Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A wonderful sounding original Columbia 360 Stereo pressing of this pivotal Dylan LP, with insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
- Here is the bass, richness & vocal presence that make John Wesley Harding one of the better sounding Dylan records from the late '60s
- The title track, Dear Landlord, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, All Along the Watchtower and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are but a small sampling of the more memorable songs here
- 5 stars: "The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late '60s."
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While Dylan's albums may not be big-production sonic spectacles, hearing these great songs sound so intimate and lifelike on a top quality pressing can be a sublime experience. We should know; we enjoyed the hell out of this copy.
Believe us, John Wesley Harding is one of the tougher nuts to crack in the Dylan canon. Most pressings are a veiled, smeary nightmare. The harmonica sounds noticeably squawky and unpleasant on the majority of copies we've played over the years; you really have to work to find a copy with the warmth, smoothness and correct tonality to get Dylan's voice to sound right.
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 54 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.
This may not be a perfect record or a Demo Disc, but you'll have a very hard time finding a copy that presents the music as well as this one does.
What the best sides of John Wesley Harding from 1967 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 1967
- 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 above.
What We're Listening For on John Wesley Harding
- 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 guitar, piano 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 vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- Charlie Bragg in the 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 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 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.
John Wesley Harding
As I Went Out One Morning
I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
All Along the Watchtower
The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
I Am a Lonesome Hobo
I Pity the Poor Immigrant
The Wicked Messenger
Down Along the Cove
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Bob Dylan returned from exile with John Wesley Harding, a quiet, country-tinged album that split dramatically from his previous three.
A calm, reflective album, John Wesley Harding strips away all of the wilder tendencies of Dylan's rock albums — even the then-unreleased Basement Tapes he made the previous year — but it isn't a return to his folk roots. If anything, the album is his first serious foray into country, but only a handful of songs, such as "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," are straight country songs.
Instead, John Wesley Harding is informed by the rustic sound of country, as well as many rural myths...
The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late '60s.
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