The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Three: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)*
Side Four: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- A superb copy of Springsteen's surprisingly well recorded 1980 release with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on three sides and Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the fourth
- These sides are energetic, clear and full-bodied, with The Boss' vocals - always the focus for any Springsteen album - front and center where they belong
- This is our pick for the Best Sounding Springsteen album - we know of none better
- You will hear dramatically more space, richness, presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you've played or you get your money back - it's a simple as that
- 5 stars: "Springsteen rises to his own challenges as a songwriter, penning a set of tunes that are heartfelt and literate but unpretentious while rocking hard, and the E Street Band were never used to better advantage, capturing the taut, swaggering force of their live shows in the studio with superb accuracy... [he] rarely made an album as compelling as this, or one that rewards repeat listening as well."
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NOTE: The last track on side three plays at the low end of the grade for that side.
These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
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.
This early Columbia stereo 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 The River 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 even as late as 1980
- 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 The River
- 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.
Learning the Record
For our shootout for The River we had at our disposal a variety of pressings that had the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman'd it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.
If you have five or more copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what's right and what's wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You'll hear what's better and worse -- right and wrong would be another way of putting it -- about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle -- or fail -- to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain't rocket science, and we've never pretended otherwise. Just the opposite: from day one we've explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection. Not the good sounding pressings you happen to own -- those may or may not have Hot Stampers -- but the records you actually cleaned, shot out, and declared victorious.
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.
- The Ties That Bind
- Sherry Darling
- Jackson Cage
- Two Hearts
- Independence Day
- Hungry Heart
- Out In The Street
- Crush On You
- You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
- I Wanna Marry You
- The River
- Point Blank
- Cadillac Ranch
- I'm A Rocker
- Fade Away
- Stolen Car
- The Price You Pay
- Drive All Night
- Wreck On The Highway
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
After taking his early urban folk tales of cars and girls as far as he could on Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen took a long, hard look at the lives of those same Jersey street kids a few years down the line, now saddled with adult responsibilities and realizing that the American Dream was increasingly out of their grasp, on 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town, an album that dramatically broadened Springsteen's musical range and lyrical scope.
With 1980's The River, Springsteen sought to expand on those themes while also offering more of the tough, bar-band rock that was his trademark (and often conspicuous in its absence on Darkness), and by the time it was released it had swelled into Springsteen's first two-LP set.
The River was Springsteen's most ambitious work to date, even as the music sounded leaner and more strongly rooted in rock & roll tradition than anything on Darkness or Born to Run, and though the album wasn't the least bit short on good times, the fun in songs like "Two Hearts," "Out in the Street," and "Cadillac Ranch" is rarely without some weightier subtext. As the romantic rush of "Two Hearts" fades into the final break with family on "Independence Day" and the sentimentality of "I Wanna Marry You" is followed by the grim truths of the title tune, nothing is easy or without consequence in Springsteen's world, and the album's themes of youthful ideals buckling under the weight of crushing reality are neatly summed up as Springsteen asks the essential question of his career, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?"
...Springsteen rises to his own challenges as a songwriter, penning a set of tunes that are heartfelt and literate but unpretentious while rocking hard, and the E Street Band were never used to better advantage, capturing the taut, swaggering force of their live shows in the studio with superb accuracy (and if the very '80s snare crack dates this album, Neil Dorfsman's engineering makes this one of Springsteen's best-sounding works). The River wasn't Springsteen's first attempt to make a truly adult rock & roll album, but it's certainly a major step forward from Darkness on the Edge of Town, and he rarely made an album as compelling as this, or one that rewards repeat listening as well.