Top Artists – Neil Young

Neil Young – Old Ways

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More Country and Country Rock

  • This superb pressing of Old Ways boasts superb sound from start to finish
  • Big, full-bodied and energetic, with wonderfully present vocals – shocking for a recording from 1985
  • Neil’s unabashed country album is guaranteed to make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was in ’96
  • “… this turns out to be his most carefully crafted album since Comes a Time… Pretty amazing.” – Rolling Stone
  • “Old Ways [is]…cut in the style of Harvest and Comes a Time, but with a stronger country leaning. Young depends heavily on friends, especially for vocals – Waylon Jennings sings harmony…

This is Neil heading out to the sticks with his buddies, authentic country greats such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and others (nice friends to have), doing what Neil loves to do — making the music that HE wants to make, not the music that anyone else wants him to, including David Geffen and his lawyers. Old friend Ben Keith (a huge part behind the sound of Harvest) shows up with his pedal steel guitar on a couple of tracks.

This probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite Neil Young album, but when it sounds like it does here it sure makes a lot more sense than it did when we heard it on the more mediocre pressings. The MoFi is a muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the dark and disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the string arrangements from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t too veiled or smeary, of course. (more…)

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

More Neil Young

  • An early Reprise pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) Front Row Center sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • 4 stars: “[I]t sounds very much of a piece with Tonight’s the Night and On the Beach, albums that explored the troubled zeitgeist of America in the mid-’70s in a way few rockers had the courage to face. If the performances are often loose and ragged, they’re also brimming with emotional force… Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career… it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)

The Band – The Last Waltz

More of The Band

More Roots Rock LPs

  • A vintage Palm Tree pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all SIX sides
  • Sides two through six are rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
  • Features an A-list of brilliant artists, including Van Morrison, Ringo Star, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “It’s the Band’s ‘special guests’ who really make this set stand out — Muddy Waters’ ferocious version of ‘Mannish Boy’ would have been a wonder from a man half his age, Van Morrison sounds positively joyous on ‘Caravan,’ Neil Young and Joni Mitchell do well for their Canadian brethren, and Bob Dylan’s closing set finds him in admirably loose and rollicking form.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this triple album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • If you are more interested in the live album The Band recorded in 1972, we may have one in stock

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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More Stephen Stills

More Graham Nash

More Neil Young

  • An outstanding pressing with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • This live album gives you the “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four! (more…)

Neil Young and the Limits of Expert Advice

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for Zuma

Richard Feynman gave a series of lectures concerning the workings of the scientific method. Here is an excerpt from one of them that I would like you to keep in mind as you read the discussion below.

“Now I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law. In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it (audience laughter), no, don’t laugh, that’s the truth. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.

“If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is … If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

Back in 2015 a mastering engineer by the name of Phil Brown contacted me in reference to a Hot Stamper pressing of Neil Young’s Zuma he had seen in our mailer. (Apologies in advance for not giving out the stamper numbers; we frown on that sort of thing around here.) He wrote:

  Hey Tom,   

I see it’s a featured disc in the newsletter. I’m curious what the matrix numbers are since I mastered it. (more…)

The Stills-Young Band – Long May You Run

More Stephen Stills

More Neil Young

  • An early Reprise pressing that boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both of these sides are richer and smoother than practically all of what we played, with lovely studio space for the band to stretch out into
  • This copy is big and clear in a way so few are, which means it’s getting the sound right in the most important areas
  • The wonderfully present and breathy vocals are a clear indication that there is simply more information on these sides than almost all the others we played in our shootout
  • If you’re a fan of these two gentleman, this title from 1976 is surely of interest (more…)

Buffalo Springfield / Again – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

More of the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Music Does the Driving

On even the best copies I regret to say there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album, just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear.

Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

More Neil Young

More Country and Country Rock

  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like few that we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one, the second track, The Old Homestead, has an especially intimate vocal worth checking out.

Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two, Stayin’ Power.

This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD, I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable.

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Neil Young / Harvest – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Pressing Sound?

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for Harvest

How does the heavy vinyl sound? We have no idea, never played one.

Actually, we do have an idea. Although we’ve never auditioned the heavy vinyl pressing of Harvest, we have played the newly remastered After the Gold Rush. We concluded that this is a reissue series that holds very little appeal for us as audiophiles. Some excerpts from our review for ATGR follow.

