We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.
This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.
The problem here is the sound. It’s got a bit of that tinny ’60s pop production sound — too much upper midrange, not enough lower midrange and a slightly aggressive quality when things get loud. Still, it’s quite a bit better than recordings by, say, The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane from the era, and I have no trouble playing and enjoying those records, so…
I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass.
On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you.
We discussed these very same issues when we did the shootout for Blind Faith, another problematical recording from the ’60s.
The Playback Technology Umbrella
What exactly are we referring to? Why, all the stuff we talk about ad nauseum around here. These are the things that really do make a difference. They change the fundamentals. They break down the barriers.
You know the drill. Things like better cleaning techniques, top quality front end equipment, Aurios, better electricity, Hallographs and other room treatments, amazing phono stages like the EAR 324p, power cables; the list goes on and on. If you want records like Blind Faith to sound good, we don’t think it can be done without bringing to bear all of these advanced technologies to the problem at hand, the problem at hand being a recording with its full share of problems and then some.
Without these improvements, why wouldn’t Blind Faith sound as dull and distorted as it always has? The best pressings were made more than thirty years ago; they’re no different. What has to change is how you clean and play those pressings.
The Good News
The good news is that the technologies we recommend really do work. Now the record can do what it never did before: sound so good you can find yourself totally lost in the music. The best copies, played back properly, make you oblivious to the album’s sonic problems because, for the most part, they really weren’t the album’s problems, they were your problems. They were mostly post-groove; you just didn’t know it. This is how audio works. The site is full of commentary discussing these issues. Rest assured that no matter how good you think your stereo sounds now, it can get better if you want it to, and that’s good news if you’re a fan of Blind Faith.
Down in L.A. — Folk Rock at its Best
A Desert Island disc for me, and one of the top debuts of all time, although not many will agree with me about that, since I have never met anyone who has ever even heard of this album, let alone felt as passionate as I do about it. But that’s okay, I love it just the same.
To me this is what folk rock music is all about: inspired material and beautifully harmonized voices backed by acoustic guitars. Tarkio is their masterpiece, but this record comes next in my book, and after that it’s all downhill. Their other albums have one or two good songs surrounded by lots of half-baked, uninspired tracks. I should know — I own them all and have played them all. Just save your money unless you are a big fan.
The session musicians who play on this record display a level of musicianship which is sorely lacking from many recordings of the era. Jim Gordon or Hal Blaine on drums play so well you can listen to this album all the way through just to hear how the drumming contributes to the feel and energy of each track.
…along these lines can be found below.
This listing will show you How to Get the Most Out Of Your Records .
You may find our recommendations for Record Cleaning helpful as well.
You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.
Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.