Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

More Bob Dylan

Blonde On Blonde

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  • With 10.5 pluses out of a possible 12, this copy was one of the best we heard in our recent shootout — exceptionally quiet vinyl too  
  • You won’t believe how big, rich and full this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: Rainy Day Women, I Want You, Just Like A Woman, and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play… It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.”

It takes a properly mastered, properly pressed copy like this one to get both Dylan’s voice and harmonica — two of the most critically important elements on any of his recordings — to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be painfully obvious to the listener, and for that shortcoming you lose a lot of points here at Better Records. That said, upper-midrangy sound on any vintage Dylan record to one degree or another is almost always audible. The less the better, but none is really not an option.

This landmark release from 1966 has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Bob Dylan singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 53+ years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of Blonde on Blonde 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 1966
  • 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 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 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.

We Noticed, But Has Anyone Else?

Here’s a little something that you may have come across on your own, but we’ve never seen mentioned anywhere else.

There is a stamper used on some Blonde on Blonde side fours that is so ridiculously bad, you might as well be listening to a warped cassette underwater. I mean, we pick on mediocre copies all the time here, but these side fours are so beyond terrible it’s clear someone was asleep at the wheel. They’re almost fascinating to hear in a way, because it’s simply shocking that a good recording could sound THAT bad. Like the best pressings of our favorites (but in a VERY different way), words don’t do it justice. Its awfulness has to be heard to be believed.

What We’re Listening For on Blonde on Blonde

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • 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 common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 
Pledging My Time 
Visions of Johanna 
One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)

Side Two

I Want You 
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again 
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 
Just Like a Woman

Side Three

Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
Temporary Like Achilles
Absolutely Sweet Marie
4th Time Around
Obviously 5 Believers

Side Four

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

AMG 5 Star Rave Review!

Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like “Visions of Johanna,” “Just Like a Woman,” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands (“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”). It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.