- Absolutely amazing sound throughout, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
- This copy will show you just how big, full-bodied, lively and POWERFUL this music can be on the right pressing
- Not many records on this site are harder to find with top quality sound and reasonably quiet surfaces
- 5 stars: “Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures… One of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s.”
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. Some will have cut corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice enough cover for you.
Every once in a while you hear a pressing in which the right balance has been struck, and this one clearly belongs to that group. It’s not perfect; you have to put up with a few rough patches to get the sound that reproduces the bulk of the album’s groundbreaking music to best effect.
When it’s working, as it is here, it’s truly an experience. The big Al Kooper productions (I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, My Days are Numbered, I Can’t Quit Her, Somethin’ Goin’ On) really work when they have the energy and dynamic drive to support the powerful emotions in the lyrics.
This vintage Columbia 360 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 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 studio with 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 the best sides of Child Is Father To The Man 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 1968
- 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.
The Top Is Key
The top of the vocal is much more under control on this pressing. The midrange is solid, which means the piano is full-bodied and powerful; the brass are meaty, not screechy; and the vocals are more present and rich than practically any other copy we played.
Note that the vocal for the first track on side two (I Can’t Quit Her) tends to be brighter than the vocal for the third (Somethin’ Goin’ On). These are the two tracks we test with on side two. On the first track the best you can expect for Al’s vocal is “acceptable.” On the third track his vocal can actually be quite nice.
What to Listen For on Child Is Father To The Man
This record needs fullness; the copies that were thin, like many of the reissues, were unlistenable, way too shrill and spitty.
Next you want the life of the music to come through, which means presence and dynamics.
Third, you want some Tubey Magic, but not so much that the sound becomes smeary and veiled. The brass should have some bite. What good is a Blood Sweat and Tears album with smeary, blurry brass?
Last but not least, the best copies most of the time will have all the qualities above, and one more: they won’t hurt your ears too often. Every once in a while, maybe. But if you turn up your copy and it’s just a mess for song after song, you have a copy not unlike most of what’s out there, because most of what’s out there is crap.
At the end of a long day of listening at loud levels to multiple copies of this album you may want to run yourself a nice hot bath and light some candles. If you have an isolation tank so much the better. You could of course turn down the volume, but what fun is that? This music wasn’t meant to be heard at moderate levels. Playing it that way is an insult to the musicians who worked so hard to create it.
I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
My Days are Numbered
Just One Smile
I Can’t Quit Her
Meagan’s Gypsy Eyes
Somethin’ Goin’ On
House in the Country
The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes and Freud
So Much Love/Underture
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
“Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures, taking in classical and jazz elements (including strings and horns), all without losing the pop essence that makes the hybrid work. This is one of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s, a time when you could borrow styles from Greenwich Village contemporary folk to San Francisco acid rock and mix them into what seemed to have the potential to become a new American musical form. It’s Kooper’s bluesy songs, such as “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and “I Can’t Quit Her,” and his singing that are the primary focus, but the album is an aural delight; listen to the way the bass guitar interacts with the horns on “My Days Are Numbered” or the charming arrangement and Steve Katz’s vocal on Tim Buckley’s “Morning Glory.” Then Kooper sings Harry Nilsson’s “Without Her” over a delicate, jazzy backing with flügelhorn/alto saxophone interplay by Randy Brecker and Fred Lipsius. This is the sound of a group of virtuosos enjoying itself in the newly open possibilities of pop music. Maybe it couldn’t have lasted; anyway, it didn’t.”
Since its beginnings in 1967, the band has gone through numerous iterations with varying personnel and has encompassed a multitude of musical styles. What the band is most known for, from its start, is the fusing of rock, blues, pop music, horn arrangements and jazz improvisation into a hybrid that came to be known as “jazz-rock”.
Unlike “jazz fusion” bands, which tend toward virtuostic displays of instrumental facility and some experimentation with electric instruments, the songs of Blood, Sweat & Tears merged the stylings of rock, pop and R&B/soul music with big band, while also adding elements of 20th Century Classical and small combo jazz traditions.
The creation of the group was inspired by the “brass-rock” ideas of The Buckinghams and its producer, James William Guercio, as well as the early 1960s Roulette-era Maynard Ferguson Orchestra (according to Kooper’s autobiography).
“Blood, Sweat & Tears” was the name chosen by Al Kooper, inspired after a late-night gig in which Kooper played with a bloody hand. Kooper was the group’s initial bandleader, having insisted on that position based on his experiences with The Blues Project, his previous band with Steve Katz, which had been organized as an egalitarian collective. But undoubtedly, Kooper’s fame as a high-profile contributor to various historic sessions of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and others was the catalyst for the prominent debut of Blood, Sweat & Tears in the musical counterculture of the mid-sixties.
The final lineup debuted late November ’67 at The Scene in NYC. The band was a hit with the audience, who liked the innovative fusion of jazz with acid rock and psychedelia. After signing to Columbia Records, the group released perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the late 1960s, Child Is Father to the Man, featuring the Harry Nilsson song, “Without Her”, and perhaps Kooper’s most memorable blues number, “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”.
Characterized by Kooper’s penchant for studio gimmickry, the album slowly picked up in sales amidst growing artistic differences between the founding members. Colomby and Katz wanted to move Kooper exclusively to keyboard and composing duties, while hiring a stronger vocalist for the group.
The music of Blood, Sweat & Tears slowly achieved commercial success alongside similarly configured ensembles such as Chicago and the Electric Flag. Kooper was forced out of the group and became a record producer for the Columbia label, but not before arranging some songs that would be on the next BS&T album.
