The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- With superb Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides, so natural and relaxed - this is the right sound for this bluesy music - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- This early pressing puts a Folk Blues jam from 1973 live in your living room, showcasing two of the true masters of the form
- The immediacy, clarity and transparency are excellent, but the key element is Tubey Magical warmth, and these vintage pressings have plenty of it
- 4 1/2 stars: "John Mayall and John Hammond, Jr. are among the "youngsters" on this powerful statement that includes a definitive version of Randy Newman's wickedly subtle anti-slavery tune Sail Away."
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This is easily one of better Folkie Blues albums to hit our table in a while. The music is SUPERB. Among the highlights are great covers of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and Randy Newman's "Sail Away."
This vintage A&M pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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 this duo, 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 Sonny & Brownie 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 1973
- 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.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we've heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
What We're Listening For on Sonny & Brownie
- 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, 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 musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
If you have five or ten 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 others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.
The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can't find on most copies. 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.
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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
Painfully Bad Heavy Vinyl, Ouch
Mobile Fidelity released a version of this title on Anadisq in 1995, and if you want to avoid a pressing that's murky, compressed and opaque, you would be wise to pass up their Heavy Vinyl Half-Speed.
People Get Ready
Bring It on Home to Me
You Bring out the Boogie in Me
White Boy Lost in the Blues
The Battle Is Over
Walkin' My Blues Away
Big Wind (Is A'Comin')
Jesus Gonna Make It Alright
God and Man
On the Road Again
In a way, this is the veteran duo's version of Fathers and Sons, a meeting of old black bluesmen with young white admirers that Muddy Waters and Otis Spann cut with Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. John Mayall and John Hammond, Jr. are among the "youngsters" on this powerful statement that includes a definitive version of Randy Newman's wickedly subtle anti-slavery tune "Sail Away." Sonny Terry's trademark whoops are energizing. The repartee between him and Brownie McGhee might convince you they were fast friends if you didn't know otherwise.
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