For music fans who came of age during the digital era, stereo recording is perfectly acceptable, albeit accompanied by mixed feelings. While offering much more varied sonic dynamics (particularly in headphones), much of the “slickness” of modern production comes from separating the parts of a band and producing them differently. You might get the crunchiest guitar sounds or the perfect thud on a drum, but you could argue that it it’s not worth what gets lost in the process–the organic simulation of an actual band playing.
Of course, plenty of studio bands are wildly enjoyable in a live setting. Likewise mediocre talent can be seen from a different perspective in an arena’s glamour and glitz. But outside of the fact that stereo music players weren’t as prominent as they are today, there is a reason why those early Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and Beatles records weren’t pressed as stereo recordings. It’s because they wanted you to hear what it was like to be there.
Another classic rock act that had fidelity to mono recordings is the Rolling Stones. In a 1968 interview, Mick Jagger reportedly complained about the stereo mix of Their Satanic Majesties Request: “‘2000 Light Years’ … is my favorite [song] but it’s lousy in stereo.”
Well, according to Rolling Stone magazine, ABKCO records is releasing a huge boxed set of mono recordings collected from their US and UK releases as well as a collection of singles and EP tracks entitled Stray Cats.
Spanning 15 CDs (or 16 LPS) and featuring 186 tracks–56 of which haven’t been available in mono since music went digital–the set will also feature a 48-page color booklet with an essay by David Fricke and photographs by Terry O’Neill.
Bob Ludwig, the legendary sound engineer at Gateway Studios, is responsible for mastering the new mono versions. Apparently, the vinyl was cut at Abbey Road (!).
The list of materials to be featured is as follows:
The Rolling Stones (U.K., 1964)
12 X 5 (1964)
The Rolling Stones No. 2 (U.K., 1965)
The Rolling Stones Now! (1965)
Out of Our Heads (U.S., 1965)
Out of Our Heads (U.K., 1965)
December’s Children (And Everybody’s) (1965)
Aftermath (U.K., 1966)
Aftermath (U.S., 1966)
Between the Buttons (UK, 1967)
Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
Beggar’s Banquet (1968)
Let it Bleed (1969)
Stray Cats (2016)