Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This is a Warner Brothers Palm Tree Label LP with SUPERB SOUND, dramatically better than that of the typical copy. We recently undertook a huge shootout for this album and this pressing finished way up top with an A+++ grade on side one and an A++ for the second side. The grit and edge that mess up most copies out there are kept in check here, allowing the music to sound smooth and sweet.  

Emmylou’s vocals sound JUST RIGHT here with lots of breath and texture. The immediacy is OFF THE CHARTS.

Side One

A++ to A+++. Super open and spacious with the kind of wide, deep soundfield the typical copy just can’t compete with! The bottom end is strong and solid, and the top is clear and detailed. The presence here is off the charts!

Side Two

A+ to A++. Big, rich and open with tons of presence, if this side had just a bit more clarity it would have easily earned its second plus.

The Sound You Want

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings, the “hottest stampers”, deliver.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that’s exactly the approach they ended up taking.

Those of you who have had the opportunity to play the Mobile Fidelity pressing of this record should know what a disaster it is.

Is brighter better? Apparently Mobile Fidelity thinks so. And they did the same thing to Gordon Lightfoot’s album. His voice sounds so phony on the MoFi that you’d swear it’s a bad CD. But it’s not a bad CD. It’s an expensive audiophile record!

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you should know by now that many audiophile records sound WORSE than the typical CD. The typical CD does not have an equalization curve resembling a smile. The classic smile curve starts up high on the left, gets low in the middle, and rises again at the end, resulting in boosted bass, boosted top end, and a sucked out midrange — the Mobile Fidelity formula in a nutshell.

A Key Test — Harmonically Correct Guitars

In the commentary for America’s first album we noted that:

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. … most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. … on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle.

This kind of sparkle can be heard on practically every record Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of sparkling MoFis would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!

Next time you drop the needle on a Mobile Fidelity record — one of the ones pressed in Japan; the Anadisq series tends to have the opposite problem, no top end at all — listen carefully to the acoustic guitars and tell me if you don’t think they sound a tad sparkly.

We’ve all heard acoustic guitars up close, at parties and coffee shops and what-have-you. Do they really sound like that?

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Easy From Now On 
Two More Bottles of Wine
To Daddy 
My Songbird 
Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

Side Two

Defying Gravity 
I Ain’t Living Long Like This
One Paper Kid 
Green Rolling Hills 
Burn That Candle

AMG  Review

Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town is a transitional effort that bridges the curveballs of Emmylou Harris’ earliest solo work with the more traditional country albums that comprise the bulk of the second phase of her career. For the first time, she covers no Gram Parsons tunes or pop music chestnuts, relying instead on newly exited Hot Band member Rodney Crowell for two songs (“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”) and Dolly Parton for another (the devastating “To Daddy”); the highlight is a gorgeous cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Defying Gravity.”