Sometimes, when browsing the used record bins at the local shop, you put a lot of effort into finding a specific title by a specific artist. On Friday night, I just winged it and saw a Grateful Dead album titled "American Beauty" in the middle of the pile, not drawing attention to itself. I inspected the vinyl itself and it looked really clean for its age. Remarkably, the disc was pretty thin, yet, it had the Olive Green, solid Warner Brothers label, which indicates it was not a reissue. Warner Brothers would always use the label of then-current vintage on album reissues. Example: ZZ Top's "Tres Hombres" album. The original album pressing in 1973 used the "Burbank, Home of Warner Bros. Records" label with the palm trees in the background. A reissue of same from the 80's used the plain white label with the 3D "WB" logo.
Warner Bros. Records produced from the Late 60's through 1972 usually used the olive green solid label, which is represented here. So, for the purchase price of roughly six dollars I took it home along with Rush's "Permanent Waves." Tonight I gave it a listen and I was blown away. BLOWN AWAY.
Not only was the music enjoyable, involving, and overall tremendous, but the sonic quality of the vinyl was out of this world. How on earth was that disc not scratched up and gunked out between bong hits and long cross-country VW bus rides? I listened and heard nary a click or pop. In addition, the mix was consistent with most Warners records of the time... warm, neutral, and very lively, if not perhaps a little low in volume, so you gotta turn it up a tad. I was listening at low volume anyway so as not to wake up neighbors (bear in mind the time that I am writing this post).
Even so, the sonic output of this tremendous "American Beauty" album, original issue, clean, and gorgeous, was off the charts. Boy I wished I could just turn this baby up, but even as it was, the instruments and voices just popped out of the speakers and suddenly showed up in my bedroom. I had no idea the Grateful Dead recorded music this well. I was, and still am mesmerized. Now I see what Bill Walton was so excited about. Yep, I'm about four decades late to the party but Dead-heads, I'm happy to report that this was a great initiation.
Long ago, I had a first pressing copy of Led Zeppelin's II album. I knew it was a first pressing due to several factors, including the mere fact that the Atlantic Records label bore the following address: "1841 Broadway Ave, NY., N.Y." In the dead wax near the center, the etching "Pecko Duck" appeared, which indicates it was mastered by George Peckham. Peckham's masters on Vinyl are simply the best, and I knew that subsequent issues of Led Zeppelin on Vinyl did not use his masters. Anyway, long story short, it was among my very first record purchases, on Ebay, long long ago for a few bucks and the sound quality was wonderful, although with more surface noise than the Grateful Dead album. Stupidly, I was low on cash in college and sold Zeppelin II back to a used record store for peanuts. That same issue would go for 20 bucks or more today, easily. Not to mention, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND, anywhere! Especially in that great of condition. To this day I kick myself for letting it go. You can NEVER let such a good sounding, quality, original issue album go without a fight.
So... I have landed a golden, cornerstone album in pristine condition. This time I'll be more careful. What a lonnnnnnng strange trip it's been...