The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- A vintage copy of CS&N's self-titled debut LP that was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades
- 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 a fact, that few were mastered and pressed well, and that includes none of the originals in our experience
- The reason you don't see this title on the site more frequently is simply that it has become nearly impossible to find copies with the right stampers in audiophile playing condition
- The right stampers for this album are at least ten times more rare than those for Zep II, but for some reason everybody thinks that record is rare!
- But the sound is GLORIOUS, hence the price
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs - there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- 5 stars: "...the harmonies are absolutely timeless, and the best material remains rock-solid. A definitive document of its era."
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*NOTE: There is a mark that plays 20 times at a moderate to loud level about 1/2 way into track 1 on side 1, "Suite : Judy Blue Eyes."
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG
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.
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.)
This vintage Atlantic 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 Crosby, Stills and Nash 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 1969
- 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 Crosby, Stills and Nash
- 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 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.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice.
Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Pop Record
We consider this album a Masterpiece. It's a recording that should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Suite : Judy Blue Eyes
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 reproduction — like most of them — is a worthless record.
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 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 occassionally 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!
- Marrakesh Express
The best copies have superb transparency, clarity and sweetness on this track, one of the most well-recorded on the entire album. Super-spacious tubey-magical DEMONSTRATION QUALITY sound is what this track delivers in spades.
- You Don't Have To Cry
- Pre-Road Downs
This is by far our favorite test track for side two. The opening guitar strum should sound lively and tonally correct. If it sounds pinched, smeared, dull or lifeless, you are in big trouble on side two. Don’t feel bad; few copies you will ever play will get that guitar right. The ones we sell do, and I can tell you we have to work pretty darn hard to find them.
- Wooden Ships
The best copies have tons of hard-to-control deep bass on this track. Actually, there’s tons of deep bass on both sides of this album, one reason why it’s hard to find Hot Stampers. That kind of bass can easily get out of control if the record isn’t cut right and pressed right, and it sure seems like not many of them were.
The deep bass has to stay DOWN below the main elements in the mix. If it’s calling attention to itself by being overly loud or blubbery, or by sticking its head up into the midrange where it doesn’t belong, the balance suffers, and so does the listener. (The WORST example of blubbery Half-Speed Mastered bass has to be the Nautilus pressing of the album. Nice mids and highs but bass that will drive you right out of the room.)
- Lady Of The Island
Like Guinnevere, the best copies have superb transparency, clarity and Tubey Magical sweetness in the midrange. One of the best sounding tracks on the entire album.
- Helplessly Hoping
This is a wonderful song with lots of energy in the midrange and upper midrange area which is difficult to get right. A while back (2005) I was playing around with VTA, having recently installed a new cartridge on my playgrading table, when I discovered that this song showed me EXACTLY how to get the VTA right.
VTA is all about balance. The reason this song is so good for adjusting VTA is that the guitar at the opening is a little smooth and the harmony vocals that come in after the intro can be a little bright. Finding the balance between these two elements is key to getting the VTA adjusted properly.
Most people will never know what they’re missing on Helplessly Hoping because they will never have an amazing sounding copy of this song to play. The Hot Stampers are just too rare.
- Long Time Gone
- 49 Bye-Byes
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
The Crosby, Stills & Nash triumvirate shot to immediate superstardom with the release of its self-titled debut LP, a sparkling set immortalizing the group's amazingly close, high harmonies. While elements of the record haven't dated well -- Nash's Eastern-influenced musings on the hit "Marrakesh Express" now seem more than a little silly, while the antiwar sentiments of "Wooden Ships," though well-intentioned, are rather hokey -- the harmonies are absolutely timeless, and the best material remains rock-solid.
Stills' gorgeous opener, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," in particular, is an epic love song remarkable in its musical and emotional intricacy, Nash's "Pre-Road Downs" is buoyant folk-pop underpinned by light psychedelic textures, and Crosby's "Long Time Gone" remains a potent indictment of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. A definitive document of its era.