Genre – Folk

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700

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  • Stunning sound for this WB Gold Label original with both sides finishing top of the pile — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • When the three of them sing good and loud on these tracks, not only can you hear them belting it out, you FEEL it too
  • The “breath of life” is alive and well on these old LPs, the best reason for the truly serious audiophile to stay committed to analog, for now and probably far into the future
  • Features their classic version of Leaving On A Jet Plane, a Number One smash that still holds up after more than 50 years(!)

We went through a big stack of Gold Label originals and various Green Label reissue pressings, in stereo of course, and this easily qualifies as the best copy we played all day.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If these three gifted singers don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing across from you — left, right and center — toss your copy and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the midrange is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you really can’t even imagine it. It’s a bit shocking to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully, sounding so much like live music.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we must constantly strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest. (more…)

Odetta – At Town Hall in Mono

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this mono original pressing of At Town Hall, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

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Odetta – At Town Hall in Stereo

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  • Here is an outstanding early stereo pressing of Odetta performing live – it boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout and plays as quietly as these Vanguard LPs ever do
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

This vintage Vanguard pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Odetta singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)

Donovan – A Gift From a Flower To a Garden – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Side one of this two record box set has Wear Your Love Like Heaven in Super Hot stamper sound, with some of the most natural vocal reproduction we heard in our entire shootout. Many copies had “hyped-up” phony sound — fine for the old consoles and radios of the day (1967) but not too enjoyable on the modern, much more revealing rigs we use today. The tonality of the midrange — where the guitars and vocals are found of course — must be correct for this music to work. This copy does a very respectable job on three of the sides, and that’s not easy to do. 

Not to mention condition issues. When’s the last time you saw a clean yellow label Epic original Donovan record in the bins? It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout like this, and we are out beating the bushes every week in the record capital of the world.

That said, Epic ’60s vinyl is rarely of audiophile quality. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Moving – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This White Hot Stamper [which sold for $400 in 2008 by the way] of Peter Paul & Mary’s MOVING absolutely DESTROYED the competition. No other copy we played rated as high as A++ on EITHER side; this one rates our top grade of A+++ on BOTH sides! The warmth and presence of the vocals on this copy are OFF THE CHARTS! 

The overall sound on both sides is tubey magical beyond any rational expectation. No other copy had the kind of “You are there” immediacy found from start to finish on this one. The transparency, spaciousness and clarity here are jarring — you’ve got to hear this thing to believe it! (more…)

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2013 in Mono

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++ for this the MONO pressing! It’s beyond difficult to find copies of this album with good sound, but we managed to get a hold of a hot one here. This is a true solo album — guitar, vocals and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Dylan playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village. 

The sound is richer and fuller than the average pressing; it’s also unusually lively and present. Above all the sound is natural and musical, the qualities that matter the most on a record like this.

And that’s not all! It’s also dynamic, lively, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The clarity is superb and even the harmonica sounds good. There’s tons of ambience — you can really hear the sound of the room around Dylan’s vocals. (more…)

Joan Baez – Joan Baez

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This former member of the TAS list is the kind of recording that has everything going for it: Golden Age equipment in a live acoustic with a simple arrangement for voice and guitar (or two).

The purity and complete freedom from distortion allow the listener to imagine himself, to borrow a phrase, in the Living Presence of the performer. With a record this good it takes no effort whatsoever to suspend disbelief and imagine Joan and her guitar directly in front of you, a command performance if you will. (more…)

Donovan – The Real Donovan in Mono – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Now here’s a mono record we can get behind! If more mono records sounded big and open the way this one does we would totally be on board with the current movement towards One Channel. (As that has not been our experience we remain skeptical.)

This is by far the best sounding, quietest pressing we have ever played. It boasts Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, backed with even better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) on side two, and it’s pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl (for Hickory anyway).  

Mono is in fact the secret to getting these early Hickory records to sound their best. The recordings are mono; the stereo pressings are simply electronically reprocessed. Now, that’s not always the kiss of death, but as a rule it doesn’t help the sound much and has the potential to cause tonality and imaging issues.

The Real Donovan is a compilation of singles, along with some tracks which have been sourced from the first two albums, and an EP, as well as a couple of b-sides. (Hickory seems to have taken a page from Capitol here, as that’s exactly what The Beatles Second Album is. As I recall that album sold quite well in the states.) (more…)

Joan Baez – Joan

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

In 1967 Vanguard still knew how to record pure, rich, sweet, Tubey Magical analog. Some of these tracks are amazing sounding. Once a year we run across a clean stereo copy of this album. (With such complex arrangements we don’t feel the mono could do the album justice. You may feel otherwise.)

This pressing appears to be the original stereo label, although with so many Vanguard labels — dozens by my count — this could easily be an early reissue. The paste-on rough cardboard back is a good sign of its age.

Side One

Double Plus, with the remarkably innovative reworking of Eleanor Rigby.

Side Two

White Hot, shootout winning and just plain Hard To Fault (HTF). The second track, a traditional folk song, has Demo Disc quality sound. If you are in the market for a natural sounding female vocal you will have a hard time finding a better one. (more…)

Jerry Read Smith & Tom Fellenbaum – The Strayaway Child

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  • This superb collaboration has been a member of the TAS Super Disc List for decades, and here it is with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy is surprisingly spacious, full-bodied and natural, with few of the problems that plague most of the pressings we played
  • The sound of Smith’s dulcimer is enchanting here, with a nice extended top end and plenty of space around all the instruments
  • “The full, shimmering waterfall of Jerry Read Smith’s hammered-dulcimer playing takes center stage, flowing together with a sumptuous variety of accompanying instruments…”

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