The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This outstanding MONO copy of Bob Dylan's self-titled debut, which of course was recorded in mono, boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
- This is a true solo album - Dylan himself plays the guitar and harmonica - and it's a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Bob playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village
- 4 stars: "His raspy-voiced delivery and guitar style were modeled largely on Guthrie's classic '40s and early-'50s recordings, but the assertiveness of the bluesmen he admires also comes out, making this one of the most powerful records to come out of the folk revival of which it was a part."
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This is clearly a recording that sounds best in mono. The stereo copies put the vocal, guitar and harmonica -- you know, the sounds that the one skinny kid in the middle of the room is making all by himself -- in separate locations widely spaced in the soundfield. This may have been a cool sound when playing on the old consoles of the day, but on a modern system it's just plain ludicrous.
If you have a stereo copy we recommend you use your mono button when playing back the record. The same may be true for the second and third albums as well.
This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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.).
Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real BOB DYLAN singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played over the years can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of Bob Dylan 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 1962
- 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 an Early Bob Dylan Record
- 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.
Shootout Criteria (What To Listen For)
What are the sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record -- any Pop or Rock record -- should be judged?
Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.
When we can get many of the qualities above to come together on the side we're playing we provisionally award it a Hot Stamper grade, which may or may not be revised over the course of the shootout as we hear what the various other copies sound like.
Once we've been through all our side ones, we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner. Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sounded relative to the shootout winner.
Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that's left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.
That's why the most common grade for a White Hot stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other. Finding the two best sounding sides from a shootout on the same LP certainly does happen, but is sure doesn't happen as often as we would like (!) -- there are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to insure consistent quality.
Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they're a science of a kind, one with strict protocols developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can possibly make them.
The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.
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.
- You're No Good
- Talkin' New York
- In My Time of Dyin'
- Man of Constant Sorrow
- Fixin' to Die
- Pretty Peggy-O
- Highway 51
- Gospel Plow
- Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
- House of the Risin' Sun
- Freight Train Blues
- Song to Woody
- See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
AMG 4 Star Review
Bob Dylan's first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist's own subsequent efforts.
The difference was that not very many people heard Bob Dylan on its original release (originals on the early-'60s Columbia label are choice collectibles) because it was recorded with a much smaller audience and musical arena in mind. At the time of Bob Dylan's release, the folk revival was rolling, and interpretation was considered more important than original composition by most of that audience.
A significant portion of the record is possessed by the style and spirit of Woody Guthrie, whose influence as a singer and guitarist hovers over "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Pretty Peggy-O," as well as the two originals here, the savagely witty "Talkin' New York" and the poignant "Song to Woody"; and it's also hard to believe that he wasn't aware of Jimmie Rodgers and Roy Acuff when he cut "Freight Train Blues." But on other songs, one can also hear the influences of Bukka White, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Furry Lewis, in the playing and singing, and this is where Dylan departed significantly from most of his contemporaries.
Other white folksingers of the era, including his older contemporaries Eric Von Schmidt and Dave Van Ronk, had incorporated blues in their work, but Dylan's presentation was more in your face, resembling in some respects (albeit in a more self-conscious way) the work of John Hammond, Jr., the son of the man who signed Dylan to Columbia Records and produced this album, who was just starting out in his own career at the time this record was made.
There's a punk-like aggressiveness to the singing and playing here. His raspy-voiced delivery and guitar style were modeled largely on Guthrie's classic '40s and early-'50s recordings, but the assertiveness of the bluesmen he admires also comes out, making this one of the most powerful records to come out of the folk revival of which it was a part.
Within a year of its release, Dylan, initially in tandem with young folk/protest singers like Peter, Paul & Mary and Phil Ochs, would alter the boundaries of that revival beyond recognition, but this album marked the pinnacle of that earlier phase, before it was overshadowed by this artist's more ambitious subsequent work. In that regard, the two original songs here serve as the bridge between Dylan's stylistic roots, as delineated on this album, and the more powerful and daringly original work that followed.
One myth surrounding this album should also be dispelled here -- his version of "House of the Rising Sun" here is worthwhile, but the version that was the inspiration for the Animals' recording was the one by Josh White.