Monday, March 30, 2009

Sgt. Pepper in Mono

After a long search, I finally laid my hands on a nice mono copy of Sgt. Pepper. It's a Capitol copy, with the the cut-out inserts and groovy pink psychedelic inner sleeve. I know, I know. The EMI versions are better and they have the famous 'inner groove' gibberish, but I am trying to fill in my 'USA' collection and it's exactly what I wanted.

We've long heard that the mono version is the best version. Also, The Beatles were present during the mixing of the mono but did not attend the stereo mix.

I had never heard the mono Pepper, so when I sat down the other day to give it a listen, I was anxious to see the difference.

First off, it's not all that radically different. However, the mono does seem heavier. The guitar, bass and drums are more present. This is apparent the minute the album starts and continues throughout.

Besides that, there were a few things that jumped out. The end of Side One, 'Mr. Kite', has a much more abrupt, non-echo ending. It's quite different and shocked me when I heard it. Also, during the transition from 'Sgt. Pepper Reprise' and 'A Day in the Life', you can hear McCartney ad-lib yelling (I can't make out what he says but it's along the lines of his scat singing on 'Hey Jude'). And the laughing at the end of George's 'Within You Without You' is much louder. It's buried on the stereo and if you're playing the stereo at low volume, you don't even hear it. Having it louder is much better, I think, and continues the feeling of there being an 'audience' (as was the set-up at the beginning of the album).

'She's Leaving Home' is a bit faster (they either slowed down the stereo or sped up the mono. Not sure). 'Lucy' is more echoey but not much. And I noticed the chicken cluck and guitar lick at the end of 'Good Morning' was timed differently (I think the stereo actually got it timed better, but that's after listening to it for 40 years, and only hearing the mono a couple of times).

So is the mono really better? I actually think it is. Slightly. Just the fact that the guitar/bass/drums sound is deeper and more up-front makes me prefer it. If you don't have a copy, get one on eBay...or you can wait for Capitol Albums Vol. 3, which should have both mono and stereo mixes, as well as Yesterday...and Today, Revolver, and Magical Mystery Tour. That is, if Capitol doesn't screw it up.


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