Top Artists – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These early pressings can be killer when you find one like this – they’re clearly more lively, more transparent, and richer, with dramatically more immediacy in the midrange so that Dylan’s voice is front and center and in the room with you
  • You would be hard pressed to find a copy that sounds this good and plays this quietly
  • 5 stars: “With Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it’s not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Outlaw Blues”; it’s that he’s exploding with imagination throughout the record.”

NOTE: There is a mark that plays haflway through track five about eight times at a moderate level.

You may be aware that it is hard to find a 360 Columbia Stereo pressing from 1965 that plays any quieter!

It’s tough to find copies of this album that give you all the tubey richness and warmth that this music needs to sound its best. Too many copies seem to be EQ’d to put the vocals way up front, an approach that renders Dylan’s voice hard and edgy. Copies like that sound impressive at first blush (“Wow, he’s really IN THE ROOM!”) but become fatiguing in short order. When you get a copy like this one that’s smooth, relaxed and natural, the music sounds so good that you forget about the sound and just get lost in the music.

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Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on ALL FOUR sides, this 360 stereo pressing was one of the better copies of Blonde On Blonde we played in our last shootout
  • You won’t believe how big, rich and full 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 – Empire Burlesque

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  • A truly KILLER pressing of Empire Burlesque, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too – folks, this one is As Good As It Gets!
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Say what you want about Empire Burlesque — at the very least, it’s the most consistent record Bob Dylan has made since Blood on the Tracks, even if it isn’t quite as interesting as Desire. However, it is a better set of songs, all deriving from the same place and filled with subtle gems… this is as good as Dylan gets in his latter days.”

This is one of the better-sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)

Bob Dylan / Another Side of Bob Dylan – Sundazed Mono Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

Another bad Sundazed record. Most of the Dylan catalog they did is just awful, regardless of what the audiophile reviewers at the time may have written to the contrary. 

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Letter of the Week – John Wesley Harding Has Playback Issues

John Wesley Harding

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

  Hey Tom,   

So many great records in this batch, but some solid misses too — details coming. John Wesley Harding for example sounds great but has some serious distortion through much of side two; a bit ’too vintage’, in spite of the sound it seems once to have had.

Dear Sir,

Definitely check your front end set-up on this one, there is no actual distortion on the record, just sound that may be hard to reproduce. Make sure you have a recently replaced cartridge for one. Carts that get old have a problem with records like these. We know, we replace our cartridge every three months when hard to play records start straining or getting congested or gritty. The sheen of massed strings, a sound critical to the better orchestral recordings we play, are impossible to reproduce correctly with an older-than-it-should-be unit. A fresh cartridge can make all the difference in the sound of  difficult to reproduce records.

Keeping a cart too long is a mistake 100% of the audiophiles I have known in my life make, so I assume lots of other audiophiles do too.

The other explanation could be that our microfine tip is playing deeper in the groove and missing whatever damage is encoded above it, damage which may have been caused by the older cartridges of the day that were used to play the record by the previous owner or owners. We can’t say it doesn’t happen.

We can say that if you bring this record back, the next person to buy it has a roughly 98% chance of keeping it. Maybe one out of fifty or so ever come back a second time. At least that’s how it has worked out over the last twenty years.


Further Reading

Record Playback Advice

Turntable Setup Advice

Bob Dylan / John Wesley Harding

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • A wonderful sounding original Columbia 360 Stereo pressing of this pivotal Dylan LP, with insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Here is the bass, richness & vocal presence that make John Wesley Harding one of the better sounding Dylan records from the late ’60s
  • The title track, Dear Landlord, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, All Along the Watchtower and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are but a small sampling of the more memorable songs here
  • 5 stars: “The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late ’60s.”

While Dylan’s albums may not be big-production sonic spectacles, hearing these great songs sound so intimate and lifelike on a top quality pressing can be a sublime experience. We should know; we enjoyed the hell out of this copy.

Believe us, John Wesley Harding is one of the tougher nuts to crack in the Dylan canon. Most pressings are a veiled, smeary nightmare. The harmonica sounds noticeably squawky and unpleasant on the majority of copies we’ve played over the years; you really have to work to find a copy with the warmth, smoothness and correct tonality to get Dylan’s voice to sound right. (more…)

Bob Dylan Listening Test – Here’s One to Wet Your Whistle

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What to Listen For – Transparency Vs Opacity

Presenting today’s Home Audio Exercise. Play your copy of Nashville Skyline — on speakers, no fair cheating on headphones! — and see if you can answer this question. At the beginning of one of the songs on this album two sounds are heard, neither of which is produced by an instrument, but could be said to have been produced by a singer. What are these two mysterious sounds?  

If you have a good copy of the record, a good stereo and the ability to listen critically, you should have no problem figuring out what these sounds are. When you do, drop us an email. Until we come up with a better prize, for now we can offer you an extra 10% off your next order.

Have fun. Once you hear it you will be pretty amazed that you never noticed it before. We sure were.

What’s most striking about this album is the sound of Johnny Cash’s voice in the duet he sings with Bob (we’re on a first name basis, don’t you know). I can’t remember when’s the last time I heard Johnny Cash sound better. The stuff he did for American Recordings had much to recommend it; the first album sounded especially good. It was practically Mono. But you just can’t beat a well produced, well engineered Columbia from this era. There’s a richness and a naturalness to the sound that has almost completely disappeared from the modern world of music. You really do have to go back to these old originals to find it. And then you have to find just the right old originals for it to be there. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Infidels

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  • An outstanding copy of Infidels with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, strong bass and plenty of space, this copy sounded just right to us
  • 4 stars: “… its writing is closer to Dylan’s peak of the mid-’70s, and some of the songs here… are minor classics, capturing him reviving his sense of social consciousness and his gift for poetic, elegant love songs.”

This is one of the better sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)

Bob Dylan / Hard Rain

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  • An outstanding vintage stereo pressing of Dylan’s live 1976 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • “At times, Hard Rain sounds bloated, featuring performances that are sometimes too ragged; though knowing the subtext of the events, some moments feel triumphant: musical and personal. We may not know Bob Dylan, but it’s an awfully close look at a stranger.” – Magnet Magazine

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Bob Dylan – Oh Mercy

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last
  • These sides were doing just about everything right – they’re clean, clear and spacious with weight down low and strong vocal presence
  • “Oh Mercy was hailed as a comeback, not just because it had songs noticeably more meaningful than anything Bob Dylan had recently released, but because Daniel Lanois’ production gave it cohesion… at the time, this production made it seem like the equivalent of his ’60s records, meaning that its artiness was cutting edge, not portentous…”

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