Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Beatles in Mono: The aesthetic Experience was a week ago today that I did my citizen's / Apple scruff duty and decided to purchase both the mono and stereo remastered box sets. It wasn't the greatest experience of my life, let me tell you. The distribution of the boxes was questionable and I was very lucky to find the mono box set after several telephone calls and running around in my semi-trusty automobile to try and actually find what I was hunting for. Most retailers had the stereo set but they were limited to small numbers (usually between three and six) and were basically sold out of the stereos within minutes of opening the physical stores. I was determined to find both sets within the first day of release (number 09...number 09..number 09 ) and I was successful in both cases. I was originally told that the mono box would be impossible to find within the city but after exhausting all avenues, one of the independents had the mono white box. Whew !
I decided to concentrate on the Mono set and I also wanted to listen to the mono remasters in chronological order before tackling the stereos.
Let's talk about the look of the mono box:
First off, the set was made in Japan. The outer box and the discs indicated "Made in Japan" and I'm wondering if this contract was the reason why: number 01 - they were so expensive and number 02 - they were a limited run.
The outer box is white with a thin black border. "The Beatles" in the classic logo is featured with the words "In Mono" written smaller underneath. The back of the box informs the consumer that there are exactly 185 songs as well as the contents, the re-creation of the LP releases, the non-album and EP tracks, the booklet, etc. A small Apple logo and the Beatles official web page is also announced.
I must say that I'm very impressed with the look of the whole box. I carefully sliced open the side the box with my exacto knife and slowly slid out the contents. The inner section contains the booklet and all the mono CDs in chronological order. From "Please Please Me" to the "White Album". Lastly the Beatles "mono masters" in a fold out cover completes the set.
The Booklet is 44 pages long (with photos) and describes the mono vs. stereo process as well as informative liner notes to the "mono masters" cds in detail. The pages are glossy and the back of the booklet describes the CDs in the package with a track list, composer credits, producer and engineer credits as well as remastering credits.
Each CD is individually wrapped in re-sealable mylar outer sleeves similar to Japanese LP imports. Very classy !! All CDs come with the original UK Lp inner sleeve ( "Please Please Me" to "Revolver" having the EMI sleeve, "Pepper" having the original psychodelic sleeve designed by "The Fool" [the red and pink sleeve], "Magical Mystery Tour" having the white sleeve and "The Beatles' White Album" have the original black inners).
All the CD have the original LP inserts: "Pepper" having the cut-outs, "Magical Mystery Tour" having the complete book and "The Beatles" having the poster and individual glossy photos. Speaking of "The Beatles", the white front cover has the name embossed. Sadly, there is no individual number assigned to the series, which would have been a nice touch.
Also missing are the "Garrod & Lofthouse/ Ernest J. Day" printing credits. It would also have been a very nice touch. The CDs all have the tri-fold cover construction similar to the original mono LPs. The labels correspond correctly to the first pressing LP labels. For instance, "Please Please Me" has the correct gold/black label - this was indicative of the early pressings where shortly thereafter it was changed to the more common yellow/black. "With the Beatles" to "Pepper" have the correct yellow/black labels. "Magical Mystery Tour" has the Capitol label as it was released as a double EP in the UK until the 70's. Lastly, "The Beatles" has the Apple label with the whole Apple on disc 1 and the sliced Apple on disc 2. This has the original top loader similar to early UK pressings. All labels have been modified to include the complete track list and the manufactor's blurbs. It's really an outstanding package. I almost expected to see the "Sold in UK..." print on the "White album". What's really neat is the George Martin credit for orchestration.
As a whole, I'm very impressed with the look of the CDs, I'm glad it was finally done right and I hope that newer Beatles fans will appreciate the artistry in which the LPs (when first released) were presented.
The cardboard covers are very sturdy, the CDs, inner sleeve and inserts (where applicable) have ample room to be slid in and out of the package. I highly recommend the box to all fans.
Please note that "Oldies...but Goldies" was not included due to the fact that most of the songs are available on the "mono masters" CDs and other various CDs in the set.
"Yellow Submarine", "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be" are not present as they were never mixed for mono.
A little note about "Yellow Submarine"; the four songs included on the "mono masters" are from the film soundtrack and are true mono in this form only. When "Yellow Submarine" was originally released in England, a mono catalogue number was issued - but it contained the stereo masters folded down.

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