The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- This early A&M pressing was doing pretty much everything right, with two both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades - fairly quiet vinyl too
- The sound is rich, full, warm, and sweet, the vocals are full-bodied and breathy, and the acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975
- 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…"
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This vintage A&M 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 Diamonds & Rust 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 1975
- 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.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that -- a copy like this one -- it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We're Listening For On Diamonds & Rust
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer-Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:
- Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant)
- Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule)
- Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful)
- Spaciousness (the better copies have wonderful studio ambience and space)
- And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated Folkie Pop recording from 1975.
The sound varies quite a bit from track to track, no doubt a result of each recording having to be tailored to the different groups of studio cats and the necessity for various overdubs -- strings, pedal steel guitars, even some tasteful(!) synths.
Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem.
Another thing this album has going for it is top-notch musicians, including Larry Carlton, Tom Scott, David Paich, Wilton Felder, and Better Records fave Joe Sample.
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.
- Diamonds & Rust
- Fountain Of Sorrow
- Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer
- Children and All That Jazz
- Simple Twist Of Fate
- Blue Sky
- Hello In There
- Winds Of The Old Days
- I Dream Of Jeannie / Danny Boy (Medley)
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
With the Vietnam War winding down, Joan Baez, who had devoted one side of her last album to her trip to Hanoi, delivered the kind of commercial album A&M Records must have wanted when it signed her three years earlier.
But she did it on her own terms, putting together a session band of contemporary jazz veterans like Larry Carlton, Wilton Felder, and Joe Sample, and mixing a wise selection from the work of current singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne and John Prine with pop covers of Stevie Wonder and the Allman Brothers Band, and an unusually high complement of her own writing.
A&M, no doubt recalling the success of her cover of the Band’s "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," released her version of the Allmans’ "Blue Sky" as a single, and it got halfway up the charts.
But the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece on the singer’s favorite subject, her relationship with Bob Dylan. Outdoing the current crop of confessional singer/songwriters at soul baring, Baez sang to Dylan, reminiscing about her ’60s love affair with him intensely, affectionately, and unsentimentally. It was her finest moment as a songwriter and one of her finest performances, period, and when A&M finally released it on 45, it made the Top 40, propelling the album to gold status.
But those who bought the disc for "Diamonds & Rust" also got to hear "Winds of the Old Days," in which Baez forgave Dylan for abandoning the protest movement, as well as the jazzy "Children and All That Jazz," a delightful song about motherhood, and the wordless vocals of "Dida," a duet with Joni Mitchell accompanied by Mitchell’s backup band, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. The cover songs were typically accomplished, making this the strongest album of Baez’s post-folk career.