I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and not many held our interest.
Problems to Watch For
Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies showed us.
You can easily hear that smear on the guitar transients. Usually they’re a tad blunted and the guitar harmonics don’t ring the way they should.
Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.
Good cleaning techniques can help, but bad vinyl and worn stampers limit the encoding of the highs, and bad mastering or the use of sub-generation tapes both can work plenty of mischief on their own.
On the Hot Stamper copies that do have sweet and rich ANALOG sound, credit naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, ARMIN STEINER. He was 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. He’s also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.
When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a chance, and probably a pretty good one, 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 bins, cleaning, and listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough.”