Top Artists – Johnny Cash

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…)

Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash

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  • An outstanding vintage stereo pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout for Cash’s first Columbia album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are Tubey Magical yet clear, with plenty of performance energy and a lovely musical quality that’s noticeably missing from many of the copies we’ve played over the years (and no doubt the Heavy Vinyl pressing)
  • For a country album from 1958, “Fabulous” is very well recorded, with consistently engaging songs sung from the heart
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What makes it so entertaining are the songs themselves. From ‘Don’t Take Your Guns to Town’ and ‘Frankie’s Man, Johnny’ to ‘Pickin’ Time’ and ‘The Troubadour,’ the album is filled with first-rate songs.”

We had a wealth of different pressings to play — original 6 Eye stereos, one mono (with a crude and unappealing side one but excellent side two), some later Columbias, and even some of the Special Edition brown label editions which appear to be from the ’70s.

This was one of the better copies we heard. It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Johnny Cash singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 61 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

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  • Here is a KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) original Columbia 360 pressing of Cash’s legendary live album, with Shootout Winning sound on side two (where Boy Named Sue can be found) and reasonably quite vinyl
  • What made this side two really stand out from the pack was its combination of richness and clarity – take it from us, it’s not easy to find a pressing that gives you both the way this one does
  • Forget the ’70s reissues and whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical you-are-there immediacy of Johnny Cash live in concert, this is the only way to do it
  • So many great songs: Wanted Man, I Walk the Line, San Quentin, A Boy Named Sue, Folsom Prison Blues and more
  • 5 stars: “…listen to “A Boy Named Sue,” … rescued by the wild-eyed, committed performance by Cash, where it sounds like he really was set on murdering that son of a bitch who named him Sue. He sounds that way throughout the record… “

We had a blast listening to this album. Cash’s banter between the songs is practically as good as the music itself! (more…)

Johnny Cash / Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Two great sides on quiet vinyl! We’ve been trying to find good copies of this fun album for ages, but it wasn’t until recently that we heard this music sound right. Most copies are just too thin and edgy with lots of strain and hardness on the vocals. This one is richer, smoother and sweeter, with lots of body and excellent transparency. It ain’t easy to find great sounding Johnny Cash records, but this copy had the sound we were looking for.

Cash’s vocals sound Right On The Money here — present, full and natural with virtually none of the hardness, strain and edge you get on the typical copy. (more…)

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.”

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Johnny Cash – The Christmas Spirit

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  • A KILLER sounding Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a superb Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end and a lovely musical quality that’s missing from most copies
  • “Released in 1963, The Christmas Spirit was Johnny Cash’s first full-length holiday-themed album. Featured were four original songs by Cash, along with eight covers including takes of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Silent Night,” “Blue Christmas,” and others. This is a solidly enjoyable entry from Cash, and a must-have for die-hard aficionados of the country icon.” 

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Johnny Cash – Blood, Sweat and Tears

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  • A stunning copy of Cash’s 1963 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are just about AS Good As It Gets — full-bodied, Tubey Magical and super present with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “The delivery is plain, simple, and never overly sentimental, but the thing that makes the record really work is the fact that the album consists almost entirely of first-rate material, without much of the unintentionally corny history lessons that weigh down most of Johnny Cash’s Americana records.”

This vintage Columbia 360 Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the legendary Man in Black, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Listening to the copies I purchased from you felt like I had never heard them before. Absolutely incredible.”

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

  Hey Tom, 

BTW, given my age, I have probably heard Carole King’s Tapestry and Blood Sweat & Tears – BST a hundred or more times each. Listening to the copies I purchased from you felt like I had never heard them before. Absolutely incredible. Thank you. (more…)

Johnny Cash – The Sound of Johnny Cash

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Big, rich, tubey and open, this is some of the best sound Columbia achieved for its country records in the ’60s
  • The vocal presence and freedom from coloration will put a very real sounding Johnny Cash front and center in your listening room
  • “What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona.”

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