This is a completely different experience.
This is the way you remember them. Not scrubbed clean, but emanating from one speaker in the dash, one speaker underneath the spinning wheel of your all-in-one record player. It’s not about revelation, but basking in the joy of the music itself. These are the CDs you want to buy to listen to while you’re having a party, while you’re cleaning the house. They’re more MUSICAL!
Listening to the stereo CDs is being an archaeologist, digging in deep, studying the nuances that have been revealed by the cleansing of tender-loving brushstrokes, which have revealed all the parts, flaws and all. Listening to the mono CDs is just like being in the sixties, albeit a sprightlier, cleaner version.
Let’s put it this way. When you go to the show do you need to sit up front or a healthy distance back, where the sound blends properly, near the soundboard, where the engineer mixes the sound. If you want to see the performer spit, if you want the adrenaline of proximity to a star, you pay extra to sit in the front row. But if you want the best sound, you’ll be disappointed, the vocal will be unhearable, the balance will be tweaked, you won’t be happy.
Not that you want to sit in the rafters.
We all want a good seat, it’s just a question of your definition.
Ultimately, concerts are about the sound. Fifteen or twenty rows back is usually best.
The mono "Sgt. Pepper" coheres in a way the stereo version does not. You tap your toe as opposed to utilizing your aural bifocals to see the music’s components. A great mechanic wants to raise the hood, see exactly what engine is employed, how it’s tuned. A driver wants to leave the garage, let the wind blow through his hair and have an experience. The mono CDs are a better experience.
But you might be disappointed. If you’re sleuthing, if you want to be blown away, you need the stereo mixes. When you hear Paul McCartney sing "Till There Was You", with his unique accent, singing "at TALL", your jaw will drop. You never dreamed of getting this close. Whereas when you hear the same song in mono, without Paul’s vocal isolated, you won’t get the same effect.
In other words, if you want to sit next to George Martin at the console, DEFINITELY get the stereo CDs. But, if you want to remember what it was like in your bedroom, at parties, driving in the car, you’ll enjoy the mono CDs better.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Actually, the booklet in the mono box set delineates the truth concisely and authoritatively. You see, in the eyes of the Beatles, all the way through the White Album, the mono mixes were the definitive ones. Furthermore, the same tracks were not always mixed, and mixing vagaries ended up in tracks containing different parts, even having different speeds. You’ll notice these differences, especially when pointed out, but on an overall basis, they’re far from dramatic.
The stereo CDs breathe. But it’s kind of like those people in the magazines. Seeing their photos in two dimensions, you imbue them with your own feelings and interpretations, whereas if you met them in real life they might not fit your fantasy whatsoever. The stereo CDs reveal almost more than you need to know. But that’s why most people are going to rush out and buy these remasters, they want to know more. Sure, in time these remasters will become the definitive statement, we’ll be listening to these mixes for years, newbies will only know them. But Beatle fanatics are looking for more than the eighties CDs. You’ll get more with the stereo albums.
Having said that, know that cognoscenti are going to salivate over the mono box. The packaging is staggering. Japanese TLC on steroids.
Yes, each CD comes individually wrapped in plastic, that seals with stickum, so these plastic cases can be retained, keeping your original covers in pristine condition.
And not only are they the original covers, they’re the original inner sleeves! Each CD comes in a plastic bag, of the kind the major labels in America finally went to in the eighties, but also included in the slip cover is the appropriate paper inner sleeve. Telling you to take good care of your "Microgroove Records".
Furthermore, "Sgt. Pepper" contains the jigsaw, fade from red to white inner sleeve, and the cutouts, not printed in a booklet, but on a separate page, just like the original, back in 1967.
And the CDs have replicas of the original Parlophone labels. Yet the White Album has Apple labels (remember how cool it was to slip the record out of its sleeve and see this for the very first time?) Since "Magical Mystery Tour" was an American release, it wears the Capitol logo. And Disc 1 of "Past Masters" uses Parlophone and Disc 2 Apple.
If you’re into collecting, you need the mono box.
Then again, if you’re collecting, you’re probably going to buy both.
Yesterday I re-posted Bob Lefsetz's review of the stereo Beatles remasters. Today, Bob has his thoughts on the second part of the release, the Mono Remasters. Both sets hit retail September 9th. Thanks to Bob for sharing.