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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you have ears? If so, then you really need this boxset in your life, 12 April 2011
This review is from: The Beatles In Mono (Audio CD)
If I had to sum up this boxset in one word, I would say "essential"... but then I'd probably still keep talking, and use lots of other words until you felt duty-bound to buy it. Put simply, if you haven't heard The Beatles in Mono, then you haven't really heard them at all.

There IS a certain insanity in paying more for smaller box containing less music than the stereo set... but this is the one item no Beatlemaniac can afford to live without.

However, I had to find out this the hard way, as detailed below.

Having grown up with only the 1987 CD transfers to go by, I spent an insane amount of time and energy looking forward to the release of the remastered Beatles catalogue in 2009. This was a great opportunity to bring The Beatles kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but the stereo boxset fell well short of my expectations.

The music was brilliant, of course, and the packaging was a vast improvement on the 1987 reissues, with great sleevenotes and new pictures, but it came as a huge disappointment to find that the engineers had simply spruced up the original stereo mixes, rather than creating new soundscapes, following the standards set by the 'Yellow Submarine Songtrack' (1999), 'Let It Be... Naked' (2003) and 'Love' (2006) albums. They had done a great job in improving the sound quality, but the earlier remix albums still sound so much better than the 2009 models.

The engineers responsible for remastering the albums obviously felt obliged to preserve the original recordings as best as possible, but as a consequence this meant no work went into trying to remix the songs for the benefit of modern sound systems. An epic fail for all concerned, especially given what little respect The Beatles had themselves for their own early stereo albums.

Stereo was still very much in its infancy during the 1960s, a novelty enjoyed by a minority of enthusiasts, and even The Beatles themselves didn't pay much attention to the stereo mixes until their later albums, preferring to devote more time towards working on the main format of the day - mono.

So if you want to hear The Beatles' music as The Beatles themselves wanted it to be heard, this boxset is the closest you will get to experiencing what they intended back in the 1960s. The mono mixes were not designed to be heard on iPods, but when you play them through a decent speaker system, it's the closest you can get to experiencing the band as nature intended.

By 1968, The Beatles paid closer attention to the stereo mixes on The White Album, and by 1969 they abandoned mono entirely in favour of stereo for Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and Abbey Road. But before then, mono is by far the best way to experience The Beatles.

...with a few exceptions, that is. To finish off my ramble, I thought I'd do a quick stereo vs mono comparison, and do a guide to creating the perfect Beatles collection:

1) Please Please Me
2) With The Beatles

Mono all the way. Quite why the original stereo mixes were dug up for the re-releases, I will never know. But avoid them like the plague. The mono versions are infinitely superior.

3) A Hard Day's Night
4) Beatles For Sale
5) Help!

The stereo effect was greatly improved by 1964. The mono mixes are still the best way to hear these albums, but the stereo versions of AHDN and BFS aren't bad at all. And George Martin's 1987 remix of 'Help!' is arguably better than the mono version.

6) Rubber Soul
7) Revolver
8) Sgt Pepper
9) Magical Mystery Tour
10) Yellow Submarine

The hard-panning on some of these albums, with the vocals coming out of one channel in many cases, makes me cringe. So mono all the way for albums 6-9.

However, if you can avoid the stereo mix of Yellow Submarine, do so, and try to get hold of the Songtrack remix album (from 1999) instead. There are also several Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour tracks on the Love album, far better than the original stereo mixes.

11) The White Album

The last of the mono releases, and the most difficult to make a decent call in favour of one format or the other. Some tracks benefit from stereo, whereas others sound better in mono. You really need both in your life.

12) Abbey Road

Meh, it's in stereo only, so you don't have a choice. Certainly the best sounding Beatles album, regardless what you think of the music itself.

13) Let It Be

Forget the original version - the '...Naked' remix is the ONLY way this album should be heard.

Until they remix the entire back catalogue, your only option is to buy the mono boxset, picking out the odd stereo exception as instructed above.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Nov 2011, 11:51:53 GMT
M.C.W says:
I do have ears, I unfortunately do not have £176, averaging £17 an album, when you can get the stereos now at £7 individually how is it fair? This is how the beatles should be heard, hmmm, I totally agree but this is not doing what the beatles were doing, reaching the masses, it is how the beatles should be heard if you have disposable income, this is not cool (how ever beautiful the packaging is).

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Nov 2011, 22:35:56 GMT
Paulio says:

Re-reading my original review, I agree that I should have made more of an effort in my argument to balance the "need" to hear these albums against the obscene cost of buying them.

Yes, they're "essential"... but the pricing is ridiculous, given you can get Dylan's mono box for £50 on here, and The Smiths set for £30. As you say, it's a beautiful box, but £17 per disc is a lot to ask.

I agree that the albums should be available individually, but EMI/Apple argued at the time that releasing two lots of CDs would have been excessive/confusing for general buyers, so it made sense for them to release the stereo albums invidually for Joe Public, and the mono box for obsessives.

However, why can't they now make them available as individual downloads on iTunes? (I haven't checked for a while - correct me if they ARE available now).

The Stones Roses remastered their classic debut in 2009, but you couldn't get their 1988/90 singles and b-sides on CD unless you paid £100 for the Collector's Edition (vinyl, etc). However, the songs WERE available on iTunes, so why can't The Beatles offer the same?

Personally, it's still quite hard to justify the outlay on either boxset, so my insane decision to buy both is still a bit hard to stomach 2 years on.
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