Bob Dylan – Oh Mercy

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last
  • These sides were doing just about everything right – they’re clean, clear and spacious with weight down low and strong vocal presence
  • “Oh Mercy was hailed as a comeback, not just because it had songs noticeably more meaningful than anything Bob Dylan had recently released, but because Daniel Lanois’ production gave it cohesion… at the time, this production made it seem like the equivalent of his ’60s records, meaning that its artiness was cutting edge, not portentous…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 1.

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 Oh Mercy 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 as late as in 1989
  • 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.

Shootout Criteria

What are sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record — any Pop or Rock record — should be judged?

Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we hear a fair number of the qualities mentioned above on the side we’re playing, we will provisionally award that side a Hot Stamper grade, which is often revised over the course of the shootout as we hear what the other copies are doing. Once we’ve been through all of our side ones, we then play the best of the best of them against each other to arrive at an official Shootout Winner.

Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sound relative to the shootout winner, the record that was doing it all (or as much as possible – even some Triple Plus copies have been known to have a minor shortcoming or two). Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each copy match up.

That’s why the most common grade for a White Hot stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other. Finding the two best sounding sides on the same LP does happen, but it sure doesn’t happen as often as we would like (!) — there are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to ensure consistent quality.

It may not be rocket science, but it’s a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to ensure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on this Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Political World
Where Teardrops Fall
Everything Is Broken
Ring Them Bells
Man In The Long Black Coat

Side Two

Most Of The Time
What Good Am I?
Disease Of Conceit
What Was It You Wanted
Shooting Star

AMG  Review

Oh Mercy was hailed as a comeback, not just because it had songs noticeably more meaningful than anything Bob Dylan had recently released, but because Daniel Lanois’ production gave it cohesion. There was cohesion on Empire Burlesque, of course, but that cohesion was a little too slick, a little too commercial, whereas this record was filled with atmospheric, hazy production — a sound as arty as most assumed the songs to be. And Dylan followed suit, giving Lanois significant songs — palpably social works, love songs, and poems — that seemed to connect with his past. And, at the time, this production made it seem like the equivalent of his ’60s records, meaning that its artiness was cutting edge, not portentous …

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