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…)

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…)

Joan Baez – Farewell, Angelina – Our Hot Copy from 2005

More Joan Baez

Farewell, Angelina

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

Very nice fairly original Vanguard LP with EXCELLENT SOUND.

These early Black Label Vanguard pressings are actually better in some ways than the 180 gram reissue, as good as that one is. Of course, they all vary in their sound. But listen especially to tracks two and six on the first side to hear a more natural sounding Joan. (more…)