The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus (w/ a light stitch that plays a few times on the very edge of the side)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (a little quieter in parts)
- With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy has the real Nashville Skyline magic - fairly quiet vinyl too
- We guarantee that Bob's duet with Johnny Cash on this Shootout Winning Triple Plus side one (Girl from the North Country) will blow your mind, or your money back
- "Lay Lady Lay," "To Be Alone With You," "I Threw It All Away," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" are true country-rock standards
- 5 stars: "It's a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs."
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This vintage pressing 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.
What the best sides of Nashville Skyline 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 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.
Cash Is King
What's most striking about this album is the sound of Johnny Cash's voice in the duet he sings with Bob (we're on a first name basis, don't you know). I can't remember when's the last time I heard Johnny Cash sound better. The stuff he did for American Recordings had much to recommend it; the first album sounded especially good.
But you just can't beat a properly produced, properly engineered Columbia from this era. There's a richness and a naturalness to the sound that has almost completely disappeared from the modern world of music. You really do have to go back to these early pressings to find it. And then you have to find just the right old pressings for it to be there.
What to Listen For on Nashville Skyline
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Country-ish Singer Songwriter (assuming that's what Dylan is in 1969) album. A few qualities to listen for:
- Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);
- Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones 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);
- 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 simple but sophisticated recording.
Problems to Watch For
Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies have.
You can easily hear that smear on the guitar transients; usually, they're a tad blunted and the guitar harmonics don't ring the way they should.
These problems are just as common to the 360 label original Columbia pressings as they are to the later red label LPs. Smeary, veiled, top-end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.
I'm fairly amazed at how bad most 360 pressings sound. Many of them are as dull as dishwater. The top end is rolled off and there is very little presence in the midrange. Often the first track of either side will sound good, but the following tracks are dullsville.
If you think that buying an original of this record guarantees you top quality sound I'm here to tell you it does not. Not unless you are lucky and actually end up with a record that was properly mastered and pressed. These I have found are not as common as most audiophiles and record collectors think.
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 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.
Girl from the North Country
Nashville Skyline Rag
I Threw It All Away
To Be Alone With You
Lay Lady Lay
One More Night
Tell Me That It Isn't True
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
John Wesley Harding suggested country with its textures and structures, but Nashville Skyline was a full-fledged country album, complete with steel guitars and brief, direct songs. It's a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.
While there are a handful of lightweight numbers on the record, at its core are several excellent songs — "Lay Lady Lay," "To Be Alone With You," "I Threw It All Away," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," as well as a duet with Johnny Cash on "Girl From the North Country" — that have become country-rock standards.
And there's no discounting that Nashville Skyline, arriving in the spring of 1969, established country-rock as a vital force in pop music, as well as a commercially viable genre.
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