Mo-Fi Does the "One Step" With Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years

Seven years ago (2014) Sony/Legacy reissued for Record Store Day a swell version of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, mastered by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed at RTI. It was positively reviewed on this site.

Re-visiting the album, which won two 1975 Grammys for Album of the Year and Male Pop Vocal, now makes clear a few things: the first is the connection between the title track and Simon's "Saturday Night Live" relationship. As I wrote in that review, Michael Brecker's title tune sax solo essentially became Lenny Pickett's finale music and the song has the SNL vibe. The additional years also makes clear that while the production is less fussy than on There Goes Rhymin' Simon, it still has a studio gloss that unsurprisingly makes it sound more like a piano-centric Billy Joel album than one from Paul Simon. The Phil Ramone connection makes that so. With his marital break-up fresh, Simon was at low ebb and some of the songs reflect that. There are hints of Jackson Browne in the writing that I'd not previously picked up on, nor had I fully appreciated how full-throated and powerful was Simon's singing on the album.

So, how good is Mobile Fidelity's 45rpm "one step" mastering and RTI pressing? Compared to the original and the 2014 RSD edition? Rather than me telling you, you tell me! Below are 1 minute and change excerpts from all three versions you get to listen to "blind". As an additional bonus, you get to hear them played back on the $500,000 Air Force Zero turntable fitted with the SAT CF1-09 arm and Lyra's Atlas SL Lambda cartridge feeding CH Precision's P1/X1 phono preamp, the total cost of which is in excess of $600,000. All 3 versions should sound to you pretty damn good! The output of the darTzeel NHB-18NS preamp fed the Lynx HiLo A/D converter at 96/24 resolution.

I'm not here to tell you the digitized version sounds as good as "live", but since all 3 were digitized, it's a pretty fair test. The levels were not all identical and I made to attempt to normalize levels so that's up to you.If you hear a slight hum, remember I'm still waiting for my electricity and grounding upgrade. It's getting closer but that shouldn't affect your listen. Please comment and after a while I'll reveal the file identities.

File "1"

File "2"

File "3"

P.S.: I could find no mention of this album on the Music Direct website so either it's already sold out of it's limited edition pressing run, or it's not yet up for sale.

COMMENTS
Ortofan's picture
cundare's picture

...for the Acoustic Sounds link. I was PO'd that Elusive Disc couldn't fill my 1Step order, but still managed to score a copy on AS. Disappointed I didn't think of AS myself, since I try to support this small business whenever I can -- very nice people who go out of their way to accommodate. E.g., when I tell the ED guys I live in Hawaii, they insist on using a shipping method (like UPS 2Day) that sometimes costs more than the items I'm buying and is not so reliable in my area. Acoustic Sounds, OTOH, are happy to ship by methods that I know from experience are more cost-effective and at least as safe. In this case, instead of a $70+ shipping cost, I paid $23 for Two-day insured delivery via USPS. So thanks again for the link!

cundare's picture

I spoke too soon about ordering this album from Acoustic Sounds. They took my order but now, a week or two later, still list the album as a "preorder, no delivery date specified." MoFi confirms that all copies have shipped, but AS claims that it's still waiting for a delivery, but has no idea when it will arrive. OK, I get it. I wound up buying a copy on eBay, which, with shipping, tax, etc., came to about $180. More than I wanted to spend, but at least I now have a copy. If the AS unit ever does show up it'll be a Xmas gift this year.

Unrelated: My sealed copy had damage to one of the black dust jackets. I saw the same thing on my 1-step "Bridge Over Troubled Water," but back then, Elusive Disc confirmed that this was a common problem and that MoFi would ship replacement jackets to any buyers who reported the problem. Not sure if something similar is going on with this new release.

cundare's picture

After nearly two more months, my AS account still lists my June purchase as a "preorder." More calls to AS continue to get the story that the company is still waiting for its shipment from Mobile Fidelity, but that my copy is definitely coming. And MoFi still confirms that all copies that are going to be shipped went out months ago.

