their keyboard....sigh...

      • 2024-01-01 02:37:50 AM

        Bigmule wrote:

        High end gear??? Hahaha…

        Your comment was relevant 25 years ago….

        • 2024-01-02 01:11:04 AM

          tim davis wrote:

          Every word I type or say or think is relevant cuz I'm still alive & kicking. Furthermore, no one can validate or disqualify my words. Thought does not have a shelf life though I will admit that there is a lot less of it present in media produced nowadays.

          • 2024-01-03 02:00:07 AM

            Bigmule wrote:

            I was goofing on you to bait you into a discussion not relevant to the topic….and into an argument. Just having a little fun…all good, nothing personal.

            • 2024-01-03 03:21:24 PM

              bwb wrote:

              "all good" .... really? Your idea of "fun" is baiting people into going off topic and arguing with you?

              How is that even remotely acceptable? I'm not sure which is worse. Your boorish behavior or the moderators allowing it?

              • 2024-01-05 11:25:02 PM

                Bigmule wrote:

                You and I are likely to be good friends in person.

              • 2024-01-05 11:25:05 PM

                Bigmule wrote:

                You and I are likely to be good friends in person.

              • 2024-01-05 11:25:08 PM

                Bigmule wrote:

                You and I are likely to be good friends in person.

                • 2024-01-14 04:14:40 AM

                  tim davis wrote:

                  I suspect you haven't spent enough time around mentally ill folk such as myself if you actually believe what you posted here & now to be true.

    • 2024-01-01 02:38:25 AM

      Bigmule wrote:

      Free speech works both ways.