Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline

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  • An outstanding copy of this Dylan classic with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Rich, yet clean, clear and open, with good space around the instruments and tight, note-like bass
  • “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” and the duet with Johnny Cash on “Girl From the North Country” have become country-rock standards
  • 5 stars: “It’s a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.”

This pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

Cash Is King

What’s most striking about this album is the sound of Johnny Cash’s voice in the duet he sings with Bob (we’re on a first name basis, don’t you know). I can’t remember when’s the last time I heard Johnny Cash sound better. The stuff he did for American Recordings had much to recommend it; the first album sounded especially good.

But you just can’t beat a properly produced, properly engineered Columbia from this era. There’s a richness and a naturalness to the sound that has almost completely disappeared from the modern world of music. You really do have to go back to these early pressings to find it. And then you have to find just the right old pressings for it to be there.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Country-ish Singer Songwriter (assuming that’s what Dylan is in 1969) album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.

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.

These problems are just as common to the 360 label original Columbia pressings as they are to the later red label LPs. Smeary, veiled, top-end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.

360 Issues

I’m fairly amazed at how bad most 360 pressings sound. Many of them are as dull as dishwater. The top end is rolled off and there is very little presence in the midrange. Often the first track of either side will sound good, but the following tracks are dullsville.

If you think that buying an original of this record guarantees you top quality sound I’m here to tell you it does not. Not unless you are lucky and actually end up with a record that was properly mastered and pressed. These I have found are not as common as most audiophiles and record collectors think.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Girl from the North Country 
Nashville Skyline Rag 
I Threw It All Away 
To Be Alone With You
Peggy Day

Side Two

Lay Lady Lay 
One More Night 
Tell Me That It Isn’t True 
Country Pie 
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

John Wesley Harding suggested country with its textures and structures, but Nashville Skyline was a full-fledged country album, complete with steel guitars and brief, direct songs. It’s a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.

While there are a handful of lightweight numbers on the record, at its core are several excellent songs — “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” as well as a duet with Johnny Cash on “Girl From the North Country” — that have become country-rock standards.

And there’s no discounting that Nashville Skyline, arriving in the spring of 1969, established country-rock as a vital force in pop music, as well as a commercially viable genre.

Listening Test

Presenting today’s Home Audio Exercise. Play your copy of Nashville Skyline — on speakers, no fair cheating on headphones! — and see if you can answer this question. At the beginning of one of the songs on this album two sounds are heard, neither of which is produced by an instrument, but could be said to have been produced by a singer. What are these two mysterious sounds?

If you have a good copy of the record, a good stereo and the ability to listen critically, you should have no problem figuring out what these sounds are. When you do, drop us an email. Until we come up with a better prize, for now we can offer you an extra 10% off your next order.