Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This early Green Label pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
- Side two is big, rich and solid, with a more relaxed, musical quality, as well as the clarity that was missing from most copies we played, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
- There is not a false note to be found on side one: it's brilliant from start to finish and side two is almost as good - we love the Abbey Road-like medley that makes up most of it
- "Taylor turns in his best singing performance, running through the songs with fire, force, and enthusiasm, the qualities most notable by their absence on earlier recordings." - Rolling Stone
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Play "Chili Dog" here, one of our favorite tracks, and note not only the clarity and spaciousness, but the PUNCH and LIFE of the music. This song is supposed to be fun. The average compressed, dull copy misses the point entirely.
Then skip on down to the hit at the end of the side, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," another favorite track for testing. There's a lot of bass in the mix on this track, but the best copies keep it under control. When it gets loose and starts blurring the midrange, the vocals and guitars seem "blocked." The best copies let you hear all that meaty bass, as well as into the midrange.
One Man Dog, like many early WB pressings, has a tendency to be dull and opaque. (Most side twos have a real problem in that respect.) When you get one like this, with more of an extended top end, it tends to come with much more space, size, texture, transparency, ambience and openness. (Of course it does -- that's where much of that stuff is, up high.)
Most copies don't have nearly enough of it, but thankfully this one does.
Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Tons of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).
What The Best Sides Of One Man Dog 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 1972
- 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.
Hey Mister, Got a Hot Side One?
If you have a Hot Side One for One Man Dog, you will know it in a hurry. The guitars and congas will leap out of your speakers at the beginning of "One Man Parade." If they don't, forget it, move along to the next copy and keep going until you find one in which they do. There are plenty of subtle cues to separate the White Hot copies from the merely Hot, but if the sound doesn't come to life right from the get go, it never will.
(The same is not true for side two however. The first track is a bit dull on even the best copies, so don't lose hope if your first track sounds rolled off. They almost all do -- this copy fares better than most, however. "One Morning in May," the second track and the one featuring Linda Ronstadt on background vocals, is a much better test, as is track three, "Instrumental II," the one with the lovely bells.)
Side Two Has Bells
Since side two tends to be dull, we paid a lot of attention to the bells on "Instrumental II" to help us get a handle on the top end. Sure enough, those bells are key to the best copies.
"Fanfare" is one of the few songs here with horns, so it became another key track. The horns need to have bite and texture, with the best copies really bringing out the breath in the sax. Any smearing or dulling of the sound and the horns go south in a hurry, along with the rest of the instruments.
We Love One Man Dog
There is not a false note to be found on side one: it's brilliant from start to finish. Side two is almost as good, and we love the Abbey Road-like medley that makes up most of it. The song "Someone" is a bit out of place, but the rest of it is pure James Taylor Magic!
4 Stars from Better Records. (Everyone else can shove it.)
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 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.
- One Man Parade
- Nobody But You
- Chili Dog
- Fool for You
- Instrumental I
- New Tune
- Back on the Street Again
- Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
- Woh, Don't You Know
- One Morning in May
- Instrumental II
- Little David
Rolling Stone Review (excerpts)
By Jon Landau
January 18, 1973
By recording in his house, he seems to have gotten a freer instrumental sound than before, although Russ Kunkel's drums regrettably lack the depth of tone found on earlier recordings. As if by compensation, either Danny Kortchmar is finally coming into his own with his jazz-soul-folk-rock guitar playing or I'm just hearing him better. More importantly, Taylor turns in his best singing performance, running through the songs with fire, force, and enthusiasm, the qualities most notable by their absence on earlier recordings.
"One Man Parade" starts right in and never lets up; he sounds like he was standing while singing for the very first time. "Nobody But You," which he describes as a throwaway number, is perfect Top 40, just the right mixture of folk and soul, with a lovely repeating guitar line. "Chili Dog" is perhaps his most successful attempt at humor yet ("I ain't trying to fool youse/Don't bring on no Orange Julius") while "Fool For You" and "Woh, Don't You Know," the album's two rock & roll companion pieces, sound forced by comparison.
Danny Kortchmar's "Back on the Street Again" is lyrically out of place but is such a good song that it works its way right into the pace of things, and "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" shows James reaching for some of that jazz and pop he seems to enjoy so much.
John McLaughlin's "Someone" sounds a bit forced too, but contains a spectacular acoustic guitar solo, and "One Morning in May" is given a good if undisciplined modern interpretation, with excellent support from Linda Ronstadt.
And then we finally get down to business with the album's ten-minute song cycle that begins with the record's best single tune, "Hymn" ("As a man and a woman stand alone in the light/Give us reason to be, like the sun on the sea") and moves through "Fanfare," with its picture of industry gone mad and its conclusion that "... as far as I can see, that doesn't apply to you and me ... we are living in the deep blue sea."
The title "Mescalito" seems like an anomaly in this rarefied environment, but the song quickly moves into the realm of the purely religious. And then there is his vision of two people, finally brought together, in the unforgettable line, "It looks like you and me, baby, dancing by the shining sea."
He ends by offering us his invocation, "Come on baby while the moon is high/Pick up your heels and dance ..." and then later, "Pick 'em up and put 'em back down, and around and around and around." It's all there, the earth and ocean, night and day, sun and moon, the opening eyes and the dancing feet.
And it will hit you from behind because on the surface it all sounds so simple, and yet underneath the horns — so dazzlingly arranged — and the beautiful rhythm, the voice and the thoughts resonate long after the record is over. And it continues to do so every time I revisit it.