Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning copy that is guaranteed to blow your mind – Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is HUGE — lively, present and rich in a way that nothing you’ve heard can compete with
  • One of our all time favorite albums at Better Records and one that almost never sounds THIS good
  • 5 stars: “…this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars…”

If you play this copy at serious levels and have the kind of full range system that’s both loud and clean like live music, we guarantee you will be nothing less than gobsmacked at the size and power of the music on this album, the band’s inarguable masterpiece.

Both sides here are super high-resolution, tonally perfect, Tubey Magical and ALIVE. The vocals are silky and sweet with very little strain or grain (a very common problem in the loudest choruses). The highs are extended, the bass is deep and punchy, and the overall clarity is breathtaking.

Just listen to the guitars during the solos — you can really hear the sound of the pick hitting the strings. The rhythm guitars sound meaty and chunky like the best sounding copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush.

What the best sides of this Game-changing Number One Album from 1970 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 domestic pressings like this one 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 the multi-tracked vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, organ, bass and percussion having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • 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 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.

Tough Sledding

Folks, I have to tell you, the first two Crosby Stills and Nash (and in this case Young) get my vote as the two best records — musically and sonically — with the consistently worst mastering in the history of the world! It’s astonishing that so many copies can actually sound so bad; it makes no sense that the average copy of either of these two records sounds the way it does.

It’s very difficult to find a copy that sounds anything like this — the voices are actually smooth, breathy and sweet, not shrill, harsh and sour the way they are on most pressings. What audiophile in his right mind wants a CSNY record where the voices don’t sound right? It’s a positive dealbreaker here at Better Records, the number one reason most copies end up in the trade-in pile.

What We’re Listening For on Deja Vu

  • 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 for the guitars and drums, 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 vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Bill Halverson in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above will take you to an extensive song by song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Carry On

This song is a great test for the quality of the vocals. If you can get through the first part of the song with little to no strain in the voices, you’re on the right track.

The bass on this track always lacks a measure of definition, but you’ll know by track three if your bass is solid enough to set the foundation this music requires to really get going. Carry On has a huge number of overdubs, so it will never have very high-resolution, but on a Hot Stamper copy like this one it can sound wonderful.

Teach Your Children
Almost Cut My Hair

One of the key test tracks we use for side one, this is the only time Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young actually sounds like a rock and roll band. According to Stephen Barncard this was recorded live in the studio. It sure sounds like it. The amount of energy the band generates on this track exceeds all the energy of the first album put together.

The reason this track presents such a tough test is that it has to be mastered perfectly in order to make you want to turn it up as loud as your stereo will play. This song is not for sipping wine and smoking cigars. It positively cries out to be played at serious volume levels on monstrously large speakers. Nothing else will do justice to the power of the band’s one and only live performance.

Listen to Neil in the left channel wailing away like a man possessed. Imagine what his grunged out guitar would sound like coming out of a stack of Marshall amps the size of Chicago. Now hold that sound in your head as you turn up the volume on your preamp. When your system starts to distort like crazy, back it off a notch and have a seat.

Helpless
Woodstock

Side Two

Déjà Vu

When you get a good copy of this album, this song sounds so rich and tubey magical you’d swear it couldn’t get any better. Huge amounts of deep bass. Acoustic guitars that ring for days. Midrange magic to die for. Unfortunately so few copies sound this way that most audiophiles have no concept of what this track really can do.

If I could indulge in some more MoFi and Half-Speed bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MoFi, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MoFi, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either of So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MoFi is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

Our House
4 + 20
Country Girl: Whiskey Boot Hill/Down, Down, Down

Neil’s big rocker. On a Hot Stamper copy it’s out of this world. Listen to how HUGE that organ sounds — so much harmonic texture, too!

Everybody I Love You

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

One of the most hotly awaited second albums in history — right up there with those by the Beatles and the Band — Déjà Vu lived up to its expectations and rose to number one on the charts…

Déjà Vu worked as an album, a product of four potent musical talents who were all ascending to the top of their game coupled with some very skilled production, engineering, and editing. There were also some obvious virtues in evidence — the addition of Neil Young to the Crosby, Stills & Nash lineup added to the level of virtuosity, with Young and Stephen Stills rising to new levels of complexity and volume on their guitars. Young’s presence also ratcheted up the range of available voices one notch and added a uniquely idiosyncratic songwriter to the fold, though most of Young’s contributions in this area were confined to the second side of the LP.

Most of the music, apart from the quartet’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” was done as individual sessions by each of the members when they turned up (which was seldom together), contributing whatever was needed that could be agreed upon. “Carry On” worked as the album’s opener when Stills “sacrificed” another copyright, “Questions,” which comprised the second half of the track and made it more substantial. “Woodstock” and “Carry On” represented the group as a whole, while the rest of the record was a showcase for the individual members.

David Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair” was a piece of high-energy hippie-era paranoia not too far removed in subject from the Byrds’ “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man,” only angrier in mood and texture (especially amid the pumping organ and slashing guitars); the title track, also by Crosby, took 100 hours to work out and was a better-received successor to such experimental works as “Mind Gardens,” out of his earlier career with the Byrds, showing his occasional abandonment of a rock beat, or any fixed rhythm at all, in favor of washing over the listener with tones and moods.

“Teach Your Children,” the major hit off the album, was a reflection of the hippie-era idealism that still filled Graham Nash’s life, while “Our House” was his stylistic paean to the late-era Beatles and “4+20” was a gorgeous Stephen Stills blues excursion that was a precursor to the material he would explore on the solo album that followed. And then there were Neil Young’s pieces, the exquisitely harmonized “Helpless” (which took many hours to get to the slow version finally used) and the roaring country-ish rockers that ended side two, which underwent a lot of tinkering by Young — even his seeming throwaway finale, “Everybody I Love You,” was a bone thrown to longtime fans as perhaps the greatest Buffalo Springfield song that they didn’t record.

All of this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars, which were presented in even more dramatic and expansive fashion on the tour that followed.

What To Listen For

Number one: Too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper part of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity. This is especially noticeable on songs like Carry On on side one and Country Girl on side two.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich; above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, not piling them one on top of another as is often the case. Consequently, the upper midrange area does not get overloaded and overwhelmed with musical information.

Number Two: edgy vocals, which is related to Number One above. Almost all copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the boys want to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult to reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels.