Audio Fidelity has just released their gold cd remastering of the classic, self-titled 1969 debut release from Crosby, Stills & Nash. While I normally review vinyl, this particular compact disc release deserves coverage--as it rivals the best vinyl releases this fantastic title has seen over the years.
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.
It was only two years ago, that Rhino released their own 180 gram audiophile vinyl reissue of this title, mastered by Bernie Grundman--and at that time, I thought it sounded very good, as it addressed the shy bass and tamed the top-end harshness of the original. The Audio Fidelity gold cd reviewed today, was mastered by Steve Hoffman at Stephen Marsh Mastering.
As soon as you spin this gold cd, you'll hear what has come to be the hallmark of Hoffman's masterings--a magic midband that adds body and complexity to the vocals, brings them forward in the mix--and in this particular recording, allows you to better distinguish each vocalist in the three-part harmonies featured throughout the album. On a recording where vocals are so important, this alone might be enough to convince fans of the album to pick it up. But there's more . . .
Though the Rhino 180 gram reissue had much more bass than the original 1841 Broadway pressing, it comes off as a bit boomy and flabby compared to this Hoffman mastering, which tightens up the bass substantially. And unlike some of Hoffman's masterings where the lower-mid and bass authority come at the expense of the upper-mids and highs, this gold cd mastering actually has a more extended top end than Rhino vinyl, where it was a bit rolled-off.
|(Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby--1969)|
Over the past several weeks, I've listened to this disc on my main reference system, work system, in the car, and on headphones--and enjoyed it every time. And what's made it such a compelling listen, is that I've found myself drawn not only to my favorite cuts--which tend to be penned by Stills, but also to some of those I've routinely skipped. Graham Nash's vocal on Lady of the Island, for example, sounds so pure and real, that I can't skip past it. The only possible criticism of this disc I can think of, is that some might find the vocals too forward in the mix--something that I actually found to make for a more engaging listen with this title.
This gold cd release from Audio Fidelity easily bests both the original 1841 Broadway and Rhino vinyl--and gives the George Piros-mastered Seventies-era vinyl a run for its money. Perhaps, only the out-of-print and uber-expensive 45 RPM Classic, with its utterly grain-free vocals and eerie room acoustics, is clearly better.
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