Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- Steppenwolf's first album is back, and this time with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout - we guarantee you have never heard these songs sound remotely as good as they do here (or your money back)
- Rich, clear and dynamic, this copy has the bass these rockers need - this is undeniably the right sound for this bluesy, hard-chargin' music
- Includes killer hits "Born To Be Wild" and "The Pusher," both featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider
- 4 stars: "...a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit... The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968..."
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NOTE: *On side one, a mark makes three light ticks during the intro to track 5, Born To Be Wild. On side two, a mark makes twenty light intermittent ticks during track two, The Pusher. Although this is not the quietest copy we've ever heard, it's hard to find them even this quiet, considering the era.
And the sound is killer, winning our shootout on both sides!
The original reflective cover is gorgeous and still in the shrink.
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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 Steppenwolf's debut 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 1968
- 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.
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn't, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know what we are talking abut when it comes to getting hold of vintage pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it's an entirely different - and dare I say unforgettable -- listening experience.
What We're Listening For on Steppenwolf
- 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 guitars, keys 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 -- Bill Cooper and Richard Podolor in this 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 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.
Everybody's Next One
Berry Rides Again
Hootchie Kootchie Man
Born To Be Wild
Your Wall's Too High
A Girl I Knew
Take What You Need
Steppenwolf entered the studio for their recording debut with a lot of confidence -- based on a heavy rehearsal schedule before they ever got signed -- and it shows on this album, a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit who was obviously searching for a hook to hang their sound on. The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968, though John Kay's songwriting needed some development before their in-house repertory would catch up with their sound and musicianship.
On this album, the best material came from outside the ranks of the active bandmembers: "Born to Be Wild" by ex-member Mars Bonfire, which became not only a chart-topping high-energy anthem for the counterculture (a status solidified by its use in Dennis Hopper's movie Easy Rider the following year), but coined the phrase heavy metal, thus giving a genre-specific name to the brand of music that the band played (and which was already manifesting itself in the work of bands like Vanilla Fudge and the just-emerging Led Zeppelin).
The Don Covay soul cover "Sookie, Sookie," which, as a single by the new group, actually got played on some soul stations until they found out that Steppenwolf was white; two superb homages to Chess Records, in the guise of "Berry Rides Again," written (though "adapted" might be a better word) by Kay based on the work of Chuck Berry, and the Willie Dixon cover "Hoochie Coochie Man."
And Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher," an anti-drug song turned into a pounding six-minute tour de force by the band.
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