For years the owners of the King catalog have been assembling Hank Ballard CD's and while some of the later ones have been an improvement, most of what's out there is a lesson in how not to produce a CD. It wasn't until Rhino did some work with the major King label artists that some of this material became available in a quality piece, although Rhino's track selection was not what it could have been. See For Miles from the U.K. has also brought to market some quality CD's with wider repertoire. Recently, the standard-bearer of reissues, Ace Records of the U.K., has given King material its due with some excellent CD's.
Now, from where some past experiences may lead you to think otherwise, comes Collectables Records with a Hank Ballard/Midnighters collection that goes where no King material has been before. For the first time, many of the hit singles (all but 2,3,18,19,25) are presented in stereo! Ace's collection did have a few stereo tracks but not of charting singles and did little to lead anyone to expect much more. What's equally astonishing is that it has taken all these years to unearth these recordings. It needs to be noted that some, if not all, of these stereo versions appear to be of the primitive binaural type but even with the tricky two-channel balancing, the sound stage explodes with these tunes. Another reassuring thing about these tracks is the fact that they were mastered by the well-respected Little Walter DeVenne. As to be expected, purists may object to these stereo versions but one listen to "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and you can't not be blown away by the new life given these 40-year-old classic rockers.
This collection is limited to the King recordings of the Midnighters with Hank Ballard (1959-63) and contains within its 25 tracks all their charted a-sides during that period. The four-page liner notes booklet is brief but informative. If you're a fan of these tunes, and providing you're not a mono-purist, even if you own other Ballard/Midnighter CD's you will be jumping with this one.