John Sebastian Songbook – Somebody Sure Got Hold of Some Awfully Good Tapes

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Great sound for some of the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I’d lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is.

This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers.

What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophile — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about.

Audiophile Quality Sound, Can It Really Be True?

There is very little chance that you have ever heard these songs sound this good, on any medium. CD compilations can be very good; they gain an edge because there is no need to make dubs of the masters in order to compile the tracks. And there may very well be CD versions of this material that sound much better than most of the vinyl editions sitting in the bins.

We’ve been buying Lovin’ Spoonful albums for twenty years or more and the vast majority of the ones that aren’t beat to death sound crude, smeary and midrangy. Some are dry and transistory (ugh), some are muddy and opaque (ditto), and if you have these albums you have records that fall into those two categories.

This copy is none of those things. We are happy to finally be able to offer our customers Lovin’ Spoonful sound to please their audiophile tastes. It may have taken more than twenty years, but it just goes to show that if you play enough records over a long enough period of time you will eventually stumble on to the pressing that has the sound you’ve been searching for. No rocket science, just money, time and dedication.

Roy Halee Interview

Mix magazine interviewed the man back in 2001 about his engineering of some of the later Lovin’ Spoonful sessions.

Was it hard to switch back and forth between, say, the Lovin’ Spoonful and a big pop session?

No, I can’t say it was. One might be a little more challenging than another. You go into the studio with a 70-piece orchestra and you’re doing it live — that was a helluva challenge. You couldn’t spend two hours getting a drum sound, obviously. You had to get it right away. But then a group like the Lovin’ Spoonful was challenging in its own way. You’re working to really capture the sound of the group, and that’s not always easy. I really liked them. John Sebastian was really great to work with. They got a little crazy sometimes, but they were a lot of fun. To cut a record like “Summer in the City,” and watch it go up to Number One and sit there for weeks — that was a ball; it was really thrilling.

Roy Halee is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Check out our supply of Roy Halee engineered or produced albums, along with some of our famous commentaries.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).

Roy Halee recordings we’ve reviewed on the blog can be found here.

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