Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

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Highway 61 Revisited

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  • A superb 360 Stereo pressing of Dylan’s 1965 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Live-in-Your-Listening-Room sound throughout – guaranteed miles beyond any copy you’ve ever heard 
  • In the same way Sgt. Pepper changed music a mere two years later, Highway 61 Revisited left all of Dylan’s contemporaries behind, scrambling to keep up with the standard it set
  • 5 stars: “Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster … it proved that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

We had a big stack of 360s and Red Labels with good stampers to compare for this shootout. On the better copies, the bottom end was punchy with real weight and the soundfield was open, spacious and so transparent.

Of course, the music is GENIUS. What separates the best copies from the also-rans is more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Dylan’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery more clearly on a copy like this.

Now it should be noted that some songs here definitely sound better than others. Do not expect Tombstone Blues to become a favorite demo track. It’s upper midrangey here because that’s the way they wanted it. One must assume that the songs sound the way Dylan wanted them too, because every other track has a slightly different tonal balance, and that change in tonality seems to be a conscious choice designed to bring out the best in each song.

Or not. Who’s to say?

What the best sides of Highway 61 Revisited 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 1965
  • 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.

What to Listen For on Highway 61

Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in an Electric Folk Rock record from the sixties, even one as uniquely groundbreaking as Highway 61 Revisited.

Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout. The best copies have:

  • Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree);
  • Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
  • weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);
  • Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
  • Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD;
  • And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.

The 360 label pressings are a mixed bag, running from mediocre to mindblowing. Most of the time they are too trashed to even consider playing on an audiophile turntable. Many of the later pressings are sterile, congested, and lean.

On most pressings of this record, the harmonica sounds shrill and aggressive, but on the best copies, it will sound airy and full-bodied (for the most part). There are times on every copy we’ve ever played where the harmonica solos get to be just a bit much.

The best tracks have fat, meaty, oh-so-analog drums and bass. There’s a certain amount of opacity that modern mastering engineers would be tempted to fix by boosting the highs. This is a very bad idea. Brighter, in this case, is going to destroy what’s good about the sound of the album.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Like a Rolling Stone 
Tombstone Blues
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
From a Buick 6
Ballad of a Thin Man

Side Two

Queen Jane Approximately
Highway 61 Revisited
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Desolation Row

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Taking the first, electric side of Bringing It All Back Home to its logical conclusion, Bob Dylan hired a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield, for Highway 61 Revisited. Opening with the epic “Like a Rolling Stone,” Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock (“Desolation Row”) and blues (“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”) to flat-out garage rock (“Tombstone Blues,” “From a Buick 6,” “Highway 61 Revisited”).

Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited — it proved that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.

Mono Vs. Stereo

Stick with stereo on this album. The Mono pressings — at least the ones we’ve played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time).

Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.

Here are some we think can sound amazing in MONO.