Lucky I figured out what was going on before it was too late to buy the scalped copy. I used to love Acoustic Sounds -- small guys going up against bigger players by providing great customer service -- but as Paul Krassner once said, "You trust your mother, but you cut the cards." And this experience has made me less willing to order from AS again.

What's especially disturbing is that MoFi doesn't simply run more than 1 or 2 pressings of each 1Step title. The company hasn't figured out that it can sell many more copies of these records than it it does now? Or is this a cynical marketing decision intended to ensure 1Step's "elite" status at the expense of its customers? In fact, at the risk of assuming malice when incompetence would explain, could MoFi be deliberately undermining Acoustic Sounds because it sees AS as a competitor?

I dunno, it's all incomprehensible to me & I'd love to speak directly with a decision-maker at AS or MoFi to get the straight poop.

I saw an "Abraxas" sell for $1200 last month. Deliberately manufactured scarcity => buyers get screwed.

mraudio's picture

...for about a week now. Pre-ordered many moons ago from Music Direct. IMHO, this reissue deserves a 10/10 rating.

Toptip's picture

...has much clearer — or at least louder — bells (tambourine?) than the latter two.

GrandLarsony's picture

1) One-step
2) original
3) 2014 reissue

#1 the most detailed and accurate sounding, but I prefer #3 because I think that the timbre of the voice, guitar, and drums is more fleshed out, denser and more presents. Noticed the decay of #3 was more flesh out and real sounding than #1. #2 was good, but I felt that #3 had tighter bass and more realistic upper midrange when compared to #2.

Hermanenmonja's picture

1) One-step
2) original
3) 2014 reissue

Must say that all three versions sound very good. The first has the most “umpf”, so probably the one-step.

geoffpiano's picture

1) One Step
2) Original
3) 2014 reissue

#1 has the kind of clarity and depth of other One Steps I’ve heard, and to my ears, is streets ahead of the other two. The second one is fun but not remarkable, and the third it’s a big improvement on the second, but the vinyl seems noisier than one step vinyl usually is, although otherwise very decent in terms of good eq balance and soundstage…

annalog's picture

Being a long-term vinyl aficionado I recently mutated into a copper aficionado after having listened to this record: x . Could it be that this direct-to-disc sound quality is even better than a “noisy” master taped recording? I liked to get the copper version of this Paul Simon album.

Michael Fremer's picture
There is no copper version. Mo-Fi 1 steps are lacquer cuts.
lcater1's picture

I think File "1" is the One Step, I prefer the sound of File "3".........

gjetson's picture

I can't match the tracks to the versions, but my order of listening enjoyment is:

3
1
2

Alan EE's picture

My best guess below...and need to listen further but initially prefer file 1 versus 2 & 3. Having purchased this release but not received yet I would be okay if the MoFi is file 3, and disappointed if the MoFi is file2.
1) MoFi
2) Original
3) 2014

kimi imacman's picture

Yep, I’m came to the exact same conclusion as everyone else as to which was which.
1. Mofi
2. Org
3. RKS

To me the mofi is the least balanced, especially the bells which completely dominate and ‘shout’ over the vocal; pure Hifi; just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. These same bells are buried somewhat in the original but there is the typical warmth (overly?) to be heard.
Ryan’s cut strikes a nice balance of keeping it all together without distractions.

Steve Edwards's picture

I keep getting a message, "Windows Media Player encountered a problem while playing this file"

abelb1's picture

Hi Steve,
The quickest and simplest way to play these on a PC is to download a copy of VLC (it's free and should be the first result in Google). There are many other players more specific to music and it's too broad a topic to go into here but VLC will work for these files. AB

Steve Edwards's picture

Thank you for the tip; worked like a charm. Without diving into all the nuances, the element I found myself listening to the most was the drums at the beginning. In #3, I heard the most sustain and decay, though #1 was a close 2nd. #2 was my least favorite; though as Michael said, "they all sound good"

zimmer74's picture

they all sound pretty good. Guess I'll have to pick up an Air Force Zero!

stretch35's picture

lol

stretch35's picture

lol

Michael Fremer's picture
Good idea!
robertaich's picture

Not only do I enjoy File 3 best, I think, despite the surface noise, it's the One Step. I get more of the room around the instruments, including hearing the vibration off panels, or walls, or however the room was set up around guitars and drums. I think File 1 is the 2014 and 2 is the original.

japhyman's picture

...

isaacrivera's picture

But in order of preference:

1) #3
2) #1
3) #2

#1 has more bass weight than #2 and clearer upper frequencies, but #2 has more nuance of upper bass and midrange. #3 Seems to have an ideal both worlds compromise, not as forward highs as #1 but its weight and approaches nuance of #2.

