Genre – Folk

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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  • This vintage Columbia 360 2 Eye Stereo pressing has stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Both of these sides are amazingly spacious, full-bodied, natural and clear with great presence
  • It’s clear these classic songs have stood the test of time: Blowin’ in the Wind; Girl from the North Country; Masters of War; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and many more
  • 5 stars: “This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America… Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it.”

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is clearly our favorite of the early Dylan albums for both music and sound. We’re picking up both mono and stereo copies when we see them clean (which is rare) and both the mono mix and the stereo mix can sound out of this world.

Hearing these great songs sound so intimate and lifelike on a top-quality pressing can be a sublime experience. We should know; we enjoyed the hell out of this very copy.

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.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Bob Dylan singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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Judy Collins / Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins

  • This superb compilation boast a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is especially rich, warm and natural, with exceptional immediacy to Judy’s vocals and Tubey Magic for days
  • Tons of breath of life, superb production and mastering, and some of the best sounding echo ever recorded
  • Note that Artisan cut this record a whole helluva lot better than DCC – the so-called audiophile label – ever did
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lovingly programmed (it leads off with her excellent country-pop hit ‘Someday Soon,’ an Ian Tyson classic), this is Collins at her finest… This anthology brings the ‘best-of’ collection to a new art form.”
  • If you’re a Judy Collins fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

I remember being a bit taken aback by how much better my original Artisan pressing sounded compared to the supposedly superior DCC, pressed at high quality Heavy Vinyl at RTI to the most exacting standards possible.

What finally turned me completely against DCC were the awful Paul Simon solo albums they remastered.  Two were released, two I had as unreleased test pressings, and all of them were barely second rate compared to a good original pressing.

So much for believing in DCC. Since that time we have learned that placing your faith in any record label or cutting operation is a mistake. You have to play the records to know how they sound. Nothing else works, and nothing else can work. (more…)

Bob Dylan / The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Mono Versus Stereo

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The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else, on some tracks the mono pressing sounds like a demo. It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully.

The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself? (more…)

The Donovan You Don’t Know – In Concert

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We discovered a while back just what an excellent recording this is and now we know how magical the best copies can be. Only the very best copies delivered the kind of natural, immediate sound we were looking for.

There are a lot of Donovan records out there, but not a lot of them that sound like this! On top of that you get a great set of songs, including Mellow Yellow, Isle Of Islay, Celeste, and First There Is A Mountain (the song that became the main riff of the Allman Brothers’ famous Mountain Jam).|

Get in touch with your inner flower child and spin a copy of this album full of trippy hippie magic.

AMG Review

Flow in a Donovan concert is important, and here, presented as it occurred, listeners can drift right into the tidepool of magic. The band is a quintet with Harold McNair on flute and saxophones, Loren Newkirk on piano, Andy Tronosco on upright bass, Tony Carr on drums, and John Carr on bongos. Donovan plays acoustic guitar throughout.

The hippy mysticism and flower power poet is everywhere here. This isn’t rock star excess at all, but an organic, drenched-in-sunshine concert full of gentleness with a premium on good vibes… (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Self-Titled

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Peter, Paul and Mary - Self-Titled - White Hot Stamper

  • The band’s debut finally arrives on the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) stereo sound throughout – relatively quiet vinyl for a pressing of this vintage
  • This TAS List title has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and Tubey Magical analog warmth the likes of which you may have never heard
  • 4 stars: “The debut album by Peter, Paul & Mary is still one of the best albums to come out of the 1960s folk music revival. It’s a beautifully harmonized collection of the best songs that the group knew, stirring in its sensibilities and its haunting melodies as it crosses between folk, children’s songs, and even gospel”

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Doc Watson – Home Again

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Here is the in-the-room performance intimacy that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

This vintage Vanguard stereo 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 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.). (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Moving

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  • An incredible sounding original WB Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – this is as good as it gets!
  • The overall sound is clean, clear and present with more Tubey Magic than makes their recordings such a joy to play
  • The vocals (obviously the main draw here) sound wonderful — breathy, natural and present 
  • PP&M’s second studio album, featuring Puff The Magic Dragon and This Land Is Your Land

This early stereo pressing of Peter Paul & Mary’s 1963 followup to their smash debut destroyed most of the competition. The warmth and presence of the vocals on this copy are wonderful.

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept mulit-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, backed by straightforward guitar accompaniment.

If the voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, as well as full-bodied and present, let’s face it, you might as well put on another record.

Puff The Magic Dragon is unfortunately not one of the better sounding songs. Every last copy we played suffered from a touch of compressor distortion that adds a bit of grain to the vocals. We initially thought it was mild groove damage, but we heard the same thing on copy after copy we played.

Still, if the choice is between a little grain on a tubey magical Gold Label copy or no grain on an overly smooth reissue, we’d take this one every time. (more…)

Judy Collins / Fifth Album – Tubey Magical Folk Music from 1965

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Judy Collins

  • Fifth Album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on the Big Red E label
  • These sides are exceptionally good, especially compared to most of what we played – only the best early pressings managed to get Collins’ voice to sound natural and real
  • “… 5th Album, cut in late 1964, may very well be her definitive folk statement… A trio of Bob Dylan songs act as the album’s centerpiece, clearly showing Collins’ growth into more progressive songs. In addition to these, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” is given its classic reading, with Collins’ voice echoing the song’s melancholy and eerie but mellifluent precision and emotion. “

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Peter, Paul & Mary – Album

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  • The first copy of this classic from 1966 to hit the site in many years – arguably a better album than Album 1700!
  • Both sides of this original Warner Brothers Gold Label pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides are full of ’60s analog Tubey Magic – rich and warm with real immediacy and transparency
  • Features top musicians and PPM versions of folk classics like And When I Die and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine 

Finding great copies of this album is no easy task. Many of the copies we played were just too noisy, and most of the quiet ones just did not impress us sonically. After listening to so much mediocrity we were shocked and gratified that this very copy managed to show us a world of sound we did not expect to hear. (more…)

Simon and Garfunkel / Sounds of Silence – What to Listen For

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Sounds of Silence Available Now

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This album is the proverbial tough nut to crack, a mix of folkie tracks and ambitious big production numbers, all recorded on a four track machine and bounced down maybe just a few too many times along the way. Some got handed a troublesome case of Top 40 EQ — hey, this is 1965, it’s the way they thought pop records should sound.

But many of the best tracks survived just fine. They can sound wonderful, it’s just that they rarely do. This is precisely where we come into the picture.

The key to good sounding pressings of this record is to look for the ones with a top end. Now of course you can’t see the top end when you buy the record. But most of the copies of this album you pick up are going to sound like cassettes. There won’t be much over 8K, and that means hard, harsh, transistor radio sound.

Although the rock tracks certainly come to life and really do sound good on the hottest of the hot copies, the folkie tracks are the real reason to buy these early pressings. They have the Tubey Magic that’s missing from virtually any reissue or digital format version.

Best and Worst Tracks

For the best sounding tracks try Leaves That Are Green on side one, and April Come She Will on side two. 

Keep in mind that the big hit ”Sounds of Silence” will never sound much better than it does in the car. It’s basically the track from their previous album with rock instrumentation added, meaning an electric guitar, a second generation of tape and some extra distortion for good measure.

But on a superb copy, that track can still be surprisingly enjoyable. Not Demo Disc quality, just enjoyable. (more…)