Top Artists – Stephen Stills

Crosby Stills & Nash – Critical Listening Exercise

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

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, a little bump in the road of the recording, no more, no less.

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 we listen very intensely around here 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.

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Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session

More Al Kooper

More Stephen Stills

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Super Session sound this good
  • Engineered by Roy Halee, the man behind one of the best sounding rock records of all time (the self-titled Blood, Sweat and Tears album), the analog sound here is especially dynamic and spacious
  • For fans of BS&T’s first album (and everybody else), Super Session is a Must Own
  • “Season of the Witch” is crazy good sounding on this vintage Columbia 360 pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age… This is a super session indeed.”
  • If you’re a fan of any or all of these guys, this vintage pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Detail on Crosby, Stills and Nash – Holy Grail or Audio Trap?

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash

Detail may be the Holy Grail to some audiophiles, but detail can be a trap we all too easily fall into if we are not careful.

Tonal balance is the key. Without it no judgments about detail have any real value. 

One example: As good as the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing is, the guitar at the opening of Helplessly Hoping tells you everything you need to know about what’s missing. The guitar on the better Hot Stamper domestic copies has a transparency and harmonic integrity that cannot be found on Classic’s version.

The Classic gets the tonal balance right, but their guitar doesn’t have the subtlety and harmonic resolution of the real thing.

I’m laboring here to avoid the word detail, since many audiophiles like bright, phony sounding records because of all their wonderful “detail.” Patricia Barber’s albums come to mind.

The MoFi guys and the CD guys often fall into this trap.

Get the sound tonally balanced first, then see how much detail you have left.

Detail is not the end-all and be-all of audio. Those who think it is usually have systems that make my head hurt.

But most people will never know what they’re missing on Helplessly Hoping, because they will never have an amazing sounding copy of this album. The hot copies are just too rare.


THIS RECORD IS GOOD FOR TESTING

Midrange Congestion 

Midrange Presence 

Midrange Tonality

Transparency 

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars 

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

More David Crosby

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…)

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…)

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Self-Titled

More of the Music of David Crosby

 More of the Music of Stephen Stills

More of the Music of Graham Nash

  • An INSANELY GOOD copy of CS&N’s debut album with superb sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big and rich, the vocals breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the space and ambience
  • We love the album, but it is a cryin’ shame, as well as an indisputable fact, that few were mastered and pressed well, and that includes none of the originals in our experience
  • The reason you have not seen this title on the site for many, many years is simply that it is has become nearly impossible to find copies with the right stampers in audiophile playing condition
  • But the sound is GLORIOUS, hence the price
  • 5 stars: “…the harmonies are absolutely timeless, and the best material remains rock-solid. A definitive document of its era.”
  • This is a Must Own Hippie Folk Rock Masterpiece 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.

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers, let alone a killer White Hot Stamper like this one.

We wish that weren’t the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days, making this a very special copy indeed!

(Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. And his Deja Vu is just as bad.)

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Stephen Stills – Self-Titled

More Stephen Stills

  • With outstanding sound throughout, this copy of Still’s superb debut is doing just about everything right
  • Love the One You’re With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns – this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • A member of our Top 100 and a Rock Demo Disc on big speakers at loud levels
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Listening to this album three decades on, it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them.”

When we say it’s getting harder and harder to find clean copies of albums such as this in the bins of our local record stores, we are not kidding. (more…)

Crosby, Stills and Nash – CSN

More Crosby

More Stills

More Nash

  • An outstanding original copy of CS&N’s “comeback” album with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • The sound is big and relatively rich, the vocals breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the space and ambience – which of course are all qualities that Heavy Vinyl records have far too little of, and the main reason we have lost all respect for the bulk of them
  • Includes CS&N classics “Dark Star,” “Just A Song Before I Go,” and “Fair Game”
  • 4 stars: “It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time, and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work.”

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Crosby, Stills and Nash – Daylight Again

Hot Stampers of Crosby, Stills and Nash

More David Crosby / More Stephen Stills / More Graham Nash

  • This outstanding copy of Daylight Again (the last good record these guys would ever make) earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • This is the embodiment of the Classic CSN sound we love – rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear 
  • Stephen Barncard, one of our favorite recording engineers, no doubt deserves most of the credit
  • Allmusic on Wasted on the Way and Southern Cross: “Both were extracted as singles and became among the best-known tracks not only on Daylight Again, but also in the post-’60s CSN canon.”

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