Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.
Want to hear what the best copies of Mr. Tambourine Man can do? Play Chimes of Freedom, one of the best sounding tracks on side two, if not THE best. Listen to how breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn’s vocals are. Byrds records almost never sound like that.
I Knew I’d Want You is another one that sounds amazingly Tubey Magical on the best pressings.
Years ago we wrote that the 360 Label original pressings were the only ones with the rich, warm sound of tubes:
Looking for Tubey Magic? The best 360 pressings are the only way to go, and even those are often lacking. (Forget most red label copies; they have nice qualities but tubey magic is not among them.) But the best pressings of The Byrds’ albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it.
This time around we found a Red Label reissue with lovely Tubey Magic. It did not win our shootout — this copy did — but it was very rich and tubey. I had no idea it was a reissue when grading it, because it sure didn’t fit with my idea of what a reissue would sound like. Fortunately I can’t see the labels of the records that I’m grading, which helps make the admittedly subjective evaluation of records somewhat more objective than might otherwise be the case.
The first track rarely if ever sounds as good as those that follow.
By the time you get to track two you’re hearing one of my favorite Byrds song of all time: I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better. It’s energetic and very present on this copy.
Notice that Gene Clark’s vocals usually sound better than Roger McGuinn’s. For some reason they tend to brighten up his vocals, and the last thing you ever want to do with a Byrds recording is make it brighter. But having said that, most of the reissues are too thin and bright compared to the best originals.
The third track has wonderful space and clarity.
The music came jumping out of the speakers with ENERGY and presence the likes of which we have never experienced before, certainly not from the typically crude sounding recordings of this seminal ’60s band. Listen to the all the room around the vocals. Folks, that room is practically non-existent on nine out of ten copies. But on this side two it is RIGHT THERE.
Side two is super TRANSPARENT, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear INTO the music and the studio space in which it was created. The clarity is SUPERB with all the detail and texture one could hope for, but the real kicker is the amount of ENERGY and musical DRIVE that this side has going for it. No other copy could touch it.