Bob Dylan’s second studio album, The Freewheelin’, has been re-issued and released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MOFI) on two, 180 gram, 45rpm, individually numbered (limited edition) LPs. It’s not an easy task to explain why you would need to purchase another pressing of this album — most likely you’ve never given much thought to how “hi-fi” it sounded in the first place. This pressing is expensive, but for the money you get excellent, dead quiet vinyl, high quality packaging, and superior sound.
This is the second release, following The Basement Tapes, in a series of Mobile Fidelity, Bob Dylan reissues [on both vinyl and SACD]. No need to go on about this record. I’m just going to confine myself to the sonics — and they are awesome.
The original mix of this record was mono. In 1963, the stereo mix was an afterthought and littered with haphazard panning decisions. This MOFI pressing is of that stereo mix (and I am a bit surprised they went this route). With the mono version firmly established as a reference, you will notice staging issues that crop up. Thankfully, Dylan’s voice is placed dead center throughout, with his guitar placed slightly off to the right. At times, the harmonica takes to the left, bringing the listener immediately away from any sense of honest presentation. And the pressing is so transparent, you will hear that panning in real time. (Note how Dylan’s voice slides to the left channel at the beginning of the second harmonica break in “Bob Dylan’s Blues”). On a positive note, the stereo separation provides a heightened sense of detail and body to both the acoustic guitar and the harmonica alike.
This pressing holds its weight with impressive tonality and increased presence. Compare this LP to any (including the original Columbia) and you will find no contest. Plus, the vinyl is dead quiet. This reissue lets you soak up everything that makes this landmark album so potent — allowing the execution and authentic delivery of a master songwriter to shine through unadulterated. The sound is so hauntingly life-like, you may imagine yourself a time traveller stashed away in some forgotten corner of Colombia’s Studio “A” in the New York City summer of ‘62. It is as if Dylan is playing these songs in your listening room. If you love this album, if you love Dylan, this pressing is a necessity. The improved sound takes an album that I have overplayed to oblivion, and made it fresh once again.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’
Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, Re-issue, 180 gram, 45rpm -2LP, gatefold
Produced by: John Hammond, Tom Wilson
Mastered by: Krieg Wunderlich, and assisted by Shawn R. Britton on the Gain Two Ultra Analog System.