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TJA (Oxfordshire, UK)

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The Beatles In Mono
The Beatles In Mono
Price: £179.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation, 3 April 2016
This review is from: The Beatles In Mono (Audio CD)
To give you some background I am in my 30's and grew up listening to my Dad's Beatles albums, which were all in Stereo (he had bought records and then CD's in the 80's). So I have been a huge fan of the Beatles and their music since I was about 5. I have all the 1987 CD's, anthology, BBC sessions, Past Masters, Love...etc. I also have the updated Stereo versions of all the albums on itunes. I have read quite a bit over the years about Mono and have always just regarded it as something that died out in the 60's when they replaced it with the much better Stereo. I was wrong.

After the death of George Martin I listened to a very good radio programme about the production methods the Beatles used and how they are now able to make better stereo versions of the original songs. For example, removing a part to then place it on another speaker to give an overall fuller sound, rather than the hard-panned versions. An example of this is the updated Beatles 1 album, remixed by Giles Martin. And remixed is the key: I read an article on this and he explained that the better versions were often in the mono mixes. For example, the guitar on Paperback Writer is more 'in your face', rather than being shoved over to one speaker. So he remixed the songs into better (more mono) sounding versions by utilising these techniques. I was intrigued by this and decided to buy the Mono Box Set.

Firstly, the set itself is absolutely exquisite. All 10 Mono Albums are presented as exact miniature replicas of the original LP's - this includes inner sleeves, original labels, inserts, folded over outer packaging and album notes. For any fan of the Beatles it really is a joy to sit and pore over the set itself as it has been put together so well and is a far cry from the old plastic CD cases that I have on the shelf already.

So as a child of the 80's/90's, growing up with modern stereo and recording/producing techniques, I expected to be somewhat underwhelmed by the sound of the Beatles in Mono. I thought that it would be very interesting, but would probably sound flat and outdated. Thankfully I was very wrong. I won't document all the albums one by one but there are certainly some substantial differences. One of the biggest is that 'She's Leaving Home' is higher and faster (I think the correct speed - the Stereo version was slowed down) and it sounds great - listening to the original afterwards it sounds slow and clunky. Also on Sgt Pepper: 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is very slightly lower in pitch than the stereo version. But it is also so much more psychedelic in style: John's voice is double-tracked and feels as if it is floating around in the sky. When other people have written that the Mono versions are 'how the Beatles intended' I must admit that I thought that this was about hearing the hiss and crackles on the old records along with the outdated mono production but now I fully understand that the Beatles worked with George Martin and the Abbey Road Engineers to produce the sound they wanted, whereas when the albums were remastered in stereo some of the original mixes were altered and of course many were hard-panned making what you hear not what the Beatles intended. Some other big differences are on Magical Mystery Tour: All You Need is Love is finally playing in both ears! And 'I am the Walrus' is much heavier and rocking.

I will also add that the some songs sound better in Stereo, or not too much different to the Mono versions. I have spent quite a lot of time listening and comparing the mono albums to the stereos and this is my personal feeling as to which format sounds best for each:

Please Please Me - Mono

With The Beatles - Mono

Beatles for Sale - Both similar

A Hard Day's Night - Both similar

Help! - Stereo

Rubber Soul - Stereo

Revolver - Stereo

Sgt Pepper - Mono

Magical Mystery Tour - Mono

White Album - Mono and Stereo. Some tracks sound better in mono (happiness is a warm gun and Julia, for example, the guitar parts are much clearer) but others tracks sound better in stereo.

Others I'm sure will have very contrasting views to mine but overall I feel that the middle albums of Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver, although good in Mono really have benefitted from the 'wider' sound of the stereo mixes. Having said that I really enjoyed the version of Help (track) in mono as it is not a take I've heard before. Also, the hard-panned stereo versions of Eleanor Rigby and for no one on Revolver are inferior to the Mono. You would think that as these middle albums sound generally better in stereo that the later albums would also, but I was really surprised that this was not the case. Sgt Pepper is to me the real gem of the Mono set because it really feels like a different album. The title track and reprise is a lot heavier on the drums and not shoved over to one speaker and generally all the tracks sound fuller and warmer somehow. The only exceptions are help from my friends and a day in the life which probably sound a little better in stereo. Also MMT comes to life. Strawberry Fields and All you need is love are much clearer and fuller sounding. Also Flying sounds great compared to the strained stereo version. There are a number of other differences and the same goes for a number of tracks on the white album. Te mono masters also has a few different sounding tracks: paperback writer's guitar riff sounds great and the inner light is totally different with George's voice sounding psychedelic and cosmic, while the intro is different from the stereo.

Overall a fantastic set. For me the Mono definitely holds its place alongside the Stereo versions. For some albums I will rank the Mono as the definitive one I choose to listen to, for others I will revert to the stereo versions.

If, like me, you already own the original 1987 CD's and are considering buying either the Stereo or Mono set then go for this one - you will love it!

PS: I bought it from - it cost me £115 as opposed to £179!

Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: Lover, Traitor, Hero, Spy
Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: Lover, Traitor, Hero, Spy
by Ben Macintyre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping story, 3 Mar. 2008
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The story of Eddie Chapman, a criminal, turned spy, turned double-agent, is one such example. This is a fascinating read brought brilliantly to life by Ben Macintyre, who has clearly researched his subject thoroughly. I couldn't put this book down. Well worth a read!

The SS: A Warning from History
The SS: A Warning from History
by Guido Knopp
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 3 Mar. 2008
I bought this book to further my knowledge of Reinhard Heydrich and the role he played in the Nazis' Final Solution. I am a history student and as Heydrich features in my dissertation I was eager to get this book seeing as it had a whole chapter dedicated to the man. However, there is precious little information about Heydrich and the conception of the Reich Security Main Office under him. There is no use of sources, such as the orders Heydrich gave to the Einsatzgruppen when the Nazis invaded Poland. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the rest of the book. Although the sensationalist style (it is written by a journalist) may be enjoyed by some people, I personally found the writing style to be boring and presumtuous. There are very few historical arguments included and what the author may term as primary sources (from relatively unknown sources!) are inserted within the text in grey boxes, seemingly at random! This makes it difficult to keep the flow of the text going and is annoying as they are sometimes unrelated to the main topic.

If you know little or nothing about the SS and want to improve your knowledge then this book might be worth dipping in to, but don't bother spending too much time on it. There are so many well written and informative books written on this subject and I would recommend all of them above this. If, like me, you know quite a bit about this subject then steer clear of this book.
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