Older Reviews – Folk

Grossman & Renbourn on East World Direct to Disc

This is an East World Direct-To-Disc Japanese Import LP.

Lovely acoustic music; the best cuts are the first two tracks on side two. They sound like a classic Vanguard recording from the ’60s. One of the best East World titles.

The record comes complete with the tablature/lyric sheet and extensive liner notes on the recording process. 

Al Stewart – Zero She Flies

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This is an AMAZINGLY RARE CBS Import LP.  We were pleasantly surprised when we flipped to side two and heard lots of tubey magic. The sound was rich and full with Al’s voice both present and natural.

It’s very unlikely that I will find another copy anytime soon and who knows if it would sound as good as this one does anyway. It’s certainly not likely to be in this kind of IMMACULATE condition either. Side two is where the real Hot Stamper action is on this record. If it were part of a Hot Stamper shootout we guess that side two would rate about A++. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – See What Tomorrow Brings

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Peter, Paul and Mary in 1965

What the best sides of this classic Folk Album 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 domestic pressings like this one 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 the vocals, acoustic guitars and bass having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

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 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.

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept multi-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, while at the same time full-bodied and present, let’s face it — you might as well be listening to something else. (As we say below, the average copy will have you looking for another record to put on.) 

The Breath Of Life

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If P, P & M don’t sound like living breathing human beings standing right between your speakers, toss yours and buy this copy, 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 almost can’t really even imagine it. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully.

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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

If I Were Free 
Betty & Dupree 
The Rising Of The Moon 
Early Mornin’ Rain 
Jane, Jane 
Because All Men Are Brothers

Side Two

Hangman 
Brother, (Buddy) Can You Spare A Dime? 
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face 
Tryin’ To Win 
On A Desert Island (With You In My Dreams) 
The Last Thing On My Mind

AMG Review

See What Tomorrow Brings is a strong album that plays to the strengths of Peter, Paul, & Mary. There is a good variety of material within their folk format, and a nice esprit de corps that pervades the recording. All members sing lead, which brings a good balance to the proceedings. Worth noting are two early versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” … a very good album that has variety, strong material, tasteful production, and a fine spirit that gives it a winning edge.

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…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

AN AMAZING A+++ SIDE TWO, and an excellent A++ SIDE ONE! 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 weren’t impressive sonically. This one is a HUGE improvement — easily the best copy to emerge from our latest shootout! 

In many ways this is a better album than Album 1700; it’s certainly less commercial. Pack Up Your Sorrows is great here, as is And When I Die, and there are many many more. Top session players on this one too. (more…)

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…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – In The Wind

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

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center (as well as left and right). The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than others by a long shot. Very few folk records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing, on both sides!

This original Gold Label stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 50+ year old tapes. As good as that pressing may be, we guarantee that this one is dramatically more REAL SOUNDING. It gives you the sense that Peter, Paul and Mary are right in the room with you.

They’re no longer a representation — they’re living, breathing persons. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Their voices are so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

’Very Last Day’, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’, and ’Freight Train’ sound particularly nice here. (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…)

Joan Baez – 5

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

Natural, unprocessed, clear, breathy vocal reproduction is the key to any Joan Baez album, and this side two will clearly demonstrate just how well-recorded Joan’s voice (and guitar) were by the Vanguard engineering team. We heard immediately that this side one was excellent. We had no idea the sound could get as good as it is on side two. It takes the sound and music to an entirely new level.

With just guitar, vocal and occasional cello, the “truth” of recording quality is hard to fault. After only a few moments there’s really no sound, only music. (more…)