Side One: Mint Minus Minus (Often quieter)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (Often quieter)
Side Three: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Four: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus*
- An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides - fairly quiet vinyl too
- Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires - a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are
- "Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release... "
- "Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat."
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*NOTE: On side four, a mark on the edge makes 5 moderate pops during the intro to track 1, All Along the Watchtower.
One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that's a TON of work.
Finding, cleaning and critically evaluating a dozen-plus copies is a lot of work on a single album, so you can imagine how time-consuming it is when we have to double those efforts just for one album.
Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from their respective repertoires and a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are. The version of Ballad Of A Thin Man that closes out side one is simply MONSTROUS. Live rock and roll just don't get much better than that, my friends!
These '70s LPs have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 45+ years old), 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 less than one out of one hundred new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of Before The Flood 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 1974
- 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 space of the venue
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.
I suggest you read the insightful AMG review linked above. If you're a fan of this album, I bet you've never heard it sound so good. Those of you who are fans of Dylan and/or The Band but missed out on this album should definitely check it out, and what better way to do it than with a White Hot Stamper copy?
Do It Again
As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to do the shootout all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.
You can't find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way to go about it if you want to be successful in your hunt for the Ultimate Pressing.
For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.
And very likely learned something new from every one.
What We're Listening For on Before The Flood
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- Rob Fraboni and Phil Ramone in this case -- would have put them.
- 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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
Bob Dylan - Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
Bob Dylan - Lay Lady Lay
Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women
Bob Dylan - Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Bob Dylan - It Ain't Me, Babe
Bob Dylan - Ballad of a Thin Man
The Band - Up on Cripple Creek
The Band - I Shall Be Released
The Band - Endless Highway
The Band - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Band - Stage Fright
Bob Dylan - Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Bob Dylan - Just Like a Woman
Bob Dylan - It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
The Band - The Shape I'm In
The Band - When You Awake
The Band - The Weight
Bob Dylan - All Along the Watchtower
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone
Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind
Before the Flood, a double-album souvenir of the tour, suggests that these were generally dynamic shows, but not because they were reveling in the past, but because Dylan was fighting the nostalgia of his audience -- nostalgia, it must be noted, that was promoted as the very reason behind these shows.
Yet that's what gives this music such kick -- Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release...
And this is a storm -- the sound of a great rocker, surprising his band and audience by tearing through his greatest songs in a manner that might not be comforting, but it guarantees it to be one of the best live albums of its time. Ever, maybe.
In a contemporary review for Creem magazine, music critic Robert Christgau felt that the Band followed Dylan in intensifying his old songs for the arena venue and stated, "Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat."
Greil Marcus commented, "Roaring with resentment and happiness, the music touched rock and roll at its limits."
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