- Amazing sound throughout for Neil’s self-titled debut – shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
- Both sides are rich, full and Tubey Magical with a big bottom end and excellent resolution
- Surely one of Neil’s toughest to find with top quality sound – and only these early pressings with the original mix have the potential to sound as good as this one does
- “…a flowing tributary from the over-all Springfield river of twangs, breathless vocals and slim yet stout instrumentation. Especially vivid is Young’s sense of melancholy and the ingenious clusters of images he employs in his lyrics (printed in full).”
The Old Mix Beats the New Mix
We’ve always felt that this album was not nearly as well recorded as the albums that followed. Why that would be we would never pretend to know. It was a long time ago. Who on earth has the arrogance to think they know precisely what went wrong? (I could actually name a few people but the less said about them the better.)
It turns out the remixed pressings we’d been selling for years were not the way to hear this album at its best. Neil wanted his voice to sound clearer and more present than the first mix, but the approach the engineers took to increase the clarity and presence was simply to boost the middle and upper midrange, a boost that seriously compromises the wonderful Tubey Magic found in the rich lower midrange of the original mix.
Neil may have liked the sound of his voice better on the new mix, played back on whatever mediocre-at-best stereo he was using at the time, but we here at Better Records are of a decidedly different opinion. On a modern, highly-resolving system Neil’s voice will not sound the least bit “buried” on the original mix, not on the best pressings anyway. Of course, the best ones are the only ones we sell.
If you want to hear this album sound right, we strongly believe that the original mix is the only way to go. And if you want to hear this album sound really right, better-than-you-ever-thought-possible right, you need a copy that was mastered, pressed and cleaned properly, and that means a Hot Stamper from Better Records.
Country Folk Rock from 1968-69
What the Shootout Winning sides of this Neil Young classic have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968-69
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the vocals, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now
Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Our Big Shootout
The sound of the typical pressing leaves a LOT to be desired. You get copies where Neil’s voice is so forward that it quickly becomes fatiguing and unpleasant. Many later pressings are just the opposite — Neil’s voice is so muffled he’s practically underwater, probably because those pressings are made from copy tapes of compromised fidelity.
It’s the rare copy that puts him in the right place, and even then there are still plenty of ways in which a copy can fall short of the best. But this original handily won our shootout. It towered over most of what we played. There was nothing that could touch it.
In Depth Review
Click on the Rave Review tab above to see what an insightful critic had to say about the album.
The Emperor of Wyoming
If I Could Have Her Tonight
I’ve Been Waiting for You
The Old Laughing Lady
String Quartet from Whiskey Boot Hill
Here We Are in the Years
What Did You Do to My Life?
I’ve Loved Her So Long
The Last Trip to Tulsa
Rolling Stone Rave Review!
By Gary Von Tersch / April 5, 1969
This album by Neil Young (formerly of the Buffalo Springfield) and various friends is a flowing tributary from the over-all Springfield river of twangs, breathless vocals and slim yet stout instrumentation. Especially vivid is Young’s sense of melancholy and the ingenious clusters of images he employs in his lyrics (printed in full). In particular, one could very easily view this disc as an extension of Young’s work on the Buffalo Springfield Again album, especially his compositions “Expecting to Fly” and the gaping “Broken Arrow.” which closes the album.
This solo disc opens with “The Emperor of Wyoming,” an instrumental which sets the tone musically for the side in a high-flying yet whining sort of way. It has that definite Springfieldian touch to it like wind between rocks or the people you see in dreams.
“The Loner” is a contemporary lament that features a nice blending of Neil’s guitar with strings in non-obtrusive fashion, allowing Young’s balanced ice-pick vocal to chip effectively at the listener. The stance and imagery are much the same as in the earlier “Expecting to Fly.”
The next two selections are pieces of the same puzzle. “If I Could Have Her Tonight” is a slow, crystal-like effort. It features a heavy drum line, Byrds-like guitar and mellow lyrics that all together add up to that unique sense of melancholy yet joy in melancholy which the Springfield captured so well and which Young just continues doing. Like standing in all four corners of the night. “I’ve Been Waiting for You” is an extension of the theme, with a tinkly piano and organ.
The side ends with a longish song entitled “The Old Laughing Lady” that is so close to, yet so far apart from, Young’s earlier song “Broken Arrow.” A quivering piano and a halting string section move around and around the melody line, here peeking between his words, there showing sky between his phrasings. The two pieces also have a series of mood/tone changes between verses — the strings, for instance, get increasingly lusher and fuller in “Laughing Lady.” The fade-out piano chord here is similar to the heartbeat fade-out on the earlier piece.
The main difference between the two can be tersely put: the latter piece is tighter, more mature and has more of the quiet explosion to it that Young obviously intends.
The second side opens with a diminutive Jack Nitzsche piece entitled “String Quarter From Whiskey Boot Hill.” It is a slow, deliberate ethereal introduction to Neil’s vocal on “Here We Are in the Years.” Musically the piece is string-dominated and very lush and full with Neil’s voice incising between — the scraping fade-out says it all.
“The Last Trip to Tulsa” closes the album. It is nine minutes long and is the most stylistic, anti-Springfield piece on the album. Here we have only Young’s chameleon voice and guitar — no strings, drums or piano. It proceeds to build from verse to verse — the vocal gets wider, the guitar more abandoned, more wanton. An innovative close to, in many ways, a delightful reprise of that Springfield sound done a new way.
The Story Behind the Mix
Neil Young is the self-titled debut studio album by Canadian musician Neil Young following his departure from Buffalo Springfield in 1968, issued on Reprise Records. Some sources place the album’s release date on January 22, 1969, while other sources have the release date as Young’s 23rd birthday, November 12, 1968. It was then partially remixed and re-released in November 1969, but at no time has the album ever charted on the Billboard 200.
The album was released on January 22, 1969. The first release used the Haeco-CSG encoding system. This technology was intended to make stereo records compatible with mono record players, but had the unfortunate side effect of degrading the sound. Young was unhappy with the first release. “The first mix was awful”, he was reported as saying in Cash Box of September 6, 1969. “I was trying to bury my voice, because I didn’t like the way it sounded.”
The album was therefore remixed (as announced in Rolling Stone issue 47, from December 13), and re-released without Haeco-CSG processing. The words “Neil Young” were added to the album cover after what was left of the original stock had been used up, so copies of both mixes exist in the original sleeve. Copies of the original mix are now rare and sought-after, because many Neil Young fans believe that the remix diminished the songs, especially “Here We Are in the Years”.