Listening in Depth to Joni Mitchell – Blue

More Joni Mitchell

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Listening in Depth

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The main reason it’s so difficult to find a good sounding pressing of this record is that most copies have a tendency towards hardness, shrillness and aggressiveness. There is a great deal of mid- to high-frequency information in this recording, and the problems arise when you take all that energy and try to stamp it into a piece of domestic vinyl.

If the vinyl wasn’t good on the day they pressed the record, it doesn’t matter how good the mastering is. The result is grain and grunge. Since Joni pushes her voice hard into her higher registers on many of these songs it’s often enough to make you leave the room. At the very least you would have to turn down the volume.

That’s on the copies that are mastered right! The copies that are mastered with thin and aggressive sound to start with can only get worse. Those are the rule, not the exception.

Breathy Vocals and Hot Stampers

The best copies bring out the breathy quality to Joni’s voice, and she never sounds strained. They are sweet and open, with good bass foundation and transparency throughout the frequency range.

The best pressings (and our better playback equipment) have revealed nuances to this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged from our shootouts that made it easy to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings.

Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back.

TRACK COMMENTARY

Side One

All I Want

This is a do-or-die song for side one. When Joni sings “traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling” she really pushes on the last couple, and even the best copies have a hard time dealing with it. When a copy of this record comes in, that first line often tells me that there is no hope for side one. If an LP can get through that first line properly, it’s at least a ‘B’ and often times a Hot Stamper.

My Old Man

The piano on this track needs to be solid and full-bodied. The sound of the piano tells you if there’s any weight to the sound of the pressing you are auditioning.

Notice that Joni’s voice is much smoother on this track as well. If the whole album sounded like this it wouldn’t be so hard to find a good sounding copy.

Little Green
Carey
Blue

This is a tough track for a number of reasons. Joni really pushes her vocal; it’s at the end of the record where inner groove distortion is at its most problematical; and her voice is quite naked. When you add up these three factors, you have some real hurdles to overcome.

The best copies “survive” this track. Everything before this song on side one can sound awfully good. This song we try to do the best we can with, but it’s the rare copy that won’t have problems of one kind or another.

Side Two

California
This Flight Tonight
River
A Case of You

Something happens at the beginning of this track which is interesting from an audiophile/ recording point of view. See if you can hear it on the copy you own. If you think you know what it is, drop me an email. It takes an exceptionally good copy and exceptionally good equipment to bring it out. You can be sure that no one in the control room ever heard it.

The Last Time I Saw Richard