- A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
- Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
- Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
- 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”
I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and not many held our interest.
Problems to Watch For
Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies have.
You can easily hear that smear on the guitar transients; usually they’re a tad blunted and the guitar harmonics don’t ring the way they should.
Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.
On the Hot Stamper copies that do have sweet and rich ANALOG sound, credit naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, ARMIN STEINER. He was one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early ’70s, and, if that’s not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits. He’s also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.
When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a chance, and probably a pretty good one, that the sound will be excellent. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis at that point. Now all it takes is some serious digging in the bins, cleaning and listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough.”
Driven by the hit singles “I Am…I Said” and “Crunchy Granola Suite,” Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. Instead of padding the album with mediocre originals, Diamond picked several fine covers to fill out the remainder of the album, including Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives,” Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning,” Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain,” Jacques Brel’s “If You Go Away,” and Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind”… the record remains an engaging collection of mainstream pop.
I Am…I Said
The Last Thing on My Mind
Husbands and Wives
Crunchy Granola Suite
If You Go Away
I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today
I Am…I Said (Reprise)