Record of the Week

presented by Music Direct

Freewheelin’ on MoFi

Freewheelin' on MoFi

What can really be said about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said by the world’s preeminent music critics?

Nothing, really, so it’s best to focus on the sound of this wonderful Mobile Fidelity release.

As with Beatles records, you’ll either find the stereo releases intriguing or heresy, but even those in the latter camp should get out of their comfort zone and give this version a try—you’ll be pleasantly surprised. While the original Columbia mono release has a certain midrange body absent from the stereo version, this edition comes damn close. And it exceeds the finest original pressings in every other way.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is mostly Dylan, his guitar, and harp alone in a recording studio. Because this is the stereo mix, the harp does sound larger than life, and from time to time, the engineers’ panning creeps into the presentation. But who cares? What’s truly amazing is that the master tape is still in such good shape. MoFi removes so many layers of sonic crud here, there’s no need to try and seek out an early Columbia pressing.  This is the definitive rendition. And there’s another bonus: the newfound air and detail showcases Dylan’s skillful guitar playing.

Throughout, the record combines every molecule of Dylan’s unique intonation with a perfect blend of natural room decay and judicious reverb, conveying a delicacy that fools you into thinking the man is sitting on a stool in between your speakers. Playback on my newly rebuilt Quad 57s is simply stunning.

You can sum this record up with two words: “clarity” and “quiet.”  Josh Bizar at Music Direct (the parent company that owns MoFi) recently mentioned that the firm spent a “pile of money” upgrading the mastering chain at MoFi. So, add another word to the summation: “WOW.”  Dylan records have never been praised for their fidelity, but if this one doesn’t grab you immediately, have someone check your pulse.