Top Artists – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

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  • Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this vintage Columbia 360 pressing of Dylan’s 1965 release is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Highway 61 Revisited you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • In the same way Sgt. Pepper changed music a mere two years later, Highway 61 Revisited left all of Dylan’s contemporaries behind, scrambling to keep up with the standard he set
  • 5 stars: “Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster … it proved that rock and roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.”

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Bob Dylan / This Kind of Sound Earns You a 10?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

Sonic Grade: F

We played this Mono reissue and found it to be flat as a pancake and dead as a doornail, like most of the Sundazed records we played starting way back in the early 2000s. No, they never got any better.

In our experience, Sundazed is one of the worst record labels of all time. This pressing is just more evidence to back up our low opinion of them.

Obviously we may have had a low opinion of them, but a famous audiophile reviewer seemed to find the sound much more to his liking. He wrote:

Sundazed’s reissue gives the original a run for the money and remains true to the original, though it suffers in the bass, which while deep and reasonably well defined, is not as tightly drawn or focused. The upper mids on the original also bloom in a way that the reissue’s don’t, giving the reissue a slightly darker, recessed sound, but there’s still sufficient energy up there since Dylan’s close-miked vocals pack an upper midrange punch. If the vocals or harmonica sound spitty and unpleasantly harsh, it’s your system, not the record – though there’s plenty of grit up there. On the plus side, the overall clarity and transparency of the reissue beats the original. A really fine remastering job.

Of course we find every word of this review arrant nonsense, except the discussion of the qualities he praises in the original relative to the reissue. It’s been twenty years since this remastered pressing came out, does anybody still like the sound of it? Anybody? I hope not.

The intro to his review boldly declares a respect for Sundazed (and Classic Records and Analogue Productions) that we find puzzling after playing so many of their rarely-better-than-awful sounding records. This commentary gets at it pretty well.

Sundazed’s decision to issue Blonde on Blonde using the much sought after mono mix is indicative both of the company’s dedication to doing what’s musically correct, and of the vinyl marketplace’s newfound maturity. There was a time a few years ago when no “audiophile” vinyl label would dare issue a mono recording; audiophiles wouldn’t stand for it was the conventional wisdom. Perhaps back then it was even true. Today, with Sundazed, Classic, Analogue Productions and others issuing monophonic LPs on a regular basis (and one has to assume selling them as well) listeners are appreciating the music for music’s sake, and equally importantly, for the wonderful qualities of monophonic sound reproduction.

My grade might be 2 out of 11. No audiophile should be fooled by the crap sound of this pressing, and no audiophile should believe a word of this review.

Reviewer Incompetence? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years. From the start we knew we could never begin to do much more than scratch the surface of preposterous record reviews in need of rebuttal. The audiophile world is drowning in this sh*t.

But rather than spending all day typing at a keyboard, we felt the best use of our time we be to offer the audiophile community actual records that backed up everything we typed, something obviously no reviewer has ever been able to do.

More on Blonde on Blonde

Over the many years we have been doing shootouts, we have cleaned and played quite a number of vintage pressings of Blonde on Blonde. For those of you who love the album, some of these may be of interest:

The right 360 label pressings are very special. Nothing can beat them. They might even be original. We’re not saying one way or the other.

This customer really liked his very expensive but very awesome copy. (Apparently he did not get the message that analog is a bygone technology. For more on that subject, please read the comments section for this article.)

Side four of some copies is horrendously bad sounding. Any idea why?

A better question: Any idea why nobody ever noticed?

Finally, of course Blonde On Blonde is a recording that should be part of any serious popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category and that are currently available can be found here.

Reviews for other records in the Rock and Pop Core Collection can be found here.


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Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, 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
  • The big hit here is “Gotta Serve Somebody” – Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits is featured throughout
  • I doubt this is anyone’s very favorite Dylan album, but it’s sure a lot more enjoyable when you have sound like this

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Bob Dylan – “Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live…”

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Dear Tom,

Four 3+ sides that sound unlike any other version of this available, of arguably one of the most important rock records of the century from its top artist… It may be a niche taste compared to Zep etc., but you could probably have charged $2k for this.

Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live… it’s really well recorded.

Reinvigorated my passion for this music which I’ve heard a million times over the decades.

Wow… at $1.3k you definitely underpriced this one!

Dear Conrad,

Awesome to hear. It is a really well recorded album, but how would anyone know that who hasn’t heard it sound like the copy we sent you?

We’d love to charge $2k. It is indeed worth every penny of what you paid. (Some folks think some of our records are worth $15,000, but that may be a bit of a stretch.)

It takes many years to find a copy that sounds like that one. When we get hold of such a copy, we really have no idea whether it’s a diamond in the rough — since all the early 360 pressings we prefer look pretty much the same — or just another run-of-the-mill Columbia pressing with good, not great, sound. Fortunately, once the needle had dropped that copy showed us that it had the right stuff in its grooves.

