Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A KILLER sounding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish - just shy of our Shootout Winner
- Both sides boast Tubey Magical richness, musical tonality and big bottom end
- Stage Fright and The Shape I'm In are among the most well-known tracks here and they sound out of this world on a copy like this
- 4 1/2 stars: "... their most nakedly confessional [album]. It was certainly different from their previous work, which had tended toward story-songs set in earlier times, but it was hardly less compelling for that."
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These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
Like any album from The Band, it's tough to find good sounding copies on decent vinyl. Anyone who's spent any time at all searching for a top-quality copy of Stage Fright knows that the sound is never going to be as good as the music.
That said, the best pressings have surprisingly good sound -- on the tracks that seem to be recorded with more attention to their audio fidelity. It takes a lot of work to find one that gets as many things right as this copy does. The overall sound is rich, full and natural. It just sounds right, and I'm not sure we can ask for much more than that.
This vintage Capitol 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 Stage Fright 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 1970
- 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
What We Listen For on Stage Fright
- 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.
Mint Minus Minus 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.
One thing that makes the hunt so difficult is that the first track never sounds very good. It took us a while to realize that much better sound could be found on the rest of the album, so don't despair if you play this copy and the opening number doesn't knock you out. It didn't knock us out either.
This song has the potential to be one of the best sounding on the entire album. It can be as big and open as anything The Band ever recorded. If only the whole album sounded like this...
Time to Kill
Just Another Whistle Stop
All la Glory
Shape I'm In
The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show
Daniel and the Sacred Harp
Stage Fright, the Band's third album, sounded on its surface like the group's first two releases, Music from Big Pink and The Band, employing the same dense arrangements with their mixture of a deep bottom formed by drummer Levon Helm and bassist Rick Danko, penetrating guitar work by Robbie Robertson, and the varied keyboard work of pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson, with Helm, Danko, and Manuel's vocals on top. But the songs this time around were far more personal, and, despite a nominal complacency, quite troubling.
Only "All La Glory," Robertson's song about the birth of his daughter, was fully positive. "Strawberry Wine" and "Sleeping" were celebrations of indolence, while "Time to Kill," as its title implied, revealed boredom while claiming romantic contentment. Several of the album's later songs seemed to be metaphors for trouble the group was encountering, with "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" commenting on the falseness of show business, "Daniel and the Sacred Harp" worrying about a loss of integrity, and the title song talking about the pitfalls of fortune and fame. "The Shape I'm In" was perhaps the album's most blatant statement of panic.
The Band was widely acclaimed after its first two albums; Stage Fright seemed to be the group's alarmed response, which made it their most nakedly confessional. It was certainly different from their previous work, which had tended toward story-songs set in earlier times, but it was hardly less compelling for that.
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