A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
Side one of this Columbia pressing is RIGHT ON THE MONEY! That’s where the great song If Not For You is found, and on this copy it is SMOKIN’. There’s tons of energy, real texture to the vocals, and more presence than we heard elsewhere. Check out that BIG bottom end! This side earned our top A+++ grade.
Side two is strong as well, earning a plus and a half — A+ to A++, as we say. The sound is clean, clear and transparent, but not quite as lively or present. It’s still better than many of the copies we played against it.
By the way, this happens to be a very enjoyable album. It fits in nicely between Dylan’s country era and his ’70s works such as Blood On The Tracks. Big Lebowski fans will be happy to hear “The Man In Me” on side two, one of Dylan’s under-appreciated gems.
The average copy of this album tends to be veiled and murky with bloated bass. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how mediocre the average ’70s Columbia Red Label pressings of Dylan’s albums tend to be.
What the best sides of this Dylan album 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 pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
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 qualities we listed 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.
What We’re Listening For on Dylan’s Albums from the ’70s
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
If Not for You
Day of the Locusts
Time Passes Slowly
Went to See the Gypsy
If Dogs Run Free
Sign on the Window
One More Weekend
The Man in Me
Father of Night
New Morning expands on the laid-back country-rock of John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline by adding a more pronounced rock & roll edge. While there are only a couple of genuine classics on the record (“If Not for You,” “One More Weekend”), the overall quality is quite high, and many of the songs explore idiosyncratic routes Dylan had previously left untouched, whether it’s the jazzy experiments of “Sign on the Window” and “Winterlude,” the rambling spoken word piece “If Dogs Run Free” or the Elvis parable “Went to See the Gypsy.” Such offbeat songs make New Morning a charming, endearing record.