- This early Columbia pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
- Notably richer and livelier than most, with plenty of Tubey Magic and good weight down low
- A longtime favorite of ours, with unusually good sound for a blues recording, even one from as late as 1970
- Features updated versions of many Dixon Classics: Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, I Can’t Quit You Baby and more
- “The material is superb, consisting of some of Willie Dixon’s best-known songs of the 1960s, and the production is smoothly professional…”
The material here is TOP NOTCH — Dixon was one of the blues’ greatest songwriters, responsible for Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Red Rooster, Back Door Man and other songs you’ve probably heard your favorite classic rock band covering. A copy such as this gives you more detail and texture, more extension up top and real weight to the bottom end — absolutely crucial for this music.
This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 I Am the Blues 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.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top 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 air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings 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.
The Real Blues Power
We had an absolute blast with this one. It’s the rare blues recording that has the audiophile goods, so it was a real treat to hear an album that could deliver authentic blues music with such strong sonics.
I Am The Blues was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1986.
What We’re Listening For on I Am The 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 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.
More of What To Listen For
It was pretty easy to separate the men from the boys in this shootout. A quick drop of the needle on each side would immediately answer our number one question: “How BIG is the sound?” The copies that lacked top end extension or heft in the bottom end were just too boring. This is the BLUES, baby — you think it’s supposed to sound small?
Another problem we ran into on many copies was excessive smoothness. When a copy was overly rich or smeary, it usually lacked the “gritty” feel that music like this should have. I don’t know about you, but if I’m listening to the blues I am not looking for glossy sound. Give me the texture and the detail that Willie Dixon put on the tape. I don’t want his sound to be “fixed” after the fact.
The sound and the arrangements here are perfectly suited to Willie’s material. Since most vintage blues recordings leave a lot to be desired sonically, and most modern “hi-fi” blues recordings are less than engaging musically, this album is the cure for the blues-lovin’ audiophile’s blues!
Back Door Man
I Can’t Quit You Baby
The Seventh Son
I Ain’t Superstitious
You Shook Me
(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
The Little Red Rooster
The Same Thing
The material is superb, consisting of some of Willie Dixon’s best-known songs of the 1960s, and the production is smoothly professional…
AMG User Review
Having the audacity to state “I Am the Blues,” would be preposterous if uttered by almost any other musician, but for Willie Dixon the statement is very close to the truth. As the songwriter behind some of the biggest blues classics ever recorded, had made smash hits for the likes of Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and the rest of the legendary artists on the Chess Records roster back in the 1950s.
With this album he brought his signature style to many of those same classics. Like his bass playing, Dixon’s approach is mostly laid-back, lacking the aggression of the aforementioned wild men of the blues, but there is real joy in his voice, and his performances of these songs are about as good as you’ll hear done, excepting of course the iconic originals.
Kenneth Bridgham, November 6, 2017