Neil Diamond / Tap Root Manuscript

More Neil Diamond

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  • Tap Root Manuscript makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Exceptionally big, full-bodied and musical, with superb presence for the most important element of the recording, Neil’s voice
  • Cracklin’ Rosie is on this one, it’s Neil’s first Number One hit, with backup (and near-guaranteed success) by the Wrecking Crew
  • 4 stars: “The follow-up to Touching You, Touching Me was an ambitious set of songs, all originals except for a Top 20 cover of “He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother . . . this album confirmed Diamond’s breakthrough as a recording star.”

An album well ahead of its time, or at least it is on side two. The children’s chorus predates The Wall, and the African rhythms predate Peter Gabriel’s and David Byrne’s fascination with World Music. And this from Neil Diamond!

The biggest problem we ran into with Tap Root was Uni’s vinyl. Those of you who have tried to find a quiet pressing of Elton John’s self-titled second album or Tumbleweed Connection on Uni know exactly what we mean when we say they are few and far between. Stitches were the biggest problem, which actually isn’t a vinyl problem as much as it is an defective acetate problem or non-fill.

This vintage UNI 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 Tap Root Manuscript 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.

Engineering

Credit for the superb live sound naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, Armin Steiner.

He was also one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart-Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early ’70s, and, if that’s not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits.

When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a good chance that the sound will be excellent. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis at that point. Now, all it takes is some serious digging in the record bins, tedious cleaning, and critical listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough” (no pun intended).

What We’re Listening For on Tap Root Manuscript

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Cracklin’ Rosie
Free Life
Coldwater Morning
Done Too Soon
He Ain’t Heavy… He’s My Brother

Side Two

Childsong
I Am The Lion
Madrigal
Soolaimon
Missa
African Suite
Childsong (Reprise)

AMG 4 Star Review

The follow-up to Touching You, Touching Me was an ambitious set of songs, all originals except for a Top 20 cover of “He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother,” including the side-long suite “The African Trilogy” (which featured the hit “Soolaimon”), the number one hit “Cracklin’ Rosie,” and “Done Too Soon.” Going gold within two months, this album confirmed Diamond’s breakthrough as a recording star.

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