Top Artists – Joan Baez

Joan Baez – Another TAS Listed Anadisq Disaster

Hot Stamper Pressings of Folk Rock Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

Sonic Grade: F

Mobile Fidelity released their version of Diamonds and Rust on Anadisq in 1995, and if you want to hear a pressing that’s not murky, compressed and opaque, you would be wise to avoid their Heavy Vinyl Half-Speed.

Somehow it ended up on the TAS Super Disc List, but we could find nothing “super” about it. We felt it more properly belonged on our list of Records that Have No Business Being Called Super Discs.

It was a real muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered by this awful label during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity, which, considering the consistently dismal quality of their output, is really saying something.

Ken Lee Strikes Again

Many of the worst of them were mastered by a Mr. Ken Lee. If you happen to come across a record in a store with his name in the credits, or his initials in the deadwax, you are best advised to drop it back in the bin and keep moving. Anything else is just asking for trouble.

To be fair, MoFi made some reasonably good sounding records too. For those of you whose budget is on the limited side, if you find an affordable copy of any of these MoFis, you are probably not wasting your money.

Our advice for the longest time has been that, while you are actively improving your stereo, room and setup, the best way to use your remastered audiophile pressings is as stopgaps and benchmarks. As you make more and more progress, eventually you will find the vintage pressing that can show you what your audiophile pressings don’t do well, or at the very least, not as well as they should.

They were falling short in many ways for all the years you’d owned them, but until you improved your playback, those problems were hidden from you.

As your stereo improves, you can actually chart your success by how many of these kinds of records you are able to eliminate from your collection. Once you can count the number of modern reissues you still own on one or at most two hands, there is a good chance you have reached a much higher level of playback quality.

Although I had a long way to go in this hobby in the early days of my audiophile record business, even then I could tell how bad the Anadisq series that Mobile Fidelity released in the ’90s was. They produced one awful sounding record after another, with not a single winner that I knew of. I sold them — my bad — but I sure never recommended them or had anything good to say about them.

The typical album MoFi remastered on Anadisq suffered from many or most of the laundry list of shortcomings you see below. If you want to avoid records with these faults, we advise you to avoid any of the records we’ve linked to here.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Audiophile Hall of Shame, along with more than 250 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.

Is this the worst sounding pressing of Diamonds and Rust ever made?

That’s hard to say. But it is the worst sounding version of the album we’ve ever played, and that should be fair warning for any audiophile contemplating spending money on this kind of trash.

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Joan Baez / Diamonds and Rust

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it brings Baez’s 1975 release to life on this early A&M pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This side two is rich, full, warm, and sweet, with wonderfully full-bodied, present and breathy vocals, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • 5 stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”


Joan Baez on Nautilus – The Half-Speed that Beats Most Pressings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Folk Rock Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

Sonic Grade: B+

This review is from many years ago, at least ten I would think, so take it for what it’s worth.

One of the best Half Speed Mastered Records we have ever played.

In our recent shootout we were shocked — shocked — to hear how good our old copy of Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus sounded head to head against some of the best pressings we could find.

If I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears, I wouldn’t have believed it.  (more…)

Various Artists / Woodstock Two

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  • This early Cotillion pressing ROCKS with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • With Mint Minus Minus vinyl and no marks that can be heard, you will have a VERY hard time finding a copy that plays this well
  • 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
  • Fifteen amazing live tracks from Jimi Hendrix; Jefferson Airplane; The Butterfield Blues Band; Joan Baez; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Melanie; Mountain; and Canned Heat
  • “If anything, this set, more concise and more focused, is a better bet than its predecessor.” — All Music


Various Artists / Woodstock

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  • 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
  • “As potent a musical time capsule as ever existed, it captures the three-day, 1969 concert event that united close to half a million members of what came to be known as the ‘Woodstock Generation’. It topped the Billboard Charts for four weeks and sold two million copies.”

You will have a very hard time finding a quieter copy!

Folks, it was a struggle, let me tell you! Not as much of a struggle as putting on the concert itself to be sure, but a struggle for those of us charged with finding good sound on this famously badly recorded album.

First off there are six sides to play for every copy.

