This is a wonderful Weavers album, recorded in Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve, 1955 — when and if you can find one that’s properly mastered and not too scratched up. This is not easy, as most copies of the album — now fifty plus years old — have not survived in very good condition. This copy is the exception to that rule, with reasonably quiet surfaces (Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as they come) and EXCELLENT SOUND.
What do we listen for on this album? Pretty much the same things we listen for on most albums (with the exception of Whomp Factor I suppose; acoustic guitars, banjos and voices don’t produce much whomp in real life).
You clearly need transparency to make all the vocal and instrumental parts clear. There is not a trace of phony Hi-Fi sound anywhere to be found on the album, so bringing out as much information as possible from the record has to be an important goal. (On phony records a bit of smear or opacity can actually be a good thing.)
Those of you with very highly resolving speaker systems — electrostatics, screens and the like — will find this record much easier to reproduce than others. (Including us: Our big dynamic speakers do many things well but no speaker can do everything right. We have had to sacrifice some transparency for other qualities necessary to play the wide range of recordings we must evaluate.)
Many copies are dull and opaque; often the transient information is smeared, making the banjo and guitar lose their pluck and the voices their breathiness. This recording is all tube — a single microphone with tube pre, a tube tape recorder, an all-tube mastering chain; it’s tubes, more tubes and nothing but tubes, which means that there is plenty of tubey magic and warmth, sometimes at the expense of clarity and transparency.
The best copies, like this one, give you plenty of both. After a while we realized that rich, full, solid, tubey-magical sound is so important to the presentation of this primarily vocal music that we had to rate those qualities higher than most others we heard. The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to create solid, palpable, real people live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that.
Sides One and Two
Both sides here earned a grade of A++, with Super Hot Stamper sound rivalling the best copies we played. Both sides are rich and full, tubey-magical and tonally correct from top to bottom. A bit more transient information and texture would have earned either side that third plus. As it is, this is one awfully good copy.
It took us about five years to find enough clean copies to do this shootout, so Weavers fans and folk fans in general are here forewarned that we are not going to be in a position to do another shootout for this wonderul album for a long, long time.
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
Pay Me My Money Down
Rock Island Line
Around the World
Suliram (I’ll Be There)
I Know Where I’m Going
Woody’s Rag and 900 Miles
Follow the Drinking Gourd
When the Saints Go Marching In
I’ve Got a Home in That Rock
Hush Little Baby
Go Where I Send Thee
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
It’s easy to hear both the sources of the folk revival in the music of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, African-American spirituals, and international folk songs, and the future of folk-pop music as it would be enacted by the Weavers’ successors in this show, which is what makes The Weavers at Carnegie Hall a key recording in the history of American folk music, as well as a singularly enjoyable live performance by a remarkably talented quartet.