- Jimmy Reed makes his debut on this site with this stunning copy of Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall
- You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR sides of this killer album
- A surprisingly good recording – this early stereo pressing is wonderfully big and rich, with natural tonality and more three-dimensional space than any other copy we played
- It took us years to find enough early Vee-Jay stereo (and mono) pressings that played quietly in order to do this shootout, and here is the winner in all its glory!
- 5 stars: “… In some ways, it almost does make for a greatest-hits compilation, as it contains most of Reed’s most popular tunes… it was highly popular and influential, making the Top 50 at a time when few blues LPs charted.”
This vintage Vee-Jay pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 sitting in the studio with Jimmy, this is the record for you. (While the title implies this is a live album, the tracks were all recorded in the studio.) 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 Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall 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 1961
- 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.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.
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 their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
What We’re Listening For on Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall
- 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.
Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica – Jimmy Reed
Backing Vocals – Mary Reed
Bass – Willie Dixon
Drums – Earl Phillips
Guitar – Eddy Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Phil Upchurch
Guitar [Second] – Lefty Bates
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
First, despite what the title might lead you to believe, this is not a live recording; all 23 of the tracks were done in the studio. Not only that, they weren’t even performed at New York’s famed venue Carnegie Hall, although producer Calvin Carter would later claim they were; instead, everything was cut elsewhere.
According to Pete Welding’s notes to the record in the year (1961) the double LP was first issued, one-half is devoted to “recreations of some of Jimmy’s most celebrated and biggest-selling recordings,” while “the second LP here is Jimmy’s celebratory recreation of his highly successful appearance at august Carnegie Hall this past May.”
Even that doesn’t really clear up things, however, as it certainly seems as if in many if not all cases where songs were previously issued by Vee Jay on other Reed releases, the versions used here are identical. It seems like a lot of trouble to go to for creating an album that, to be blunt, is pretty deceptively titled and packaged.
… In some ways, it almost does make for a greatest-hits compilation, as it contains most of Reed’s most popular tunes — “Bright Lights, Big City,” “Big Boss Man,” “Honest I Do,” “Hush Hush,” “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” “Going to New York,” “Take Out Some Insurance,” “You Don’t Have to Go,” “Baby, Want You Want Me to Do” — though his one big post-1961 hit, “Shame Shame Shame,” isn’t here.
… it was highly popular and influential, making the Top 50 at a time when few blues LPs charted.