The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Two super sides, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER - both are chock full of Vintage Vinyl Tubey Magic
- Wild Night and the title track sound wonderfully rich and full-bodied, with the warmth and naturalness that distinguishes a merely good sounding LP from a truly Super Hot Stamper
- 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic and featuring some of Stephen Barncard's best engineering - this is Analog Sound at its best
- "Tupelo Honey is in one sense but another example of the artist making increased use of the album as the unit of communication as opposed to merely the song or the cut. Everything on it is perfectly integrated."
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There are actually real dynamics on this recording, which really helps kick up the life force of the music. Just listen to the energetic build-up during Wild Night -- that's how it would happen in a live setting, and that's the way we want to hear it at home as well.
If you've been stuck with the average copy of any of the classic albums Van put out in the '70s you would have no way of knowing just how well-recorded some of them are.
Our favorite Morrison record for sound is still His Band And The Street Choir, but after finishing this shootout we now know that the best copies of Tupelo Honey are in that same league. The title track (just to take one example) can sound exceptionally sweet, delicate, and Tubey Magical. For that, you can thank Stephen Barncard. If you know his work, it's easy to spot his sound.
Van Is The Man
This vintage green label Warner Bros. pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Tupelo Honey 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 1971
- 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.
The Later Pressings
We've dropped the needle on an assortment of Green Label, Palm Tree Label, and Tan Label pressings in the last twenty years or so.
The Tan Label copies we played never came near the heights of our best originals, but we managed to find a Palm Tree copy or two over the years with SURPRISINGLY good sound -- about A+ or a little better. It just goes to show, once again, that the only way to know how a record sounds is to play it. Get trapped in the assumption that only originals can sound good, and you may miss out on some hot sounding records.
Conversely, if you believe that EVERY original is going to sound good, you may end up paying good money for some serious dogs. We're here to tell you, there are plenty of bad sounding Green Label pressings of Tupelo Honey out there in record land. We know; we played 'em.
We've made a habit of scooping up all the Green and Gold Label Warner Brothers records we come across, albums by the likes of James Taylor, Van Morrison, America, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Paul and Mary, The Association, The Faces, The Grateful Dead and too many more to list.
When you get the right stampers on these albums they just can't be beat. They sound so right in so many ways that you find yourself completely ignoring the sound and just getting lost in the music. Tupelo Honey is one of those albums. Just drop the needle on any track for a taste of the best in Tubey Magical '60s-'70s analog sound, not to mention some of Van Morrison's best blue-eyed soul.
What We're Listening For on Tupelo Honey
- 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.
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.
- Wild Night
- (Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball
- Old Old Woodstock
- Starting a New Life
- You're My Woman
- Tupelo Honey
- I Wanna Roo You [Scottish Derivative]
- When That Evening Sun Goes Down
- Moonshine Whiskey
Tupelo Honey was well received by critics upon the album's release. Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone: "Tupelo Honey is in one sense but another example of the artist making increased use of the album as the unit of communication as opposed to merely the song or the cut. Everything on it is perfectly integrated."
ZigZag magazine reviewer John Tobler, who also reviewed the album just after its release, gave the album high praise, saying "If all music were as good as this, there wouldn't be any reason to make any more, because this is the real thing."
Critic Dave Marsh called it "the perfect album for Van: he does everything...so incredibly well. There isn't a bad cut on it, of that I'm really sure."
Tupelo Honey was later ranked the fourth best album of the year in the Village Voice's first annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll.