More Bob Dylan
More Folk Rock
- Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this vintage Columbia 360 pressing of Dylan’s 1965 release is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Highway 61 Revisited you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- In the same way Sgt. Pepper changed music a mere two years later, Highway 61 Revisited left all of Dylan’s contemporaries behind, scrambling to keep up with the standard he set
- 5 stars: “Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster … it proved that rock and roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.”
We had a big stack of 360s and Red Labels with good stampers to compare for this shootout. On the better copies, the bottom end was punchy with real weight and the soundfield was open, spacious and so transparent.
Of course, the music is GENIUS. What separates the best copies from the also-rans is more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Dylan’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery more clearly on a copy like this.
What separates the best copies from the also-rans is more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Dylan’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery more clearly on a copy like this.
Now it should be noted that some songs here definitely sound better than others. Do not expect “Tombstone Blues” to become a favorite demo track. It’s upper midrangey here because that’s the way they wanted it. One must assume that the songs sound the way Dylan wanted them too, because every other track has a slightly different tonal balance, and that change in tonality seems to be a conscious choice designed to bring out the best in each song.
Or not. Who’s to say?
What The Best Sides Of Highway 61 Revisited 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 1965
- 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’re Listening For On Highway 61
Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in an Electric Folk Rock record from the sixties, even one as uniquely groundbreaking as Highway 61 Revisited.
This Hot Stamper copy is simply doing more of these things better than most other copies we played in our shootout. The best copies have:
- Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree)
- Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule)
- Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful)
- Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space)
- Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD
- And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.
The 360 label pressings are a mixed bag, running from mediocre to mindblowing. Most of the time they are too trashed to even consider playing on an audiophile turntable. Many of the later pressings are sterile, congested, and lean.
On a typical pressing of this record the harmonica can be shrill and aggressive, but on the best copies, it will sound airy and full-bodied (for the most part). There are times on every copy we’ve ever played where the harmonica solos get to be just a bit much.
The best tracks have fat, meaty, oh-so-analog drums and bass. There’s a certain amount of opacity that modern mastering engineers would be tempted to fix by boosting the highs. This is a very bad idea. Brighter, in this case, is going to destroy what’s good about the sound of the album.
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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
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.
Like a Rolling Stone
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
From a Buick 6
Ballad of a Thin Man
Queen Jane Approximately
Highway 61 Revisited
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Taking the first, electric side of Bringing It All Back Home to its logical conclusion, Bob Dylan hired a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield, for Highway 61 Revisited. Opening with the epic “Like a Rolling Stone,” Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock (“Desolation Row”) and blues (“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”) to flat-out garage rock (“Tombstone Blues,” “From a Buick 6,” “Highway 61 Revisited”).
Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited — it proved that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.
Mono Vs. Stereo
Stick with stereo on this album. The Mono pressings — at least the ones we’ve played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time).
Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.
Here are some we think can sound amazing in MONO.