The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Three: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on three sides and exceptionally quiet vinyl, this copy of Blonde On Blonde did well in our most recent shootout
- This is one of the copies with an awful sounding side four that you may have seen described on the site, so if "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is a favorite track, this is not the copy for you
- Full of quintessential Dylan classics: Rainy Day Women, I Want You, Just Like A Woman, and they all sound surprisingly good here
- 5 stars: "Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play... It's the culmination of Dylan's electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again."
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Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of them 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, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.
It takes a properly mastered, properly pressed copy like this one to get both Dylan's voice and harmonica -- two of the most critically important elements on any of his recordings -- to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be painfully obvious to the listener, and for that shortcoming you lose a lot of points here at Better Records. That said, upper-midrangy sound on any vintage Dylan record to one degree or another is almost always audible. The less the better, but none is really not an option.
Side Four Is NFG
Here's a little something that you may have come across on your own if you've gone through a number of copies of the album, but it's something we've never seen mentioned by anyone else writing about records.
There is a stamper used on some Blonde on Blonde side fours that is so ridiculously bad, you might as well be listening to a warped cassette underwater. I mean, we pick on mediocre copies all the time here, but these side fours are so beyond terrible it's clear someone was asleep at the wheel. They're almost fascinating to hear in a way, because it's simply shocking that a good recording could sound THAT bad. Like the best pressings of our favorites (but in a VERY different way), words don't do it justice. Its awfulness has to be heard to be believed.
What the best sides of Blonde on Blonde 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 1966
- 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 studio
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.
Tubey Magic Is Key
This landmark release from 1966 has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot 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. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Bob Dylan singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 52 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 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
What We're Listening For on Blonde On Blonde
Here are some things we specifically listen for on a record by Mr Bob Dylan - whether from 1966 or 1986, makes no difference to us.
Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout.
The best copies have:
- Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree);
- Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
- Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);
- Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
- Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD;
- 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 sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.
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 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 of these wonderful originals.
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.
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Pledging My Time
Visions of Johanna
One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
I Want You
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
Just Like a Woman
Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
Temporary Like Achilles
Absolutely Sweet Marie
4th Time Around
Obviously 5 Believers
Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands
Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like "Visions of Johanna," "Just Like a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands ("Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"). It's the culmination of Dylan's electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.
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