Friday, October 14, 2016

Teen Beat XXV - The Rolling Stones in Mono

First off in this strange age of social media I've gained an extra follower on the blog itself so thank you as I launch the twenty-fifth edition of "Teenbeat".
Many years ago when I had an active 'Big' blog I wrote a substantial entry around the longstanding British rock band, the Rolling Stones and my recordings by them and on September 30th, a 15 cd box set of their recordings was issued.

Basically the box set covers what I'd call the Decca or (for us North Americans), the London Years where from 1963 through 1970, they recorded for Decca records of Great Britain but with a twist as this set only comprises of individual albums of studio recordings that were issued in monophonic sound.
Unlike the Beatles to whom only about five recordings were only available in mono and to whom there are mono and stereo sets of everything except the last two studio albums, it's fair to say most of the pre 1966 Rolling Stones songs are only in mono and they appeared as recent as 2002 in generally good remastered cds and a few records from the same sources. It's also important to note a good number of those 1964/5 tracks that were only mixed in stereo such as 2120 South Michigan Avenue were simply 'folded in' for the mono editions so you're not hearing different outside of the sound all now coming from the centre of your speakers on these discs.
This means there is quite a bit of duplication between those cd  issues and these new cds.
 The discs are fitted so you remove from from the top with what I'd regard as a silly magnetic catch and at the front there is a booklet with a short write up of the the groups history and pictures.
It tells you nothing about the recording history of the groups albums such as the dates, studios used when originally issued and catalogue numbers or even which albums are featured that I feel is quite an oversight.
 The albums appear in mini lp form which I favour but lack some of the individual touches such as 'fold backs' on the UK titles, period mock inner sleeves and in the instance of Let It Bleed, the poster that was included in all copies of the album. At cost the Japanese issue features all of that and more!

The European edition has see through plastic inner sleeves and plastic resealable outside sleeve jackets to protect them. This inexplicably was been missed of the North American edition which has the discs spine face down in the box so they can easily get scratched where at least the european has them slotted with the spines to the left hand side of the box
Like most sixties groups their UK and US discographies difference greatly but unlike that of the beatles they were compiled by the bands own producer for US consumption leading of itself to duplication.
To simplify, it includes the following US titles also released back in Canada on London records:
12x5, The Rolling Stones, Now, Out Of Our Heads, December's Children (and everybody's), Aftermath and Flowers plus all of the UK titles.
This means that for the first time since 1995 their first UK album is actually available here in the UK in it's original form and for the first time outside Japan, the second album is finally issued on cd, something as a person who chose back home to collect the UK versions I'm kinda delighted about.

That's the first UK album - note unlike the Beatles in 1964 it wasn't deemed necessary have the bands name on it - where next to it the London 12x5 album of July 1964 that did!
Talking of sleeves for some inexplicable reason 1968's Beggars Banquet album which only has one special mono mix on it of - Sympathy For The Devil - uses the 1984 'toilet' cover rather than the R.S.V.P. scripted one originals had. The band may of wanted that at the time as the cover but it wasn't what was issued so in many ways it kinda jars with whole notion being a facsimile of the original lp issue.
The inclusion of the American edition on London of 1966's milestone Aftermath album seems odd given they removed two other US editions and that only what is seen from a  UK vantage point of the inclusion of Paint it, black, a 1966 single and opening track is only what separates it from the UK edition as just ten of the UK versions fourteen were used with no differences in versions.
I say that because they compiled a special compilation album called Stray Cats for this set that houses other mono only tracks such as 45's or tracks from UK extended play releases not on these albums where there is space for it and where it would make more sense to have included it next to it's 'b' side. 
A number of tracks were re-transferred and others had some processing done in 2002 for initial super audio cd release removed and these do actually sound better as in more 'open' and analogue sounding.
Outside of that and the reappearance of the first two UK albums, the main plus of this set is getting the dedicated mono mixes unavailable since the late 1960's of their Aftermath, Between The Buttons and Their Satanic  Majesties Request albums that suffered from that extreme left, right so-called 'stereo' popular back then and in any event was often less of a priority than the more commonplace in the home mono. The amount of time spent varied where separate mixes were made made in four hours or less in stereo compared to days on the mono with less care about how loud any one part of mix was in stereo compared to the mono.
Personally I feel those mono mixes offer more of a sense of the performance everyone including the bands own members wanted us to hear and be judged on, sounding better balanced to my ears.
The inclusion of a completely folded  from stereo into mono Let It Bleed album, an album that is one of their very best ever is puzzling as while it was issued briefly in 1969 in this form in the UK, it was soon gone and sounds no different than playing a current version on cd with the mono button engaged. I'd of issued the stereo version with a period cd logo in mini lp form in stereo complete with replica dedicated inner sleeve and poster as a bonus as that would be of more value, making the set a good mainly mono way into the 1960's Rolling Stones recordings.
To summarize, the box set performs a valuable function in presenting the whole of the studio recordings of the Rolling Stones in mono in single spot very well transferred although the execution on the artwork and some choices on the contents could of been better given more thought and general attention to detail.

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