Holy mother of god, this is one KNOCKOUT copy of The Band’s self-titled masterpiece! Both sides earned our top grade of A+++ and beat the pants off every other copy — including quite a few RL-mastered originals — in the shootout. On top of that, both sides play between Mint Minus and Mint Minus Minus, which is pretty dan quiet for this album. We love this music, but most copies out there have flimsy sound, trashed vinyl, or both. Here’s the exceedingly rare copy that does just about everything right WITHOUT the typical crackly campfire surface noise!
This Capitol Green Label pressing mastered by Robert Ludwig has TWO KILLER SIDES. When you play either side of this copy, you are going to lose your mind. It’s got Master Tape clarity, You Are There presence, and unbelievable transparency. Drop the needle on Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or Up On Cripple Creek and get ready for some SERIOUS MAGIC!
There’s extended commentary below about RL pressings and non-RL pressings, referring of course to mastering engineer Robert Ludwig. I’ve come to realize that the average Robert Ludwig pressing of this album has two major shortcomings. One, they tend to be dull, with no real extension on the top end. Two, the bass is dry sounding. Until I found hot sounding reissues, I never noticed that dry quality on the originals. The best RL copies are out of this world, but copies as good as this one are the exception and certainly not the rule.
A Copy You’ll Freak Out Over
It’s been quite some since we last listed a Hot Stamper for this album. Despite what anyone might tell you, it’s no mean feat to find good sounding copies of this record. There are good originals and bad originals, as well as good reissues and bad reissues. Folks, we’ve said it many times — the label can’t tell you how a record sounds, but there’s a sure way to find that out. You’ve got to clean ’em and play ’em to find Hot Stampers, and we’re the only ones who seem to be doing just that and making unusually good pressings available to the audiophile public.
The sound on both sides is SUPERB. It’s lively and energetic with a wonderfully meaty bottom end. You aren’t going to believe how DEEP the bass goes on Up On Cripple Creek! The presence and clarity of the vocals will put these guys right there in your living room, belting out these heartfelt songs. The top end is sweet and extended — dramatically better than our other RL copies which erred on the dull side. The piano sounds Right On The Money with substantial weight, just like in real life. The overall sound is smooth, sweet, clean, clear, and musical.
And talk about transparency — you can easily pick out each vocalist when the boys are singing together. We held off on the full Three Plus grade because we heard a trashed copy that actually opened up just a bit more. Without that one around to compare I doubt you’ll find this one lacking in any area.
Dead Wax Tells No Tales
A while back in Stereophile, Michael Fremer remarked that the best sounding pressings of The Band’s second album are the green label Capitol LPs with RL in the deadwax. If you have been collecting records for any time at all, you should know that good sounding pressings of this record are almost impossible to find. Yes, there are good sounding Robert Ludwig mastered pressings. I happen to know what the Hot Stampers are. They are so rare and pressed on such consistently bad vinyl, and normally found in such thrashed condition, that we hardly ever get any up on the site.
But Michael Fremer thinks they grow on trees. After you’ve bought five or ten of them on the green label with RL in the deadwax and they all sound like mud, maybe you might want to drop him an email and help him to get a clue.
Of course, he will blame you for not having the ears or the stereo to appreciate his “wisdom”. When your audio philosophy is based on faulty premises (records with the right stampers must sound good), you will make mistakes like this left and right. If you don’t let the data (in this case, bad sounding records with supposedly good stampers) drive your understanding and overturn your bad thinking, all that’s left to you is to make ad hominem attacks. (Richard Foster take note.)
There are PLENTY of Green Label copies with RL in the dead wax that are mediocre. We played quite a few of them this time around!
Quiet Vinyl? A Tough Ticket
One of the main reasons copies of this album rarely hit the site is how thrashed they tend to be. This is one of the quietest Hot Stamper copies we’ve ever found — mostly Mint Minus on side one and Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on side two.
The Band, the group’s second album, was a more deliberate and even more accomplished effort, partially because the players had become a more cohesive unit and partially because guitarist Robbie Robertson had taken over the songwriting, writing or co-writing of all 12 songs… The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal, while the lyrics continued to paint portraits of 19th century rural life (especially Southern life, as references to Tennessee and Virginia made clear), its sometimes less savory aspects treated with warmth and humor.