The Beatles In Mono
180 gram, Box Set
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The Beatles’ nine U.K. albums, the American-compiled Magical Mystery Tour, and the Mono Masters collection of non-album tracks will be released in mono on 180-gram vinyl LPs. Newly mastered from the analogue master tapes the albums come with faithfully replicated artwork and within a lavish, limited 14-LP box, which also includes a 108-page hardbound book.
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Seven and a half years ago when the remastered back catalogue was released, I recall driving to every supermarket and music retailer in town (there were still several of those in 2009) to find a stereo box set. I hadn't pre-ordered but I had to have it. Ending up in Borders (happy memories), they were sold out. The sales assistant offered me the smaller, white Mono box behind the counter. More expensive than the stereo set and two albums short, I naively declined and ordered in the stereo set. It arrived and I loved it, albeit I haven't listened to Please Please Me or With The Beatles on headphones for seven and a half years due to the extreme panning on the stereo release rendering them almost unlistenable.
Fast forward to 2017 and now decidedly less naïve regarding the consensus in Beatle circles that the mono mixes are far superior, I could wait no longer. Lacking sufficient funding or hi-fi equipment to justify purchasing the now-wonderfully tempting Beatles In Mono vinyl, analogue remasters, I opted to buy the CD set. The original limited edition run has been indefinitely extended and it's still relatively easy to find on Amazon (beware of counterfeit copies from third party sellers and Ebay). Although the noble compact disc is maligned as a dying format in the wake of online streaming and vinyl's resurgence, it cannot be disputed the package is a beautiful thing to behold. There are no jewel cases and folded lyric sheets here: 10 albums and the singles/b-sides collection each in a miniature reproduction of the original vinyl sleeve complete with protective covers in an attractive gloss card box. I was a CD hold out until relatively recently but even I now consume most of my music via streaming services and second hand vinyl; this may prove to be my big last hurrah CD purchase and if it is, it's certainly going out with a bang.
There is nothing I can say about the music that hasn't been said a thousand times already, other than to say if I listened to each song a thousand times, it couldn't be enough. But I'm hearing new things here. Songs I've consumed obsessively since I was in single figures sound different. Immediately gone is the notion that I have re-bought albums that I already owned. I've only listened to Please Please Me and With The Beatles once apiece and even compared to the stereo remasters, on first listen I can draw up a list of killer moments that sound like I've never heard them before. George's guitar chops on Boys, every Lennon 'come on' in Please Please Me's title track. McCartney's bass throughout. This is just the Hofner. I'm literally wetting myself excited to get to the Rickenbacker 4001 in the mid-sixties.
The only negative feedback I have seen relates to the fact that it's a cash in by Apple. Of course it is! Haven't we all been Beatles fans long enough to know that Apple knows how high demand still is for their product and that they charge accordingly? That's capitalism Beatle fans; they don't owe you a cheap mono remasters set because you bought the cassettes legally in the 80s. But had each stereo remaster included a mono bonus disc as some suggest it should have, the quality of this package should still tempt a lot of purchasers despite the price. This is the greatest pop music ever made, the way the band wanted it to be heard and sounding better than ever before. Don't resist it if you're at all tempted. These are not the albums you own already, they are better. And I haven't even listed to Revolver or Pepper yet.
Some of the tabs on two of the sleeves were coming apart when new, but not a major issue.
Overall these are probably the best new versions of the LPs I will see/hear in my life (!).
Having been weaned on original copies of Help and Hard Days Night, I can attest that the versions of those included in this set are totally faithful to their ancestors in sound to the extent that you think you are listening to (perfect copies of) the originals. Not something you could have said about any previous reissue.
From the moment the needle dropped onto Please Please Me I knew I had attained Beatles Nirvana.
Worth the money? I sold some collectable books in order to raise the cash for these, and three years on I still don't regret it.