Juan's picture

I don't have any idea which which. Never heard a "one step" record, nor any version of this record, but in my IMac without any extras the ranking is:
1) #3
2) #1
3) #2

Lemon Curry's picture

1. One step
2. OG
3. 2014

Although I heard some artifacts in #3, a tiny bit of distortion.

Daniel Emerson's picture

I'm not sure which was which audio file, but the tambourine/bell sound was really odd and distracting in File 1. If that's the "best" version, I don't like it!
The other two were pretty close.

markus46's picture

that those bells in File 1 are intolerable. I sure hope that is not from the MoFi One Step!

2_channel_ears's picture

#1 - the tambourine is overly loud. My guess is this is the Sony re-release.
#2 - sounds closest to my '75 original pressing
#3 - the best sounding. The tambourine is much recessed and allows the cymbals that come in to be highlighted deep articulated bass at about 37 sec, the sound is well balanced, vocals are crystal clear. My guess is this is the 1-Step

richiep's picture

Always a problem to get higher listening volume as I think you can get better details from the music.
My ears tell me (I have the 1 step yet to listen)
1. 2014 RSD - Bright, vocal forward hot cut?
2. Original - Smooth even flow what an original sounds like!
3. MOFI - Cleaned up high and low passages with improved detail.
????????

Avalon0387's picture

I prefer File 1. The "clicking" in the percussion sounded like it was suspended in space rather than just part of the song. It had a 3D quality about it. Really nice!

nnicola's picture

I’m not sure about File # 1 and File # 3.
I’m pretty sure that File # 2 is the original release.
File # 3 sounds very vocal forward to me. I’m going to guess that it’s the RSD version, since I’m assuming they would do that to a remixed reissued recording.
File # 1 was my favorite of the 3. I’m guessing it’s the One Step.

BTW, this was interesting and fun. Please do something like this again!

saronian's picture

But I'll say...

1 - 2014 RSD
2 - Original
3 - MoFi One Step

preference order
3
2
1

Doctor O's picture

I think GrandLarsony described the differences very well. I like #3 for the same reasons. Vocals and other sounds more fleshed out. Better micro dynamics. Since #1 doesn’t have that same transparency I think there is a level of brightness that is likely making it sound more “clear”. Thanks for the opportunity to listen to all three.

abelb1's picture

They all sound so different.
1.) has a lot of top end and good attack. This one stands out the most.
2.) Is OK and is probably the original.
3.) Has a very well developed deep bottom end.
#1 is the most exciting to me but if I had to live with one I'd probably pick #3. I have a pretty beat up copy of the original so I pre-ordered the MF1S. I'd be pretty happy if the 1-Step was 3 but if it's 1, I think it will be a blast to listen to regardless. And that front end, WOW. Even just a taste through this digitized rendition. Wow.

Diogo's picture

File 2 sounds like my vintage pressing of this album. Everything is a bit mellow but also very balanced, sounds great. A good system will extract all the information you need.

Files 1 and 3 have more bass and treble, so these must be the remasters. Paul's voice is maybe a bit more natural-sounding and some instruments that aren't so prominent in the original stand out a bit more - other than that, the engineers tried a bit too hard to make it sound like a more modern recording. It doesn't need it!

If I had to choose between 1 and 3, it would be 3. It's a modern sounding remaster but it's not as fatiguing as file 1 - that tambourine becomes a bit piercing after a while.

timorous's picture

The tambourine jingles at the start of #1 are causing mistracking, creating a splashing across the soundfield. On #2 & 3, this tambourine is dead center, with no mistracking.

