Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Short Spin: Crosby, Stills & Nash -- 180 gram Rhino Vinyl

Rhino continues their vinyl campaign with the reissue of the self-titled debut from from Crosby, Stills & Nash on 180 gram audiophile quality vinyl. Also known as The Couch Album, this 1969 folk rock classic features songs blending three-part harmonies with acoustic as well as psychedelic-flavored electric guitars.

The original gatefold textured cover has been faithfully reproduced and is made of heavy cardstock, and includes an inner lyric sheet. The 180 gram vinyl is housed in Pallas' preferred poly-lined paper inner sleeve, which I prefer to the stiff poly inner sleeves used by RTI. Pallas is known for their ultra-quiet and clean 180 gram pressings, and the copy I received was no exception, playing quietly from start to finish.

Crosby, Stills & Nash, was originally released during the 1841 Broadway era of Atlantic Records, and one would expect that original pressings from that era would sound best. In this particular situation, however, the later Seventies-era Warner Communications masterings by George Piros actually sound much better--with much fuller bass, and less harshness to the top end than the originals.*

(Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby)

This latest mastering from Bernie Grundman has even more bass than the Piros mastering. So much, that some might find it overwhelming on the first two songs, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Marakesh Express. In addition to the prodigious bass, there is a rich midband that favors the lower midrange over the upper-mids and highs. The highs are never strident or harsh--like on the original pressing--and the acoustic guitars and cymbals are reproduced accurately. And more so than any other version of this record except for the Classic 45 RPM, you can really feel the depth of the room as you listen to one great performance after another.

Although you could easily characterize the highs on this Rhino reissue as being a bit rolled-off, I was never left with the feeling that I wanted more, as the tonal balance really suits the late-Sixties vibe of the record. Listen to the vocals and acoustic guitar on You Don't Have to Cry, which sound particularly great, as does the electric guitar's perfectly reproduced neck pickup on Long Time Gone.

So, is this latest reissue for you? If you've been looking to replace your original, thin-sounding 1841 Broadway pressing of this record and you can't find a quiet George Piros-mastered copy--or just don't want to bother, this reissue from Rhino is dead quiet, features big fat bass and has a complex midrange that shows off the full pallette of vocal colors and guitar tones. Only the 45 RPM Classic Records version is clearly better--but that set is long out of print and now goes for hundreds of dollars.


*It appears that the original mastering engineer of CSN rolled off some of the bass in order to avoid what would happen that same year with the original run of Led Zeppelin II, which was mastered by Robert Ludwig. Many hi-fi systems of the day couldn't handle its prodigious bass, and in every subsequent pressing the bass was rolled off, resulting in original RL-mastered copies of Zeppelin II being coveted by audiophiles and collectors.


Anonymous said...

I purchased a Piros CSN today and love it more than either the 1 st pressing and Classic Records 33 1/3 version. Thanks for the tip I enjoy reading your reviews.

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