- SUPERB sound throughout for this original Reprise pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, intimacy, and freedom from audio coloration of this wonderful album from 1970, these early pressings are the only way to do it
- An outstanding recording – Lightfoot’s best in our experience – on this killer side one ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ sounds as good as we have ever heard it
- 4 1/2 stars: “The entire album is rich in the simple beauty of its folky melodies and personal lyrics… the music here is timeless, still feeling and sounding great many years after its release.”
This vintage Reprise 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 any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
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 Gordon Lightfoot singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
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 at most one out of a hundred new records do, if our experience with the many hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.
What amazing 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 1970
•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.
One of the top guys at Warners, Lee recorded (with Gary Brandt) and mixed this album along with a number of others by Gordon Lightfoot. You’ll also find his name on many of the best Ry Cooder, Doobie Brothers and Frank Sinatra album credits, albums we know to have potentially excellent sound — not to mention an album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. His pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night too.
The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is on the list as well: The Three (Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Joe Sample), along with most of the other Direct to Disc recordings released on Eastwind.
What We’re Listening For on Sit Down Young Stranger (aka If You Could Read My Mind)
•Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
•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 — Lee Herschberg in this case — would have 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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Minstrel of the Dawn
Me and Bobby McGee
Cobwebs & Dust
Poor Little Allison
Sit Down Young Stranger
If You Could Read My Mind
Baby It’s Alright
Your Love’s Return (Song for Stephen Foster)
The Pony Man
Originally released as Sit Down Young Stranger in the summer of 1970, this album was reissued under this name a few months later, as the song “If You Could Read My Mind” began its climb up the pop chart. The single peaked at number five, while the album reached number 12. It seemed as though “If You Could Read My Mind” was everywhere in the early months of 1971. Its appeal crossed genres and age groups, and its simplicity and acoustic arrangement fit in nicely with the burgeoning singer/songwriter scene then storming the airwaves and record stores. “If You Could Read My Mind” was not the first track released as a single from this album; Lightfoot’s recording of Kris Kristofferson’s soon-to-be-classic “Me and Bobby McGee,” the only non-original in this collection, preceded it but barely dented the charts.
The entire album is rich in the simple beauty of its folky melodies and personal lyrics. Lightfoot is accompanied here by his regular band of the time, Red Shea on guitar and Rick Haynes on bass. This trio is expanded on several cuts with Warner/Reprise labelmates Ry Cooder on bottleneck guitar and mandolin, John Sebastian on autoharp, harmonica, and electric guitar, and Van Dyke Parks on harmonium. In addition, there are subtle string arrangements by Randy Newman on two tracks, Nick DeCaro on three. This album fits in very well with the acoustic-based music being made at the turn of the ’70s. Even so, the music here is timeless, still feeling and sounding great many years after its release.