Secondly the sound is problematical at best; figuring out what the best copies do well that the run-of-the-mill copies don’t takes quite a bit of concentration, and one has to stay focused for a long time (most of the day in fact). After a while it can really start to wear on your nerves. (more…)

Joan Baez – One Day At A Time

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More Pure Folk Recordings

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout- exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with Joan reproduced as solid and as real as only the best vintage vinyl pressings can present her
  • Continuing her foray into country folk, Baez collaborated with a host of greats on this album, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pete Seeger, Steve Young, Willie Nelson and more
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One Day at a Time… was also startlingly new and daring at the time. Today it seems like no big deal, but in 1970 very few singers coming out of the folk scene as Baez did were reaching out to Willie Nelson (“One Day at a Time”) and even the Rolling Stones (“No Expectations”) for repertory, much less putting them on the same album with music by old leftist composers like Earl Robinson (“Joe Hill”), and then interspersing those songs with traditional country numbers.”


Joan Baez – Joan Baez in Concert

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

  • Joan’s live release from 1962 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • We just did a big shootout for this album, compiled from different shows Baez performed in 1962, and we’re pleased to report that the sound was SUPERB on both sides of this early stereo Vanguard pressing
  • So transparent, open, and spacious – nuances and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed are now revealed as never before
  • 4 stars: “In Concert, Pt. 1 captures the undisputed queen of folk music at the onset of her fabled career… The exhaustive selection of material represents her diverse influences… Baez’s performances still retain freshness and vitality after four [make that five] decades.”


Joan Baez – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

  • Stunning sound on this original Vanguard stereo pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it
  • Glorious All Tube chain recording quality, kicked up a few levels on this pressing because it beat all comers on side one and came in close on side two, with vinyl that is going to play as quietly as any early pressing ever will
  • One of Joan Baez’s best sounding albums in our experience, shockingly free of artificiality – play it against your favorite female vocal to hear the difference
  • 140 weeks on the charts and Five AMG Stars: “…a brace of traditional songs (most notably “East Virginia” and “Mary Hamilton”) with an urgency and sincerity that makes the listener feel as though they were being sung for the first time…”

This former member of the TAS list is the kind of recording that has everything going for it: Golden Age equipment in a live acoustic with a simple arrangement for voice and guitar (or two).

The voice and the material come together nicely. If I were to recommend only one Joan Baez record it would surely have to be this one. Diamonds and Rust is a nice pop album but I think if you go back and play it today you will find that it sounds somewhat dated. Good folk tunes like the ones found on this album, however, never seem to go out of style.

The record sounds like a live demo session because that is exactly what it is:

In 1983 Baez described the making of the album to Rolling Stone’s Kurt Loder:”…It took four days. We recorded it in the ballroom of some hotel in New York, way up by the river. We could use the room every day except Tuesday, because they played Bingo there on Tuesdays. It was just me on this filthy rug. There were two microphones, one for the voice and one for the guitar. I just did my set. It was probably all I knew how to do at that point. I did ‘Mary Hamilton’ once and that was it…That’s the way we made ’em in the old days. As long as a dog didn’t run through the room or something, you had it…”


Joan Baez – Joan

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

In 1967 Vanguard still knew how to record pure, rich, sweet, Tubey Magical analog. Some of these tracks are amazing sounding. Once a year we run across a clean stereo copy of this album. (With such complex arrangements we don’t feel the mono could do the album justice. You may feel otherwise.)

This pressing appears to be the original stereo label, although with so many Vanguard labels — dozens by my count — this could easily be an early reissue. The paste-on rough cardboard back is a good sign of its age.

Side One

Double Plus, with the remarkably innovative reworking of Eleanor Rigby.

Side Two

White Hot, shootout winning and just plain Hard To Fault (HTF). The second track, a traditional folk song, has Demo Disc quality sound. If you are in the market for a natural sounding female vocal you will have a hard time finding a better one. (more…)

Joan Baez – 5

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

Natural, unprocessed, clear, breathy vocal reproduction is the key to any Joan Baez album, and this side two will clearly demonstrate just how well-recorded Joan’s voice (and guitar) were by the Vanguard engineering team. We heard immediately that this side one was excellent. We had no idea the sound could get as good as it is on side two. It takes the sound and music to an entirely new level.

With just guitar, vocal and occasional cello, the “truth” of recording quality is hard to fault. After only a few moments there’s really no sound, only music. (more…)