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The Bands second album (S/T, "brown") album was once again released on LP by Mobile Fidelity in 2013, catalog no. 1-419; they had already put out a version in the 80’s, around the time of your copy of Music From Big Pink. By the way, MFSL has also redone MFBP, with improved sound compared to the 80’s version. Tim de Paravicini of EAR-Yoshino has worked on MFSL’s playback equipment, one reason for the improvement. What IS new is the brown album on a MFSL SACD. MFBP is also available on an SACD by them.
Both the 1st and 2nd Band albums have had many pressings, the best being the original Capitol "lime green" label ones---look for "RL" scratched into the run-out groove area by the label. Robert Ludwig did the original mastering, and for best sound that’s the version you want. Of course, everyone should have all three--the original Capitol lime green label "RL’s", the new (second version) MFSL LP’s, and the MFSL SACD’s. THAT’S how good the first two Band albums are!
The Last Waltz, being a live recording, and with many guests artists, some of dubious merit (Neil Diamond? Robbie wanted him there because he was producing an album with him at the time. Joni Mitchell---with The Band?!), isn’t worth worrying about imo. They were captured much better at The Academy of Music in 1971, and released on LP as "Rock of Ages", as you mentioned. I haven’t heard and don’t own the MFSL LP version, but there is now an expanded version of that album available as a CD boxset entitled "Live at The Academy of Music 1971". Another must-have is The Band’s double-LP live collaboration with Dylan entitled "Before The Flood", they backing him as well as doing a set by themselves. They are the best band he ever had, and he is spittin’ fire!
You also want the CD boxset entitled "The Band---A Musical History". Lots of previously-unreleased and rare music, as well as regular album tracks.
Oh, and the 3rd and 4th Band albums, "Stage Fright" and "Cahoots", are also available on MFSL LP and SACD. Though not up to the level of their first two albums (nothing is!), they are well worth having. Todd Rundgren produced SF, and he was not up to the task. The first two were masterfully produced by John Simon, Cahoots by The Band themselves. "Cahoots" contains a killer duet between Richard Manuel and Van Morrison, "4% Pantomime".
I'm not going to disagree with you, just post my experience.
A couple of years ago I heard Fremer's digital files of several cuts at a stereo shop. One was from his early pressing of The Band "S/T" (RL). It sounded great! Of coarse that was an early pressing of the original and he has better playback equipment than I.
Last evening, I compared sides 1 from my two copies. Overall I preferred the MFSL. of coarse my original is surely not an early pressing. It does have (RL) in the dead wax. My point is that this pressing is most likely one where an earlier original sounds better than a later original.
The horns sounded more natural on my original but the soundstage was more closed in. The MFSL... the soundstage much wider, more involving to me in this way. There is a lot of bass info and one needs a resolving enough set-up to navigate it correctly or it will be dark or muffled.
Disagreement welcome slaw! I actually haven’t compared back-to-back my RL lime green Capitol pressings of the 1st and 2nd Band albums to the MFSL ones now available. I just acquired Mint copies of the Capitols, as well as the current LP and SACD versions from MFSL. I’ve been listening to the British pressings of both albums since I bought them new in 1971, only fairly recently learning of the RL-mastered Capitols. Thank God for Michael Fremer! The UK pressings were made from a 1st generation copy of the masters, but I got them because they were SO much better than the U.S. ones, in terms of vinyl. Quiet (low surface noise) and flat, in contrast to the terrible U.S. Capitol pressings of the late 60’s/early 70’s. The Capitol LP’s I just got are at least flat, whether or not they are quiet remains to be heard!
MFSL also recently put out The Band’s studio collaboration with Dylan, the Planet Waves album. It came out on Asylum Records in ’74 (the only Dylan album not on Columbia Records), and is really, really good. It contains "Forever Young", a song you will be hearing in your head for the rest of the day after listening to it. MFSL just put it out on SACD and LP. I haven’t heard it yet, but even the original sounds great, very "in the room"---minimal processing such as electronic reverb, etc. It was recorded right as Bob & The Band were going on the road for Bob’s first tour since his ’65-’66 one with The Hawks (The Band’s name until ’68), and captured on the Before The Flood album.
I neglected to comment on the musical quality of the Rock of Ages album. I’m not that interested in the MFSL pressing (but would still like to hear about it!) because the live recording isn’t great to begin with. But musically? OMG, The Band are on FIRE! I really pity those who didn’t get to see them live. A very, very special ensemble, like no other in Rock ’n Roll history. I got to see and hear those considered by others to be amongst the "Greats"---The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys (if you’re laughing it’s because you never saw them in their prime), Cream, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, NRBQ, Rockpile, you name it. I also got to hear some of the originals upon whose shoulders those people stood---Big Joe Turner, Albert King, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, so many others. None of them---none, had what The Band did. I’ll stop now, ’cause I could go on for hours.
I own The MFSL,a RL Original lime green label pressing and a Simply Vinyl pressing of The Band and on my system I prefer the Original RL pressing.
The Simply Vinyl pressing is a dog, avoid at all costs.
Also rumours that although MFSL claims their pressing was culled from the original analog master the original analog master was lost years ago.
I will say that the 24 bit cd re master is excellent and shows no sign of digititas.
Yup, the S/T brown album masters are missing, and have been for a long time. Steve Hoffman’s credibility and reputation were damaged when his CD mastering of the album for Audio Fidelity was claimed to have been done from the masters. They were not. Neither were the new MFSL, but the Capitol RL were.
From my perspective, all of this confirms what I eluded to....
An early original copy, most likely will sound best.
A later original copy will be marginal in relationship to the former.
What is important, an evaluation by the end user, and what attributes from either version are more in tune to him/her personal preferences.
One can chime in saying, "I like the sound of the original, lime green, RL mastered copy...but has this same person had access to an early pressing of the same lp...even more, have they taken the time to evaluate the best original to the latest MFSL?
Personally, I despise the SF forums. I prefer to find things out for myself then report. To me, this is part of the (fun) in this hobby.
Something else that makes for no simple answer is that the MFSL vinyl and pressings are much, much better than the original Capitols. It may be that the relative quality of the vinyl and pressings may have more effect on the sound of the LP’s being compared than does the tape that was used to master with. And, the current MFSL playback machine, which has been rebuilt to audiophile standards by Paravicini, may actually allow the tape available to MFSL sound better than the original did on whatever machine Robert Ludwig had to use back in the late 60’s!