- An outstanding copy of this compilation album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – mostly quiet vinyl too
- Like its Audiophile Favorite brother, Folk Singer, also on Chess, The Real Folk Blues is another exceptional live-in-the-studio recording, with some of the best sound Chess ever managed
- 4 1/2 stars: “Once Chess discovered a white folk-blues audience ripe and ready to hear the real thing, they released a series of albums under the Real Folk Blues banner. This is one of the best entries in the series…”
*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 very light ticks at the end of track 2, Screaming And Crying.
This 1965 recording pressed on ’80s vinyl has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely 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.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older 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 one fifty new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of this Folky Blues Album 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 1966
- 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 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 ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to pressings from every era 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 The Real Folk Blues
- 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.
Screaming And Crying
Just To Be With You
Walking In The Park
Rollin’ & Tumblin’
40 Days & 40 Nights
You Can’t Lose What You Never Had
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Once Chess discovered a white folk-blues audience ripe and ready to hear the real thing, they released a series of albums under the Real Folk Blues banner. This is one of the best entries in the series, a mixed bag of early Chess sides from 1949-1954, some of it hearkening back to Muddy’s first recordings for Aristocrat with only Big Crawford on strings in support, with some wonderful full band sides rounding out the package to give everyone the big picture.
A couple of highlights to pay special attention to are the cha cha/shuffle strut of the band charging through “Walkin’ Through the Park” and the “I’m a Man”-derived nastiness of “Mannish Boy.”