Top Artists – Crosby, Still, Nash and (sometimes) Young

Glyn Johns Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

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GLYN JOHNS is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Glyn Johns engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.

It was only about 2000 or so that we discovered what an amazing engineer and producer Glyn Johns is. A Hot Stamper of the first Eagles album on the original Asylum White Label blew my mind, produced and engineered by none other, so I quickly started looking around for other records he might have had a hand in. How about Who’s Next? Let It Bleed? On The Border (my personal favorite Eagles album)? Led Zeppelin’s debut? And of course, Sticky Fingers, a record that I’ve always known had the potential for great sound — you can hear it buried under all that bad vinyl and groove wear. You can hear it; you just can’t enjoy it through the noise.

And just recently I was reading the liner notes for Graham Nash’s solo debut, Songs For Beginners, one of the best sounding rock records ever made, and whose name should I see in the credits as mixing engineer, thirty plus years after I first fell in love with the album? The man himself of course. Here’s what we wrote:

The sound is of course superb throughout, in the best tradition of Crosby Stills and Nash’s classic early recordings: transparent, smooth and sweet vocals, with loads of midrange magic ; deep punchy bass (wait until you hear Better Days!); lovely extension on the top to capture the shimmer of the cymbals and harmonic trails of the acoustic guitars; with the whole balanced superbly by one of our all-time heroes, Glyn Johns.

Letter of the Week – Deja Vu

One of our good customers had this to say about a Hot Stamper pressing he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom,   

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the Crosby Still, Nash & Young Deja Vu White Hot stamper A+++ on both sides and absolutely dead quiet. I think It’s a bargain at $800.00. It absolutely trashes my Mofi version into bits and pieces. I don’t even want to mention the Classic records version because it’s painful to listen to. I’m writing up this record today and the Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Live at the Sands tomorrow.

Thanks,

Naz

Naz,

The Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Deja Vu are, as you say, practically unlistenable once you know what that record should really sound like, and now that you have a Hot Stamper pressing, you definitely know just how good the record can sound. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice.

Hey, I was fooled back in the mid-’80s – I used to demonstrate my system with the MoFi Deja Vu! How screwed up is that?

Let’s just say we have made a lot of progress in audio since then. We’ve learned a great deal about record collecting too, practically all of it derived from the thousands of shootouts we’ve conducted over the last twenty years, using tens of thousands of different pressings.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Deja Vu – The Joe Gastwirt CD Is a DOA Abomination

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More than a decade ago we wrote:

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you. We of course want nothing to do with it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

And it’s not the fault of digital. There is an earlier CD, not cut by Joe Gastwirt, that sounds amazingly good. I own a few of them and pick them up whenever I see one. And Gastwirt’s version of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album is every bit as bad. If I see Joe Gastwirt’s name on a CD I put it back where I found it.

So there you have it, Live and Learn circa 2016. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – In 2016 We Learned We Were Wrong about their Masterpiece

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There are two areas in which we would like to amend some of the previous comments we’ve made about Deja Vu. The first has to do with early pressings. Many years ago we wrote the following:

As we noted in previous commentary, the originals are uniformly awful. Want some inside info on stampers to avoid, free of charge? C and D are pretty bad news most of the time.

Although that’s still true — Deja Vu is a very difficult album to find with good sound no matter what stampers you have — we now know that there are very good sounding copies, Shootout Winning copies in fact, with early stampers.

That’s area number one. Area number two is part of this old piece of advice.

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you. We of course want nothing to do with it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

(more…)

Graham Nash’s Wild Tales

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1974. 

Like the man’s first album, no one pays much attention to this music nowadays, but Better Records is trying to remedy that situation by making available to the audiophile public numerous copies of this album, every one of which is guaranteed to turn you into a fan. This is not new music, but it may be new music to you, so “discovering” it will be every bit as much fun for you in 2016 as it was for me in 1973.

This is not an “audiophile” record. It ain’t never going to make the TAS List or get a mention by anyone in the Audiophile Press Corps. This is a record for music lovers who care about good sound. If you’re reading this, that’s you. Us too, and proud of it.

From one audiophile to another, this is a great record that belongs in your collection. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Crosby Stills & Nash – with Bonus CD Advice

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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 of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album.

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers. We wish that were not the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. (His Deja Vu is just as bad.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young? Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange reproduction — like most of them — is a worthless record.
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Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young / Deja Vu – Money Can Buy You Happiness

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A testimonial from a customer for his Hot Stamper Deja Vu discusses what it takes to get good sound from your stereo. (Hint: it’s a good sounding record, duh.)

I have come to a conclusion – no matter whether I had the best $50,000 amps in the world or a $29,000 phono supply or the $150,000 Wilson Alexandria speakers or all that other incredible stuff that audiophiles lust for – not one of those items can make a shit record sound anything but like a shit record. There is no overcoming the original source material that you play on your stereo system.

Tom:

I received my Deja Vu 2 Pack yesterday. Even though I have not yet listened to all of the mother load that I got on Marathon week – I had to take a listen to this tonight.

Whew – Mother of God!

I have never heard even a semi-decent copy of this album before on either LP or CD – although the music is outstanding and chock full of memories for anyone my age. This white hot stamper is transcendental nirvana. Tom was not kidding when he said master tape sound. The vocals and instrumentals were so alive it was unbelievable. Some of the songs were so good that I just tilted my head back and opened my mouth real wide and just zoned out. Crosby’s vocal on Almost Cut My Hair is masterful. I took your advice and played it twice at even louder volumes. Yikes – better than acapulco gold. Neil Young’s Country Girl was so huge – a vast wall of sound with every single voice and instrument standing out.
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Graham Nash’s Wild Tales and Their Mysteries Many and Deep

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What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a lack of presence. Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies, or was it bad vinyl that couldn’t hold the energy of the stamper, or perhaps some stampers just weren’t cut right — these are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one thinks about them. As we like to say at every turn, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.

Not surprisingly, we’ve found that cleaning them and playing them seems to work the best. They work the best because nothing else works at all.

What More Can You Ask For

What happens when you clean and play a bunch of copies? You come to recognize what the best ones are doing what the average ones aren’t. And the effect of that understanding on this particular title was simply to recognize the nature of this project, that these are a great bunch of well-crafted songs played with energy and enthusiasm by a very talented group of top flight musicians, totally in sync with each other. This is what they were trying to do, and really, what more do you want?
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Deja Vu in (Awful) Mono Sells fror $1200 and People Complain About Our Prices?

 

A mono copy of Deja Vu (which no doubt sounds terrible; I had one once) went for $1200 on ebay a few years back!

Oh, but it’s an auction, so I guess that makes it all right. The seller didn’t set the price, the market did.

But the market sets our prices too. We can’t sell a record for more than what the customer is willing to pay. What exactly is the difference?

Man, I sure would love to get $4k+ for one of our killer Hot Stamper pressings of Deja Vu. I guarantee our copy sounds a whole lot better. And the music is the same, right? So what did you get for your additional three thousand dollars?

A nice record to put on the shelf.

Which you could get from us for three thousand dollars less.

 

 

Letter of the Week – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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

Hey Tom, 

Tom, I just listened to the White Hot Stamper (A+++) CSNY album. Amazing. I had no idea that vinyl could produce this sound. Worth every penny. The sound at low volume is amazing. The sound at high volume is spectacular. The clarity, the depth, the sound stage are very rich and alive with color and presence.

Thank you! I am now going to investigate your piece on the cleaning process.

Rocco (more…)