#2 is clearly the original. It's kind of soft and a bit muddled..just OK. My guess is that #3 is the new version, and #1 is the 2014 pressing.

#3 is much better balanced. The drums are tighter and fuller sounding, with the subtle reverb tail on the right channel clearer and not fore-shortened.

What do I win? LOL.

jkrussell's picture

File 1 - RSD pressing
File 2 - Original pressing
File 3 - MoFi OneStep

I own a copy of the new MoFi, and it sounds great. I'm guessing it is file 3 because the bass presence is much more impactful on the MoFi and on your track. I THINK I actually prefer File 1, though, which has more depth and clarity to the percussion and I would say a tighter bass response.

Thanks for everything you do, Michael. For many of us who returned to vinyl during the pandemic, your writing, videos, and interviews are inspiring, entertaining, and extremely helpful.

This was a fun exercise - I look forward to the reveal.

Snorker's picture

1 - Sony reissue - tambourine hits sound a bit overloaded and it is a brighter mastering, somewhat typical of RKS's style (though I do like most of his work).
2 - Original - a bit more compressed sound overall. I have this track on the excellent Negotiations and Love Songs compilation and it sounds closer to this file. That comp sounds better overall than this file, despite being a DMM master. Incidentally, that is an excellent compilation that I believe Mr. Fremer has previously indicated was compiled from the master tapes by Roy Halee.
3 - One Step. I should probably play this through my system rather than on a computer through headphones, but this more closely matches my recollection of how the One Step sounds. It's got the most dynamic, but balanced sound of the three, and is my preference.

bkinthebk's picture

#2 is tubey and balanced. The drum tom sounds beautifully reverberant and real. Ramone production sounds sweet. Others nice, but less “natural”? I only have on CD and “streaming,” but whatever is revealed as #2 is the one I’d be most interested in picking up.

Michael, where was your original mastered? Sterling or TML?

Muisc Lover's picture

If these sample were carts then 1 would be Audio Technica, 2 a Grado and 3 a Dynavector :)

Seriously, They all sound great to me, the tambourine on 1 does sound very pronounced, distractingly so, If I had to choose one I would say 3 is my favorite.

I have a the one step which I just received and yet to open, if 1 is the one step I'm keeping it sealed and I'll buy whatever sample 3 is.

Thank you for your efforts Michael!

ChrisM's picture

My 2 cents :
File 1 : definitively the brighter that gives the illusion of a greater transparency, probably the One Step
File 2 : less detailed sound, almost muted.
File 3 : the more balanced one between clarity and bass extension, I want this one.

DietChapstick's picture

I'm sure it sounds great, but this album was in every dollar bin just a few years ago. About as exciting to me as watching paint dry. MOFI is headed down the bore-zone these days.

Steve Edwards's picture

I'm a big Paul Simon fan. A few of his records, i.e. Graceland, One Trick Pony, Rhythm of the Saints, etc. are reference recordings for me. For whatever reason, I've never owned SCAATY; don't think I've even heard all of it.
I sure wish MoFi, or one of the other great labels, would do Low Spark of High Heeled Boys!

Juan's picture

Submitted by Steve Edwards: I sure wish MoFi, or one of the other great labels, would do Low Spark of High Heeled Boys!

MoFi did it in 1994. Not One Step of course, but a 200grm Anadisk oustanding pressing.

GreenMonster2420's picture

I have compared the same three pressings on my rig and am pretty certain the files are:

1) RKS
2) OG
3) UD1S

I like the one step the best, on my system and in my room, it wasn't close. One step was best with the OG taking silver and RKS bronze.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I can't say which is which but my preference would be...

File 3
File 2
File 1

I could never figure this out about the LP, I have an original UK pressing and it was mastered at The Mastering Lab (TML-S) in the runout grooves. I much preferred to the original US Sterling mastering, so I got rid of the Sterling pressing.

James, Dublin, Ireland

JR465's picture

I have several US Sterling copies, and much prefer my US TML copy.

Cam08529's picture

Then #1 and lastly #2. I have no idea which is which but that’s my order of preference.

These are fun and I hope Michael can continue to get permission from the artists/ recording companies to do these comparisons.

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