B.B. King – Friends

More B.B. King

Friends

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  • A superb sounding copy of Friends with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • One of the better sounding B.B. King records we’ve heard – it’s a treat to hear B.B. singing, playing guitar and backed by a horn section without the mediocre sonics that take all the fun out of listening to most copies
  • “… a gritty, soulful real stage performance where BB earns his living and forged his unique style… His voice was at its peak and this [recording] has captured his essence. It’s that good.”

This vintage ABC pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are listening to the band live, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Friends 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 in1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the recording 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 discuss 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

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack the full complement of harmonic information.

In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids. This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk. (Painstaking VTA adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.)

Tube smear is common to most pressings from the ’50s and ’60s. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have little or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns; any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Friends 
I Got Them Blues 
Baby I’m Yours 
Up at 5am

Side Two

Philadelphia 
When Everything Else Is Gone 
My Song

Amazon Review

This [album] is a composite of three talents. I am only addressing the BB King selections.

His portion is what I always was looking for. Essentially a recording of a live performance. Not a polished dressed up studio job but a gritty, soulful real stage performance where BB earns his living and forged his unique style. I see BB every time he comes by. His live performances with his high mileage tried and true entourage of accompanying musicians outshine his recordings. This album has full length versions “The Thrill is Gone” and the best version of “Guess Who” you will ever hear in your entire life. His voice and health was at its peak and this [recording] has captured his essence. It’s that good.

-Lawrence A Team, 5 Star Amazon Review