Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Willie is front and center – this copy is guaranteed to fill your listening room with The Red Headed Stranger’s uniquely gifted voice and guitar
  • Big time kudos upon the album’s release: #183 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Number One on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music. In 2010, it was inducted to the National Recording Registry
  • 5 stars: “… a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover, told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing… a phenomenal blockbuster…”

If you made the mistake of buying the awful Impex Heavy Vinyl pressing that came out in 2011 — the CD has better sound, if that tells you anything — all is not lost. Here’s your chance to hear how good the album can sound!

It took us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble. The presence and immediacy here are outstanding. Turn it up and Willie is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. He’s clearly one of our favorite male vocalists, and this superb copy will show you why.

This vintage 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 Willie and band, 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 Red Headed Stranger 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 1975
  • 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.

Fresh Tapes – You Just Can’t Beat ‘Em

When this record was made the tapes were fresh. Now they’re 45 years old. On audiophile equipment, you will have no trouble appreciating the difference.

On this pressing Willie is no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Willie Nelson singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

What We’re Listening For on Red Headed Stranger

  • 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 for the guitars, keyboards and drums, 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 vocals 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

Time Of The Preacher
I Couldn’t Believe It Was True
Time Of The Preacher Theme
Medley: Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Red Headed Stranger
Time Of The Preacher Theme
Just As I Am

Side Two

Denver
O’er The Waves
Down Yonder
Can I Sleep In Your Arms
Remember Me
Hands On The Wheel
Bandera

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger perhaps is the strangest blockbuster country produced, a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover, told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing.

It’s defiantly anticommercial and it demands intense concentration — all reasons why nobody thought it would be a hit, a story related in Chet Flippo’s liner notes to the 2000 reissue. It was a phenomenal blockbuster, though, selling millions of copies, establishing Nelson as a superstar recording artist in its own right.

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