We know what the good pressings of the album sound like, we play them regularly, and this newly remastered vinyl is missing almost everything that makes the album essential to any Right Thinking Music Lover’s collection.

We can summarize the sound of this awful record in one word: boring. Since some of you may want to know more than that we’ll be happy to break it down for you a bit further.

What It Does Right

It’s tonally correct.

Can’t think of anything else…

What It Does Wrong

Where to begin?

It has no real space or ambience. When you play this record it sounds as if they must have recorded it in a heavily padded studio. Somehow the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s classic albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this audiophile remastering have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one.

In addition, the record never gets loud. The good pressings get very loud. They rock, they’re overflowing with energy.

And, lastly, there’s no real weight to the bottom end. The Whomp Factor on this new pressing is practically non-existent. The low end of the originals is huge, deep and powerful.

The Bottom Line

This new Heavy Vinyl pressing is boring beyond all understanding. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for it. If Neil Young actually had anything to do with it he should be ashamed of himself.

If you want a good copy of the album we have them on the site from time to time. If you can’t afford our Hot Stampers, please don’t waste your money on this one. I have an old CD from 30 years ago, and it is dramatically better than this LP.

Pass / Fail

We think the Heavy Vinyl pressing of After the Gold Rush is so awful that whatever supporters it may have — and there are surely some who have spoken well of it on audiophile forums somewhere, having seen the most ridiculously bad audiophile records touted again and again — are failing utterly in this hobby in one or both of the following ways.

They either cannot reproduce its shortcomings, or, having reproduced them, they have failed to recognize them.

Either one spells trouble. One or both should act as a wake up call of the most pressing kind. We explain what we mean by this kind of failure in more detail here:

Some records are so wrong, or are so lacking in qualities that are crucial to the reproduction of Hi-Fidelity sound — qualities typically found in abundance on the right vintage pressings — that the supporters of these records are failing fundamentally to judge them correctly. We call these records Pass-Fail.

Tea for the Tillerman on the new 45 may be substandard in almost every way, but it is not a Pass-Fail pressing. It lacks one thing above all others, Tubey Magic, so if your system has an abundance of that quality, the way many vintage tube systems do, the new pressing may be quite listenable and enjoyable. Those whose systems can play the record and not notice this important shortcoming are not exactly failing. They most likely have a system that is heavily colored and not very revealing, but it is not a system that is necessarily hopeless or unmusical.

A system that can play the MoFi of Aja without revealing to the listener how wrong it is must necessarily be at another level of bad entirely. A stereo of such poor quality is clearly a failure, what else could it be?

My system in the ’80s played the MoFi Aja just fine. Looking back on it now, I realize my system was doing more wrong than right. (Having very poorly-developed critical listening skills played a big part in my apparent satisfaction with both the MoFi pressing and the sound of my stereo in general.)

Today’s incarnation of that awful MoFi is the Cisco pressing, and yes, some folks are as clueless these days as I was in 1982.

Like all Self-Taught Audiophiles, I had a lousy teacher. I didn’t know it at the time — how could I? — but I had a very long way to go.

Some of the lessons I learned along the way, lessons you may find helpful in your own personal audio journey, can be found here.

The dramatic audio progress we’ve made in our 35 years in the record business, playing and selling thousands of audiophile quality vinyl LPs, is what has allowed us to recognize just how second- and third-rate most Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings really are.

Head to head with a good vintage LP — those you see pictured below, for example — they are simply not competitive. We think the new Harvest is unlikely to be worth our time, but if you have a copy of the album and like the sound of it, please send it to us so that we can hear it for ourselves We will put it up against the amazing sounding vintage pressings we offer and report our findings, whatever they turn out to be.

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Neil Young / Old Ways – Another Anadisq Disaster

More of the Music of Neil Young

More Country and Country Rock

Some time in the 2000s we reviewed this pressing from 1996.

The MoFi is a 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.

We guarantee any Hot Stamper LP will make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was even as far back as 1996, the stone age in audio, or your money back including shipping.

As of 2015, this label may have entered a new and even more disgraceful era, but considering how bad their records have been from the very start, (something that should be obvious to any audiophile with a high quality playback system, the kind of system that should have no difficulty exposing the manifold shortcomings of their remastered pressings), how much lower can they possibly fall?

Only time will tell!


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Here’s a good question:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:

More Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.

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