Top Artists – Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that’s exactly the approach they ended up taking.

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings, the “hottest stampers”, deliver.

Those of you who have had the opportunity to play the Mobile Fidelity pressing of this record should know what a disaster it is.

Is brighter better? Apparently Mobile Fidelity thinks so. And they did the same thing to Gordon Lightfoot’s album. His voice sounds so phony on the MoFi that you’d swear it’s a bad CD. But it’s not a bad CD. It’s an expensive audiophile record! (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy.

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album — face it, it’s what she does best — and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Pieces Of The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Pieces Of The Sky

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

This album has the real Country Sound, with plenty of top players sitting in on these sessions, musicians who know country music as well as anyone alive. The legendary guitarist for Elvis (and half the stars of Nashville), James Burton, lends a hand on Electric and Dobro. On vocals and guitar Herb Pederson, who still plays locally. (Together with Chris Hillman they put on a great show of old Country and Honky Tonk favorites. If they come to your town check them out.) Ricky Skaggs on fiddle, Billy Payne on piano, Bernie Leadon on banjo — no doubt a good time was had by all in the studio and that spirit of like-minded musicians who love this music comes through in the recording. 

The presence of the vocals here is startling — Emmylou is IN THE ROOM with you, belting out these heartfelt, emotional songs. If her voice here doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will!

Dynamic Vocals!

One quality we heard on this album really took us by surprise. The vocals are shockingly DYNAMIC — it’s almost as if Emmylou’s mic has no limiter on it at all. If there’s any compression on her track it is very very subtle, that’s for sure. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Elite Hote

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES, including an AMAZING A+++ SIDE ONE! It is TOUGH to find great sound for this album, but this copy really nailed it. Emmylou’s voice, obviously the key element, is just killer here. Most copies we play have their fair share of problems, but when you get one like this the sonic issues fade into the background, letting you focus on one thing — the MUSIC.   (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl

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Blue Kentucky Girl

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

One of the best copies to come out of our recent shootout. Very present and dynamic vocals, with no phony EQ or accentuated detail (a big problem with Emmylou’s recordings as a whole).  

Note how natural, clear and transparent the sound is — believe me, we didn’t hear too many do what these two sides were doing.

Breathy clear vocals and guitars, with none of the edge that plagues so many of her recordings. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

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

This is a Warner Brothers Palm Tree Label LP with SUPERB SOUND, dramatically better than that of the typical copy. We recently undertook a huge shootout for this album and this pressing finished way up top with an A+++ grade on side one and an A++ for the second side. The grit and edge that mess up most copies out there are kept in check here, allowing the music to sound smooth and sweet.   (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – The Middle of the Midrange Is Key

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Here’s what we learned when doing our recent shootout: many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a lot of things. In this case, these half-speed sounding ones had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had an overall diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. 

These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFi’s and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is THAT SOUND.

But think about it. What if you only had one copy of the album — why would you have more than one anyway? — and it had that Half-Speed Sound? You’d simply assume the recording had those qualities, assuming you could even recognize them in the first place. (Let’s face it, most audiophiles can’t, or all these companies would have gone out of business and stayed out of businesss, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.) (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Roses In The Snow – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Roses In The Snow

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

AMAZING A+++ SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! The immediacy of the vocals is startling — Emmylou is IN THE ROOM with you, belting out these heartfelt, emotional songs. If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will! We’ve done several shootouts for this album now, and we’ve completely fallen in love with both the music and the sound. When you hear a copy like this, it’s easy to see why. Even our single plus (A+) sides sound wonderful, but our Super Hot (A++) and White Hot (A+++) sides are OUT OF THIS WORLD. You won’t find too many records from 1980 with sound this good, that’s for sure!

Both sides have wonderful clarity and transparency. Emmylou’s vocals are breathy with lots of texture, the stringed instruments have the proper amount of pluck and twang, and the bass is Right On The Money. Yee-haw!  (more…)

Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A KILLER copy of this country rock classic and the first to hit the site in over a year
  • Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two backed with an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The sound here is incredibly rich, full and tubey magical with plenty of presence and none of the harshness that plagues most copies
  • “… one would be hard pressed to name an artist who made an album this strong only a few weeks before their death — or at any time of their life, for that matter.” – All Music

It’s tough to find clean early pressings of this album, let alone copies that have excellent sound and quiet surfaces on both sides. We just had our second big shootout for this album and found a lot to like about this pressing. The sound here is big, rich and open with excellent clarity and transparency. Gram’s voice sounds just right here, as does Emmylou Harris’s. Most copies have some grit and edge that really hurts the uptempo numbers, but this copy remains smooth and sweet enough to work throughout. (more…)

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris – Trio

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Trio

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  • These two sides, each rating a solid Double Plus (A++), are proof positive that Trio is a surprisingly well recorded album
  • Big, rich, smooth, and sweet, how did George Massenburg pull off this kind of analog sound in 1987?
  • We don’t know, but we do know good sound when we hear it, and we heard exceptionally good sound on this copy
  • “…that rare example of an all-star collaborative effort that truly shows everyone involved to their best advantage, and it ranks with the best of all three headliners’ work.”

With three brilliant and accomplished singers harmonizing in the studio you can imagine that faultless midrange tonality is key to the best copies, and you would be right.

Some copies had the girls’ sounding a bit dark and veiled. Some had them a bit thin and bright. The Goldilocks Principle comes into play here as it does in so many of our shootouts: the best copies find the right balance of richness and clarity. (more…)