- Crazy good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close it from start to finish, this was clearly the best copy from our shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
- This early UK Island pressing gave us exactly what we were looking for from these British Blues Rockers – it’s smooth, weighty, and overflowing Tubey Magical richness
- It’s tough to find these imports in audiophile condition, which is why they only hit the site at most every two years or so
- 4 1/2 stars: “…a blistering combination of youth, ambition, and experience that, across the course of their debut album, did indeed lay the groundwork for all that Zeppelin would embrace. …Tons of Sobs has a density that makes Zeppelin and the rest of the era’s rocky contemporaries sound like flyweights by comparison.”
Here is just the kind of sound you want on an album like this — Big and Bold!
If you’ve got the full range dynamic speakers to play Tons of Sobs good and loud, you will discover, as we have, what a powerful British Blues Rock album this is. No hits, just heavy electric blues played with feeling, months before Zeppelin would come along and take the genre to a whole new level.
Years ago — in 2011 to be exact — we said the following in a listing for a very good sounding domestic pressing:
Solid bass, present vocals, plenty of energy — the only thing missing here is the Tubey Magical richness and sweetness that only the British originals (in our experience) have, and in spades by the way. But try to find one. Over the last two or three years I think we’ve managed to get hold of exactly one clean copy.
Fast forward a number of years and we’ve only had a couple more! I personally have seen the original British pressing of this album sell on the web for more than 1000 dollars, which explains why we rarely have them.
What amazing sides such as these 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 1969
- 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.
What We Listen For on Tons of Sobs
- 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 — Andy Johns in this case — would have 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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Over the Green Hills (Pt 1)
Walk in My Shadow
Wild Indian Woman
Goin’ Down Slow
I’m a Mover
Over the Green Hills (Pt 2)
AMG 1/2 Star Rave Review
Although Free was never destined to scrape the same skies as Led Zeppelin, when they first burst out of the traps in 1968, close to a year ahead of Jimmy Page and company, they set the world of British blues-rock firmly on its head, a blistering combination of youth, ambition, and, despite those tender years, experience that, across the course of their debut album, did indeed lay the groundwork for all that Zeppelin would embrace.
That Free and Zeppelin were cut from the same cloth is immediately apparent, even before you start comparing the versions of “The Hunter” that highlight both bands’ debut albums. Where Free streaks ahead, however, is in their refusal to compromise their own vision of the blues — even at its most commercial (“I’m a Mover” and “Worry”), Tons of Sobs has a density that makes Zeppelin and the rest of the era’s rocky contemporaries sound like flyweights by comparison.