- KILLER sound on ALL FOUR SIDES with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
- The superb presence and energy here have the power to bring the definitive Neil Diamond concert performance right into your very own listening room
- If you own the MoFi, this copy will show you how they screwed up the sound of Neil’s voice – nothing new there, right?
- 4 1/2 stars: “This is the ultimate Neil Diamond record. Not necessarily the best – he’s at his most appealing crafting in the studio – but certainly the ultimate, capturing all the kitsch and glitz of Neil Diamond, the showman.”
The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less.
This original MCA pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 audience right in front of the 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 superb Hot August Night sides such as these 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 1972
- 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 studio space
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 We Listen For on Hot August Night
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — see Armin Steiner, below — would put them.
- 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 so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Credit for the superb live sound naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, Armin Steiner. He’s the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.
He was also one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early ’70s, and, if that’s not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits.
When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a good chance that the sound will be excelletn. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis at that point. Now, all it takes is some serious digging in the record bins, tedious cleaning, and critical listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough” (no pun intended).
Crunchy Granola Suite
Done Too Soon
You’re So Sweet
Red, Red Wine
And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind
Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon
Song Sung Blue
I Am…I Said
Soolaimon/Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show
This is the ultimate Neil Diamond record. Not necessarily the best — he’s at his most appealing crafting in the studio — but certainly the ultimate, capturing all the kitsch and glitz of Neil Diamond, the showman. And that also means that it’s not just loaded with flair, but with filler, songs like “Porcupine Pie,” “Soggy Pretzels,” and “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” — attempts to write grand, sweeping epics that collapse under their own weight.
Still, that’s part of the charm of Diamond and while it can sound unbearable on studio albums, it makes some sense here, surrounded by his pomp and circumstance. That spectacle is the great thing about the record, since it inflates not just his great songs, it gives the weaker moments character. And while this does wind up being a little much — 21 songs, it nevertheless is the one record for casual Neil fans, after the hits collections, since this shows Diamond the icon in full glory.