Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Beatles In Mono Review

by Jake Topp

Most of The Beatles albums were originally mixed in mono back in the 1960s because at that time stereo was actually considered to be little more than a "fad." I know that's hard to imagine now when stereo is the way everyone listens to music (well there is 5.1 which is similarly looked at as a fad today, but unlike stereo - it hasn't really got the attention of the average listener).

The stereo mixes for their songs were little more than an "afterthought" in comparison to the time and energy they spent on getting the mono mixes just right (after all, most of their listeners at the time were listening to the mono mixes) up through Magical Mystery Tour.

With The White Album they began to pay more attention to the stereo mixes as well (and The White Album was actually only released in the US in stereo). And by the time they got to their final three albums (Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, & Abbey Road) they were only mixing in stereo as mono was effectively dead.

When The Beatles catalog was put on CD in 1987, they decided to put the stereo versions on CD rather than the mono (as obviously in 1987 stereo was the standard). This made it very difficult for Beatles fans to hear the original mono mixes, especially as vinyl was phased out and it became harder to find the original Beatles mono vinyl LPs. It should also be noted that new stereo mixes were made for Help! & Rubber Soul so the original stereo mixes for those albums were not put on CD.

I'm telling you all of this because I think it's important to understand the context in order to get why The Beatles In Mono is so exciting to most serious Beatles fans. For the first time their original mono mixes are available on CD. And for good measure they also have included the original stereo mixes for Help! & Rubber Soul so that all of the original mixes of The Beatles albums are now available on CD, finally.

Listening to these albums in mono for the first time like I have been doing over the past week is fascinating. I'm a younger Beatles fan so I only previously knew the stereo mixes. To hear the original mono mix of albums like Revolver & Sgt. Pepper is really very interesting for me. Some of these mixes are much different than the stereo mixes. The best examples of that may be on Sgt. Pepper where there's a lot more effects on the vocals in the mono version of the album (making it more "psychedelic" in some ways) and also the song "She's Leaving Home" is sped up in the mono version.

I definitely recommend the mono box to all Beatles fans. Not only are a lot of these mono mixes "interesting" and the way they were "originally meant to be heard" but in some cases they are clearly superior to the stereo mixes because some of The Beatles stereo mixes are panned in such a way that they can be difficult to listen to. This is particularly true with a lot of The Beatles earlier albums. In fact I think most Beatles fans will think the mono versions of most of their early songs are better than the stereo versions.

In short, this mono box set is a "must buy" especially because it's being made in limited quantities and there's no telling how many copies they will make before they stop making them. These will become collectors items. And I haven't even mentioned the awesome packaging. I'll let you find out about that for yourself when you get your order in the mail.

Jake Topp recommends that you buy The Beatles In Mono online:

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