Folk Singer
(Classic Records / Chess)

MUDDY WATERS: Folk Singer (Classic Records / Chess) When Mobile Fidelity first released Muddy Waters' Folk Singer album in 1994 (on vinyl and gold CD), it set a new standard for audiophile releases, winning countless accolades (including the industry's prestigious Golden Note Award) for its impeccable sound quality. As great as it sounded, MoFi's version was heavily EQ'd in the midrange, boosting the instrumental and vocal clarity. What most people didn't know was that the increased clarity came at the expense of the ambiance heard on the master tapes.

Four years later, Classic Records released a DAD version, marrying this timeless blues classic to the latest in digital technology. Faced with the decision of following in MoFi footsteps (which, to some, would be a sure-win situation) or keeping things faithful to the original Chess analog master tapes, Classic mastered the album with no equalization--revealing the natural warmth and ambiance of the recording like never before. The breathtaking detail and dynamic range astounded even the most demanding listeners.

Now they've taken things one step further--releasing the 1963 album on their exclusive Quiex SV super vinyl. Sonically, the difference between Classic's vinyl and the DAD was almost undecipherable. As for the packaging and track lists, that's another story. There are subtle differences in both formats.

The DAD has the two bonus tracks that appeared on MoFi's gold CD--"You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had" and "The Same Thing." Both of these tracks come from the April 1964 recording session (the actual album was recorded in September 1963). MoFi's versions of the album included a black & white photo by Jim Marshall. Neither of Classic's versions includes this photo. MoFi's vinyl pressing had a gatefold cover, Classic's doesn't.

In addition to the original liner notes by Ralph Bass, the DAD includes the 1987 liners by Bob Schnieders. However, the thing that's missing from the DAD (as is the case with every DAD we've reviewed) is a facsimile of the album's back cover. The one thing that the Classic vinyl has going for it over all the others, though, is the original black Chess label and the original front and back cover. When it comes to authenticity, you can't beat Classic's vinyl pressings. They look and feel as great as they sound.

As for which one comes out on top, it's really a matter of personal preference. Sonically, they're both outstanding. My personal recommendation? There's nothing like the sound of a nice vinyl pressing. Especially this one...

© 2002 Steve Marshall
Purchase this album from Classic Records