Labels We Love – Vanguard

Canteloube / Songs Of The Auvergne Vol. 1 & 2 (and a Swipe at Classic Records)

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This 1972 Vanguard pressing (VSD-713/714) has SUPERB SOUND for the Volume One material — it’s super-transparent, with an extended top end that is not often heard on the typical vintage Vanguard pressing. The overall sound is HTF – Hard To Fault — and if it hadn’t been for one other pressing we heard that blew our minds even more, we would surely have thought this first disc was as good as it was going to get. (As you can imagine, many copies over the years have been rejected as they came in and never made the cut, for both noise and sound issues.)

Miss Devrath is front and center, live in your livingroom, as natural a human voice as you will ever hear on record. It’s clear what the best copies are really capable of — completely natural Demo Disc Sound.

Sides Three and Four

Good, but quite a step down from sides one and two. Although musical and enjoyable, sides three and four were somewhat veiled and smeary compared to the sound we heard on sides one and two. We gave them both a grade of A Plus. Even these two lesser sides would probably beat the Classic reissue, and sides one and two would kill it.

TAS and Classic Records

I believe Volume One used to be on the TAS Super Disc List, and for a time the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue may have been as well. I remember playing the Classic years ago and thinking the sound was not bad, not as awful as most of their stuff, but still far from what it should be.

How anybody can take Classic Records seriously is beyond me, yet HP has many of their records on his Super Disc list and he is certainly not alone in praising their remastered vinyl. In our opinion, you should be able to hear what’s wrong with their records from another room, a test we would happily submit to. That dark, hard, smeary, transient- and texture-free sound one hears on all their records is pretty obvious to those of us who listen to The Real Thing all the time.

How these audiophile reviewers can be fooled by such second-rate fare is frankly beyond our understanding.  (more…)

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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Joan Baez – Joan Baez in Concert

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  • Joan’s live release from 1962 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • We just did a big shootout for this album, compiled from different shows Baez performed in 1962, and we’re pleased to report that the sound was SUPERB on both sides of this early stereo Vanguard pressing
  • So transparent, open, and spacious – nuances and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed are now revealed as never before
  • 4 stars: “In Concert, Pt. 1 captures the undisputed queen of folk music at the onset of her fabled career… The exhaustive selection of material represents her diverse influences… Baez’s performances still retain freshness and vitality after four [make that five] decades.”

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Junior Wells – It’s My Life

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  • A superb copy of Junior Wells’ recording from Chicago in ’66 (this is the read deal, folks!) with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of a live performance that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else might be out there
  • “Cut from the same cloth as Wells’ classic Hoodoo Man Blues LP from the same period, It’s My Life, Baby! captured the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy team in great form, both in the studio and live at Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd Street. This album tends a bit more towards slow blues, including a rare example of Wells’ chromatic harmonica playing on ‘Slow, Slow,’ but there are fine uptempo pieces…”

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Mississippi John Hurt – Today!

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  • Hurt’s superb sophomore release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – practically no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural, analog sound
  • Hard to imagine any reissue, vintage or otherwise, can beat the sound of this LP – we sure couldn’t find one
  • 4 stars: “Today is Mississippi John Hurt’s first and finest studio release since his “rediscovery” on his Avalon farm by folklorist Tom Hoskins in 1963… his voice retains its characteristic Buddha-esque warmth and it is still difficult to believe that there is just one man playing on the seemingly effortless guitar work… A truly essential album of the folk revival, unrivaled in its beauty and warmth.”

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The Weavers – The Weavers At Carnegie Hall

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

This is a wonderful Weavers album, recorded in Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve, 1955 — when and if you can find one that’s properly mastered and not too scratched up. This is not easy, as most copies of the album — now fifty plus years old — have not survived in very good condition. This copy is the exception to that rule, with reasonably quiet surfaces (Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as they come) and EXCELLENT SOUND.  

What do we listen for on this album? Pretty much the same things we listen for on most albums (with the exception of Whomp Factor I suppose; acoustic guitars, banjos and voices don’t produce much whomp in real life).

You clearly need transparency to make all the vocal and instrumental parts clear. There is not a trace of phony Hi-Fi sound anywhere to be found on the album, so bringing out as much information as possible from the record has to be an important goal. (On phony records a bit of smear or opacity can actually be a good thing.)

Those of you with very highly resolving speaker systems — electrostatics, screens and the like — will find this record much easier to reproduce than others. (Including us: Our big dynamic speakers do many things well but no speaker can do everything right. We have had to sacrifice some transparency for other qualities necessary to play the wide range of recordings we must evaluate.) (more…)

The Weavers – The Weavers’ Almanac

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

White Hot stamper sound on side two – a Demo Disc for acoustic folk music. Better than Super Hot on side one – sound that’s sweeter than wine. This copy is stereo, and for good reason: the mono pressings are full of vocal distortion. Reasonably quiet vinyl for an early Vanguard pressing.

This early pressing on the early Black and Silver Vanguard label has glorious sound! It’s right up there with the best we have ever heard The Weavers.

Side One

Superb air and space, with a very extended top. Sweet vocals. Big, rich, tubey and clear, this side will be hard to beat. Play track three to hear the kind of guitar harmonics and vocal intimacy that are simply no longer possible on modern vinyl.

Side Two

The huge reverb sounds just right – very rich and tubey and smooth.

Listen to how rich the bass is on the third track. It’s not perfect but it’s right for this era and right for this music. (more…)

Jerry Jeff Walker – Driftin’ Way of Life

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

This copy, which has a variation of the maroon early Vanguard label, not sure exactly when it was pressed, or where, was the best copy we played in our shootout. So tubey and natural, why don’t more records sound like this? The recording itself is superb, with audiophile quality sound all the way. And the music is just as good, fully deserving the 4 1/2 Stars All Music Guide gave it.

Over the last few years you’ve seen rave reviews for many Vanguard recordings – Joan Baez, The Weavers, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, etc.

You can confidently add Jerry Jeff Walker’s Driftin’ Way of Life to that list. (more…)

Judy Collins – Judy Collins #3

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this pressing will be very hard to beat – exceptionally QUIET vinyl 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
  • “Having established herself as one of the foremost interpreters of traditional material, Collins did the same for contemporary folk songwriters on this album, which mixed standards with pristine covers of compositions by Dylan, Pete Seeger and Shel Silverstein. With Jim (Roger) McGuinn arranging and playing second guitar and banjo, this album, which included a fine version of Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” had a clear (if overlooked) influence on the folk-rock he pioneered with the Byrds.”

We had a devil of a time finding clean, quiet, good sounding copies of this album. The mono pressings, which are far more common than the stereo pressings, didn’t sound right to us, and everything produced after the Big Red E label era is a joke, which leaves the Folksinger label pressings from 1963 and the Gold Label pressings from 1965. Both can be good. This LP was by far the quietest we played, which makes it very special indeed. (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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