Heavy Vinyl & Hot Stampers
In 2010 Michael Fremer reviewed both the Sundazed and Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl pressings of the album. I think his review is mistaken on a number of counts, and mostly unhelpful. The commentary below will discuss his errors in detail, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will not make the same mistakes yourself. He talks about his history with the album for a while, and then notes:
Anyway, the original “360 Sound” edition of this record sounds fantastic. It’s a high quality Columbia studio recording, with vivid harmonics, impressive transparency and dynamics, shimmering highs and tight extended bass. The soundstage is expansive and the images tightly presented. I’m not sure it can get much better than the original given how well-pressed Columbia records were in those days, especially if you have a clean original.
We, however, seem to hold precisely the opposite view. I quote from our review:
“Why did it take us so long [to do a Hot Stamper shootout]? Let me ask you this: have you ever played this album? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.”
We then go on to discuss in detail what most copies do wrong and what to listen for in order to find a copy that gets it right. (More on that later.)
Shortcomings? What Shortcomings?
Apparently Fremer sees no need to discuss the shortcomings of the recording and gets right to recommending — for those who do not have a “clean original” — one of the new reissues.
There are two reissues of this. One is from Sundazed and there’s a far more expensive one from Speakers Corner…
The Speakers Corner reissue, which uses the wrong label art is pressed at Pallas and consequently it’s quieter and better finished overall. However, the Sundazed copy I got was very well finished and reasonably quiet, but not as quiet.
On the other hand the Speakers Corner version was somewhat more hyped up at the frequency extremes and cut somewhat hotter, but not objectionably so. The Sundazed sounds somewhat closer to the original overall, so for half the price, you do the math!
“Somewhat hyped up”? We liked it a whole lot less than Mr. Fremer apparently did. Early last year I gave it a big fat F for FAILURE, writing at the time:
This is the worst sounding Heavy Vinyl Reissue LP I have heard in longer than I can remember. To make a record sound this bad you have to work at it.
What the hell were they thinking? Any audiophile record dealer that would sell you this record should be run out of town on a rail. Of course that won’t happen, because every last one of them (present company excluded) will be carrying it, of that you can be sure.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, out comes a record like this to prove that it can. I look forward to Fremer’s rave review.
I’m sorry to say Mr. Fremer actually prefers the Sundazed (a record I have never played and have no intention of ever playing). He’s so helpful. He lets us know that it is “…somewhat closer to the original overall…”
What gets me is that he spends as much time talking about the surfaces of the two pressings as he does the sound, which is hardly any time at all!
Compare and Contrast
Contrast that with our Hot Stamper listing from 2009.
This copy blew the doors off the competition, earning our highest grade of A Triple Plus and giving us a whole new appreciation for what this record can really sound like! Who knew? The brass has power on this copy like we’ve never heard before. The bass was bigger and bolder than any other; finally, here is the kind of rock sound we were always looking for on the album but could never find, until now.
We discuss some of those pesky “shortcomings” that Mr. Fremer didn’t seem to notice:
Keep in mind this is no demo disc and never will be. Kooper’s voice tends to be recorded in a dry acoustic and it seems like they let his voice run unlimited in places — he can really screech in spots. The problem is in the mix. The solution some mastering engineers chose is to compress the hell out of everything — not good — or take too big of a chunk out of the presence region, smearing the brass in the process.
How About the Red Label Pressings
Fremer doesn’t bother to mention them, but we do. We take our job — finding you better records — seriously. We’ve played plenty of Red Label pressings over the years and at this point we probably won’t be bothering to play them anymore. (This should not reflect badly on the Red Label Columbia pressings of other albums, many of which are superb and some of which are the best sounding pressings we have ever played. Those of you who have been reading our Hot Stamper commentaries should be able to think of at least a few.)
The audio world is crying out for good sounding pressings of these Classic Albums (isn’t it?) but the labels that have so far seen fit to reissue them have done a passable-at-best to downright-awful job of it. Early on Columbia reissued them as well, on the plain Red Label, and the sound is pretty plain on that label all right. We couldn’t find any magic in the grooves of those pressings and gave up after hearing four or five. Feh.
Then we explain in some detail what the best copies have to offer you, the intelligent, interested audiophile, the person who doesn’t want to settle for a twenty dollar reissue that’s “somewhat closer” to the original.
Every once in a while you hear a pressing in which the right balance is struck, and this is one of those. You have to put up with a few rough patches to get the overall sound that serves most of the music properly. No copy will do it all; with this album the goal is to do the best you can. When it’s working it’s fantastic; the big Al Kooper songs are so good when they have the energy and dynamic drive that brings out the power of the emotion in the lyrics.
Then we get right down to brass tacks with advice concerning specific aspects of the sound that you should be evaluating in your own copies — notice I said copies plural, not copy singular as in the case of Mr. Fremer. You can’t really do this High Quality Record Collecting Thing with one copy of the album to judge. That data set is woefully inadequate on every level. Five would be the minimum number of copies you would need, and ten would be far, far better. In fact ten would make a great shootout. (I doubt that even we had ten clean copies.)
What to Listen For
This record needs fullness; the copies that were thin, like most of the reissues, were unlistenable, way too shrill and spitty. Next you want the life of the music to come through, which means presence and dynamics. Third, you want some tubey magic, but not so much tubey magic that the sound turns smeary and veiled. The brass should have some bite. What good is a Blood Sweat and Tears album with smeary veiled brass? Last but not least, the best copies most of the time will have all the qualities above, and one more: they won’t hurt your ears too often. Every once in a while, maybe. But if you turn up your copy and it is just a mess for song after song, you have a copy not unlike most of what is out there, because most of what is out there is JUNK.