Top Artists – Johnny Cash

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline

More Bob Dylan

More Country Rock Recordings

  • 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.”
  • This is a Must Own Dylan Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

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

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Good Test Records for Transparency

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

More Johnny Cash

xxxxx

  • 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

More Johnny Cash

More Country and Country Rock

  • 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

More Johnny Cash

More Country and Country Rock

  • At Folsom Prison returns to the site on this early Columbia 360 Stereo pressing with incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It ain’t easy to find great sounding Johnny Cash records, but this copy had the sound we were looking for
  • This one is richer, smoother and sweeter, with lots of body and excellent transparency
  • Cash’s vocals sound right here – present, full and natural with virtually none of the hardness, strain and edge you get on the typical copy
  • It literally took us YEARS to find a copy that was worthy enough to put on the site, so don’t miss out on this one if you’re a fan
  • 5 stars: “…At Folsom Prison is the quintessential Johnny Cash album, the place where his legend burns bright and eternal.”

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, but not this one!

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 band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, 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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of At Folsom Prison Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For On At Folsom Prison

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Standard Operating Procedures

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and so on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up.

Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols developed over the course of many years to ensure that the sonic grades we assign to our Hot Stampers are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

(more…)

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

More of the Music of Johnny Cash

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 here — present, full and natural with virtually none of the hardness, strain and edge you get on the typical copy.

Like we’ve said, it’s mighty tough to find Johnny Cash records that sound right, so don’t miss out on this one if you’re a fan! It literally took us YEARS to find a copy that was worthy enough to put on the site.

(more…)

Johnny Cash – The Christmas Spirit

More Johnny Cash

xxxxx

  • 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.” 

(more…)

Johnny Cash – Blood, Sweat and Tears

More Johnny Cash

xxxxx

  • 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.”

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

More of the Music of Carole King

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.

Johnny Cash – The Sound of Johnny Cash

More Johnny Cash

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)