Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque

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  • With two amazingly good sides, each rating a sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it, this original pressing has the magic of analog in its grooves
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Say what you want about Empire Burlesque — at the very least, it’s the most consistent record Bob Dylan has made since Blood on the Tracks, even if it isn’t quite as interesting as Desire. However, it is a better set of songs, all deriving from the same place and filled with subtle gems… this is as good as Dylan gets in his latter days.”

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Neil Diamond – Stones

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

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 only a small number held our interest. (more…)

The Band – The Band

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of an absolutely essential album
  • Big bass, rich meaty guitars and smooth silky vocals make this a Band album like you have never heard before
  • Not only is the sound superb, but both sides here play Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as we can find them
  • 5 stars: “As had been true of the first album, it was the Band’s sound that stood out the most… The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal…”

The lucky person who takes this record home is in for quite a shock. This very pressing is proof positive that this album is much better recorded than the audiophile community gives it credit for being. How could anyone judge the sound of the record without a great copy such as this one to play?

This vintage pressing has no trace of phony sound from top to bottom. It’s raw and real in a way that makes most pop records sound processed and wrong. These two sides have plenty of the qualities we look for in an album by The Band. Energy, presence, transparency, Tubey Magic… you name it, you will find it here. Its biggest strength — and the biggest strength of the album as a whole — is its wonderful, natural midrange.

And the bass is HUGE. On the best copies it always is.

Drop the needle on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or King Harvest Has Surely Come and get ready for some serious Analog Magic. This is a Band album like you have never heard before. (more…)

America – Homecoming – Their Second Best Album

Homecoming

  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This is a simply wonderful Green Label original pressing – big and rich with excellent transparency and breathy vocals
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • Ventura Highway sounds amazing here, as does everything else; it’s a Demo Disc for acoustic guitars and vocals

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments are right as well. Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 40+ year old records like this one to find that sound.  

Warner Brothers Green Labels

Green label Warner Brothers originals are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top end to provide harmonics for the guitars. The guitars on this copy sound just right, really sweet and open. On the average copy, they sound veiled and dull. (more…)

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

’60s Sound

The problem here is the sound. It’s got a bit of that tinny ’60s pop production sound — too much upper midrange, not enough lower midrange and a slightly aggressive quality when things get loud. Still, it’s quite a bit better than recordings by, say, The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane from the era, and I have no trouble playing and enjoying those records, so…

I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass.

On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you. (more…)

Dan Fogelberg – Souvenirs

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  • This superb copy of Fogelberg’s sophomore release boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout, the sound is super big, full, lively and spacious with deep punchy bass
  • “… easily placed him alongside such California hitmakers as Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, and Jackson Browne… ‘As the Raven Flies’ revealed Fogelberg to be capable of making edgy, guitar-driven rock and exhibited his range as a vocalist.”

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Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

Judy Collins – In My Life

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this Elektra Gold Label stereo pressing will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too  
  • Two of the best tracks are here on this Nearly White Hot side two: Sunny Goodge Street and In My Life, and both sound every bit as good as you would expect from a side with such a high grade
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s missing from the reissues and whatever 180g pressing has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “Judy Collins was already an accomplished interpretive singer before recording this album, but In My Life found her widening her horizons and revealing an even greater gift than one might have imagined.”

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Sandy Bull – Inventions

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  • Sandy Bull’s superb sophomore effort finally arrives on the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one, mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • We dropped the needle on a clean vintage copy of this rare Vanguard release and heard rich, smooth, sweet, wonderfully natural sound
  • A few years later we had enough copies to do a shootout, and we now proudly present the result of our efforts, a top quality copy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On his second and best album, Bull added more instruments and a bit of electricity. The centerpiece of the record is “Blend II.” Like “Blend” from his first album, it is a melange (somewhat more electric in tone) of folk, jazz, and the Middle East, this time 24 minutes’ worth.”

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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…)