I agree with you the CD version sounds bad, so bad in fact I thought I had a bad CD. Anyway liked the music so I got the LP. The vinyl is an improvement but IMHO not a great recording.
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I am actually glad to have confirmation from you guys that this CD is poorly recorded. Magic, the song is not bad, but the rest of it is pretty poor. I thought I had some bad tubes in my amp/preamp until I played Wilco's "Sky blue sky" to confirm it wasn't the tubes. Maybe they were going for a grunge sound, but it didn't work, vocals are really bad! Don't know how Bruce allowed this?
I am a huge Springsteen fan, but for the life of me can't understand why his records sound so terrible. He obviously has money for production and control over his music at this point in his career. I have purchased a couple of his "newer" LP's and don't listen to them because the sound is so bad.
OTOH, it's funny how Nebraska is so enjoyable for me to listen to..... I love old country blues music too, and it has that kind of spooky Robert Johnson in a hotel room/field rocording thing going..... A "low-fi" before low-fi was cool vibe if you will.
Just weighing with my concurrence that Magic sounds bad. I'm a huge fan, and "big" audiophile. It's a shame, as I know I would enjoy the music a lot more if the sound were better. I also agree re the sound of many of Bruce's releases, including Seeger being good but not great. Magic easily stands out as one of the worst, however.