Thanks for your letter.

Best, TP

P.S.

We talked about this very issue in a commentary describing bell curve distributions (which, as I’m sure you can imagine, makes for some fun reading!)

An excerpt:

Hot Stampers make a lot more sense once one has a better understanding of statistical distributions.

This one piece of information can do more to improve the sound quality of your record collection than any other.

Why statistics you ask? Simple.

We can’t tell what a record is going to sound like until we play it.

For all practical purposes we are buying them randomly and “measuring” them to see where they fall on a curve.

We may be measuring them using a turntable and registering the data aurally, but it’s still very much measurement and it’s still very much data that we are recording (with a healthy amount of interpretation of the data involved, but that’s what we get paid to do, right?).

Many of these ideas were addressed in the shootout we did many years ago for BS&T’s second album. We played a large number of copies (the data), we found a few amazing ones (the outliers), and we tried to determine how many copies it really takes to find those records that sound so amazing they defy not only conventional wisdom, but our understanding of the record itself.

We don’t know what causes some copies to sound so good. We know them when we hear them and that’s pretty much all we can say we really know. Everything else is speculation and guesswork.

We have data. What we don’t have is a theory that explains that data.

And it simply won’t do to ignore the data because we can’t explain it. Hot Stamper Deniers are those members of the audiophile community who, when faced with something they don’t want to be true, simply manufacture reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t be true. That’s not science. It’s anti-science.

Practicing science means following the data wherever it leads. The truth can only be found in the record’s grooves and nowhere else.  If you don’t understand record collecting as a science, you can’t do it right and you certainly won’t achieve much success.


FURTHER READING

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More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides, this 360 stereo pressing was one of the better copies we played in our last shootout- remarkably quiet vinyl too, with no marks that play and surfaces that other early pressings are going to have a tough time competing with
  • You won’t believe how rich, full and lively this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: “Rainy Day Women,” “I Want You,” “Just Like A Woman,” and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play… It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.”

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Bob Dylan / The Times They Are A-Changin’ – A Sundazed Winner?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

This review was written in 2001, upon the release of the album. It has since be remastered and re-released on Sundazed in 2014. I would take our commentary below with a huge grain of salt.

In 2001 we still liked DCC’s Heavy Vinyl pressings, so we were definitely not where we needed to be in order to judge records properly, but we sure thought we were!

That said, this may be a very good sounding record, and if you can find one for cheap, and don’t have the money for one of our amazing Hot Stamper pressings, it might just be a good way to go. We simply have no way of knowing whether we were right or wrong about the sound of this pressing twenty years ago when we wrote our review.

You can read more about our many, many mistaken judgments from the old days here, under the heading: Live and Learn.

Our 2001 Review

Sundazed finally gets one REALLY right! The mono version here MOIDERS the competition. (It’s a mono recording with stereo echo added — how tough can it be?)

Considering Sundazed‘s dismal track record, I wouldn’t have thought they could do anything right.

[And I can’t even say that I have much confidence that they actually did make a good sounding record in this case!]

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy has the real Nashville Skyline magic – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee that Bob’s duet with Johnny Cash on this Shootout Winning Triple Plus side one (Girl from the North Country) will blow your mind, or your money back  
  • “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” are true country-rock standards
  • 5 stars: “It’s a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.”
  • This is a Must Own Dylan Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bob Dylan – Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Original Soundtrack Recording)

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  • An incredible copy of Dylan’s 1973 soundtrack album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing practically everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than almost anything else we played
  • Includes the hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which charted on the Top 20 and would be famously covered in later years by the likes of Eric Clapton and Guns N’ Roses
  • “This record also proved that Dylan could shoehorn his music within the requirements of a movie score without compromising its content or quality, something that only the Beatles, unique among rock artists, had really managed to do up to that time…”

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Bob Dylan / The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – We Preferred the Mono in 2016

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

Back in 2016 we liked the Mono pressings of this album best. We wrote:

We greatly prefer the best Mono pressings to the best stereo copies, but they are very hard to come by.

This is our favorite of the early Dylan albums for both music and sound. We’re picking up both mono and stereo copies when we see them clean (which is rare) but the best mono copies truly take this music to a whole new level.

Now we like them both, and we like the stereo pressings maybe even a bit better.

Live and learn we say!


Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!

On this Dylan album, the mono and stereo pressings both have the potential to sound amazingly good.

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Other records that sound their best one way or the other can be found using the links below.

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Mono

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Stereo

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Bob Dylan – Leave It Dry, Or Add Some Reverb?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else, on some tracks the mono pressing sounds like a demo.

It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully.

The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself?

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in mono, click here.

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in stereo, click here.

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