Limited to 10,000 numbered copies, pressed on dead-quiet MoFi SuperVinyl at RTI, and mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity's ultra-hi-fi UltraDisc One-Step 180g 45RPM 2LP collector's edition pays tribute to the album's merit and enhances the intimate program. Playing with reference-setting sonics that more than justify its existence in a field filled with prior audiophile reissues of Folk Singer, this spectacular collector's version provides a clear, transparent, ultra-dynamic, and up-close view of a set that inspired Rolling Stone to deem it the 282nd Greatest Album of All Time and proclaim it "a pioneering 'unplugged' set beloved by blues and folk fans alike."
The premium packaging and beautiful presentation of the UD1S Folk Singer pressing befit its extremely select status. Housed in a deluxe box, it features special foil-stamped jackets and faithful-to-the-original graphics that illuminate the splendor of the recording. No expense has been spared. Aurally and visually, this UD1S reissue exists as a curatorial artifact meant to be preserved, touched, and examined. It is made for discerning listeners that prize sound quality and production, and who desire to fully immerse themselves in the art—and everything involved with the album, from the iconic photos to the gorgeous finishes.
Such potency reveals itself explicitly on a vinyl set afforded uncanny reproduction of Waters' tobacco-stained singing, booming reach, robust acoustic guitar, and instrumental accompanists—a Hall of Fame group that comprises a very young Guy, stand-up bassist Dixon, and drummer Francis Clay. Accurately portraying the scale of a human voice remains one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish on a recording. And yet the timbre, richness, and realism of Waters' singing here convey the authority of its inner cavity and considerable depth, allowing notes to individually register all the while pairing with succeeding rhythmic passages in seamless fashion. The presence, feel, and contributions of Waters' esteemed colleagues register, too, with the lifelike nature rivaled only by sitting in a small venue. Indeed, few albums of any style resonate with the reference levels of spaciousness, openness, and "room as an instrument" qualities to the extent of Folk Singer.
Because of the production's unassailable reputation, ironically, the actual performances on Folk Singer often get short-changed or overlooked. That's a mistake. While much ado about the record's folk-like character and allegedly new direction surrounded the release, Waters' fourth proper album is nothing but the blues—and a direct extension back to his Delta lineage and non-amplified roots. Sincere, emotional, direct, spontaneous, and interpretive, Waters and his mates follow a soulful path, completely skirting any notion of prescribed commercialism or pigeonholed definition. Folk Singer echoes with flexibility, liberty, and the artists' own unsullied visions. It could have happened on a Maxwell Street corner on the streets of Chicago.
Or, as Mr. Bass writes in the original liner notes: "Muddy's rich vibrant tones, sometimes pleading, sometimes whispering, occasionally shouting and chanting, tells [sic] us the story of a blues singer or for lack of a better word—a folk singer who can't tell you his story the same way more than once, whose interpretation changes as his mood and nostalgia serves him as on that one memorable day I asked Muddy to sing 'The Blues.'" Memorable storytelling, both in the narrative and instrumental form, dominates Folk Singer, from the autobiographical "My Home Is in the Delta" to a cover of the Sonny Boy Williamson staple "Good Morning Little School" to the solo "Feel Like Going Home."
Throughout, the nine songs transmit the innate proficiency and learned knowledge of virtuosos as they slowly roll and tumble with unmitigated freedom, informal playfulness, and understated sympathy. Steeped in the ways of the country, Folk Singer registers with a magnetic power and palpable force by keeping quiet, in the process redefining what it means to be loud—as well as popular notions of the blues itself. What a ride.
More About Mobile Fidelity UltraDisc One-Step and Why It Is Superior
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's UltraDisc One-Step (UD1S) technique bypasses generational losses inherent to the traditional three-step plating process by removing two steps: the production of father and mother plates, which are created to yield numerous stampers from each lacquer that is cut. For UD1S plating, stampers (also called "converts") are made directly from the lacquers. Since each lacquer yields only one stamper, multiple lacquers need to be cut. Mobile Fidelity's UD1S process produces a final LP with the lowest-possible noise floor. The removal of two steps of the plating process also reveals musical details and dynamics that would otherwise be lost due to the standard multi-step process. With UD1S, every aspect of vinyl production is optimized to produce the best-sounding vinyl album available today.
Developed by NEOTECH and RTI, MoFi SuperVinyl is the most exacting-to-specification vinyl compound ever devised. Analog lovers have never seen (or heard) anything like it. Extraordinarily expensive and extremely painstaking to produce, the special proprietary compound addresses two specific areas of improvement: noise floor reduction and enhanced groove definition. The vinyl composition features a new carbonless dye (hold the disc up to the light and see) and produces the world's quietest surfaces. This high-definition formula also allows for the creation of cleaner grooves that are indistinguishable from the original lacquer. MoFi SuperVinyl provides the closest approximation of what the label's engineers hear in the mastering lab.