This very old commentary from an early Hot Stamper listing (2005?) for CSN’s debut makes note of some specific qualities in the recording that are a good test for midrange transparency and naturalness.
Here are some other albums with specific advice on what you should be listening for.
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 — like most of them — is a worthless record.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Listen to the section of the song that starts with Stills’ line “Can I tell it like it is,” with Nash and Crosby behind him — it’s clearly a generation of tape down from what came before and what comes after. The voices and the acoustic guitars just seem to lose their immediacy and transient impact for no apparent reason. Wha’ happen?
It’s the mix, folks, and no mastering engineer can fix it. This album is full of parts and pieces of various songs that are occasionally problematical in that way. Recognize them for what they are, little bumps in the road, a road that led ultimately to one of the greatest pop albums ever made.
On the hot copies the best sounding material will sound amazing, and the lesser sounding material (i.e., the more poorly recorded or mixed bits and pieces) will sound as good as they can sound.
That’s the nature of the beast. It is what it is. The more intensely you listen to a record like this — a true Rock Classic from the 60s, and one we listen to very intensely when doing these shootouts — the more you will notice these kinds of recording artifacts. It’s what gives them “character.”
It’s also what allows you to play a record like this on a regular basis and still find something new in it after all these years.
We’ve made some recent improvements to the stereo and room here at Better Records and I can tell you I heard things in this recording I never knew were there.
What could be more fun than that? The music never gets old, and neither does the sound.