With John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan returned to a folkier style in 1967. How good does this sound on the audiophile 45 RPM MoFi compared to a Columbia reissue?
Some background on Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding
With his eighth studio album, Bob Dylan returned a bit to the folk-oriented style of his earlier records at the end of 1967. After three albums with a strong rock and blues influence and symbolist lyrics, the songwriting and lyrics also became more conventional again. Most of the recordings were done in a trio, only on two tracks a fourth musician joined in on steel guitar. The most famous songs are certainly All Along The Watchtower, which Jimi Hendrix made into a world hit shortly afterwards, and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, successfully covered by Robert Palmer and UB40. But songs like the title track John Wesley Harding or Dear Landlord are also permanent fixtures in the Dylan canon.
How good are the MoFi and Columbia pressings?
Neither show any obvious faults. The MoFi is from the Original Master Recordings series and is therefore pressed on 180g vinyl, the Columbia uses 140g vinyl.
What else stands out in the comparison of the MoFi and Columbia pressings?
The colour of the MoFi cover is brownish and the photo in the middle is grainy. The story of the Three Kings adorns the inside of the gatefold cover.
The background colour of the Columbia is rather grey, the photo just as grainy as on the Mofi. The story of the three kings is on the back cover.
How does the equipment of the two pressings differ?
MoFi uses the usual heavy cardboard for the OMR series for the gatefold cover. In addition, there is the inevitable stiffener and high-quality MoFi inner sleeves.
The Columbia leaves it at thin cardboard and a single sleeve.
How good does John Wesley Harding sound compared to MoFi and Columbia?
If I didn’t know better, I probably wouldn’t notice that the audiophile MoFi was mixed in mono. The instruments separate very nicely from each other. Nevertheless, the sound is more cohesive than in the stereo mix. As with other MoFi releases by Bob Dylan, the master’s voice takes centre stage. And both recordings have to be attested a great dynamic.
John Wesley Harding is already sparsely orchestrated and definitely not designed for a stereo experience. So despite the stereo mix, there is no big stage with the Columbia. The sound image neither expands in width, nor is there any significant depth gradation. In direct comparison to the Mofi, it is noticeable that the drums – placed on the far right of the stereo mix – move further into the foreground, while the bass moves further into the background.
How do the levels and frequency response of the MoFi and Columbia pressings differ?
Both pressings show a very dynamic waveform. The CBS is even somewhat louder than the MoFi, which plays at 45 rpm. Slightly to the right of centre, the CBS shows larger excursions than the MoFi.
The frequency spectrogram shows a big difference between the two pressings. In the range between about 2,000 and 6,000 hertz (between the dashed lines), the CBS shows more yellow and less green at the top than in the lower diagram. This means that this frequency range is more emphasised on the CBS than on the MoFi, where fewer yellow areas and dots are shown in this range. This explains why the voice sounds so much more pleasant and less nasal on the MoFi than on the CBS.
Which pressing of John Wesley Harding is better?
Mono mixes should not really be compared with stereo. But here the case is clear: the album was conceived for mono and clearly sounds better in mono. In addition, the stereo master occasionally gives the voice and the harmonica some rather annoying harshness in the loud passages. Master genius Krieg Wunderlich has almost completely eliminated these virtues for MoFi. The somewhat warmer sound is very good for the voice and the harmonica, similar to the MoFi versions of Blonde on Blonde or Bringing It All Back Home.
- John Wesley Harding
- As I Went Out One Morning
- I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
- All Along The Watchtower
- The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest
- Drifter’s Escape
- Dear Landlord
- I Am A Lonesome Hobo
- I Pity The Poor Immigrant
- The Wicked Messenger
- Down Along The Cove
- I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
|Title||John Wesley Harding|
|Label||Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab||Columbia|
|Catalogue number||MFSL 2-464||PC 9604|
|Mastered by||Krieg Wunderlich||Not specified|
|Pressing plant||RTI||Not specified|
|Matrix-Runout||MFSL 2-464 A1 KW@MoFi 26100.4(3) 26100.1(3) MFSL 2-464 B1 KW@MoFi 26100.4(3) 26100.3(3) MFSL 2-464 C1 KW@MoFi 26100.4(3) 26100.3(3) MFSL 2-464 D1 KW@MoFi 26100.4(3) 26100.3(3)||XSM-135311-3b XSM- 135312|
|Country of manufacture||USA||USA|