Tag Archives: The White Album

Rocks In The Attic #384: The Beatles – ‘Mono Masters’ (2009)

RITA#384So the plan was to buy the Beatles In Mono vinyl box set, and then sell the stereo box set that I bought a couple of years ago. That was the plan. But then I got it home – from supporting my local independent record store, I like to add – and plonked it down on my shelves next to the stereo set. I couldn’t split these two up, could I? Not when they’re both so…different.

The differences – both minor and major – are a wonderful thing between these two sets. I do agree that mono is king, especially here when the Beatles contributed to the mono mixes, and left the ‘after the fact’ stereo mixes to the studio engineers. It’s just such an oddity how some of the changes can be so noticeable. For a band known for their high quality control, it’s amazing that the stereo mixes were handled so poorly. People applaud George Martin and the Beatles for being so innovative and forward-thinking. Here, they were largely disregarding an audio format that would go on to dominate the music industry by the end of the decade.

It’s nice to see that they expanded this record into a triple, rather than reduce the running time due to some of the later singles not receiving a mono mix. In place of those later singles, we get some tracks mixed in mono intended for a Yellow Submarine EP that never saw the light of day. As welcome as this is, it does change things slightly – in the past I always say the two Past Masters discs as representative of each half of their career. Past Masters Vol. 2 begins with Day Tripper, recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions just as the Beatles were starting to wholeheartedly reflect outside influences, in this case the Motown sound. On Mono Masters, Day Tripper turns up halfway through the third side.

With the Beatles In Mono box set, I now own the core catalogue three times over (I already owned them all prior to the stereo remasters). Do I need three copies of the White Album? Three copies of Revolver and Rubber Soul? Three copies of Sgt. Pepper’s? Damn right I do!

Hit: She Loves You

Hidden Gem: Hey Bulldog

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Rocks In The Attic #281: The Beatles – ‘1967 – 1970’ (1973)

RITA#281The lines have since been blurred by subsequent compilation albums, but the Red and Blue Albums used to serve as an excellent line in the sand. Did you prefer the moptop Beatlemania of the Red Album, or the maturing experimentation of the Blue Album? The turning point chosen was the Blue Album’s opener, John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever­ – a key moment of evolution in studio production, and a chance for the Fab Four to try out their new moustaches.

The Blue Album is definitely a more balanced offering than its counterpart. Whereas Allen Klein topped up the Red Album’s shorter running time by including many songs from Rubber Soul (presumably his favourite album), here the tracks are more evenly spread out: four album tracks from Sgt. Peppers, three from the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack, three from the White Album, four from Abbey Road, three from Let It Be, and the rest of the songs coming from singles and b-sides. If anything you could say that the White Album is the least represented – a sprawling double-album with only three songs present – but given that this compilation collects all of their lengthier late-period songs, I guess some allowances had to be made to be able to make it a double-album, symmetrical to the Red Album. These four years could easily have been extended into a triple-album, but maybe Klein figured that a triple-album wouldn’t have had any more pulling power than a double.

I do question the inclusion of George Harrison’s Old Brown Shoe – the b-side to The Ballad Of John And Yoko. There are definitely stronger album tracks from around that period, which I would probably have substituted in its place – but I welcome its obscurity, a song that would later see the light of day on Past Masters Vol. 2, but at the time a definite hidden gem in their back-catalogue.

While I see the point of the 1 compilation – 2000’s attempt at putting all of the band’s number one singles in one collection – the Red and Blue Albums have the luxury of including album tracks. On 1, the years between 1967 and 1970 are represented by just eleven songs, while the Blue Album manages to cover the same period with twenty eight tracks (and doesn’t ever seem overlong or outstay its welcome).

For me, the only real sour note on this compilation is the inclusion of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – one of my least favourite Beatles songs. It’s definitely the catchiest track from the White Album, and probably only included here as it was such a hit single for Marmalade in January 1969 – with this single they achieved the notoriety of being the first ever Scottish band to hit number one in the UK singles chart.

Hit: Hey Jude

Hidden Gem: Old Brown Shoe

Rocks In The Attic #127: Paul & Linda McCartney – ‘Ram’ (1971)

Rocks In The Attic #127: Paul & Linda McCartney - ‘Ram’ (1971)I’m with Moo on this one – mono is pretty pointless. It makes sense if the artist originally mixed it in mono, and intended its release in mono, but most of the time it’s a marketing ploy aimed at audiophiles.

Take this release for example – the limited edition release of McCartney’s second solo album in mono, complete with the most minimal sleeve I’ve ever seen (aside from the scrawl on the top left of the sleeve, the only mention of the album name and artist is on a small slip of paper inside the inner sleeve – it makes the packaging of The White Album look like Sgt. Pepper’s). There’s no reason for it to exist. Mono had been left behind by this point, and all releases were universally in stereo. It exists merely as a curiosity.

However, it’s by a Beatle, it’s a limited collection, and therefore it’s collectable – hence why I bought it. I have the stereo version, with its garish sleeve (possibly the reason this mono release is so minimalist?) and it’s always been a firm favourite. In fact, I swapped my CD copy of the album for the vinyl version back in the late 90s. My Huddersfield friend Dom Beresford had it on vinyl and wanted it on CD. I felt the opposite, so we did a fair trade. The record is forever marked by this transaction – a sticker on the label around the centre of the disc proudly declares it is the property of Kirklees Libraries & Arts.

There’s been a hell of a lot of love for this album of late. It is very good – about a million times better than his hotchpotch debut album; but as much as I love it, and regard it as my favourite McCartney album, it’s not as good as Band On The Run.  I don’t subscribe to the theory that his Wings material is more of a group offering – to me, they’re McCartney albums with a couple of hired hands to play some of the instruments so he didn’t have to play everything.

In terms of the quality of the songwriting here, he matches the strength of his output on Abbey Road. The melodies are strong enough to support an orchestral version of the album – something I’ve been listening to a lot recently. To me, Ram is as strong an album as Imagine – in fact they’d make a killer double album – but it’ll never be as loved by the public as Lennon’s album. There are no big hits, and definitely nothing close to the universality of Imagine’s titular track.

Hit: Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey

Hidden Gem: Ram On

Rocks In The Attic #30: The Beatles – ‘Yellow Submarine Songtrack’ (1999)

It’s odd that they released this, as though admitting that the original Yellow Submarine soundtrack released in 1968 was a bit of a mistake. That album has four previously unreleased songs of varying quality on one side, bookended by the title song and All You Need Is Love; with the flipside covering George Martin’s orchestral score for the film. Of the studio albums in their official cannon, this has to be the weakest as half of it isn’t them playing, and the rest is half-hearted, at best.Released in 1999 to promote the re-release of the animated film, the Yellow Submarine Songtrack tries to wrong those rights by removing the George Martin tracks and filling the album out with the other Beatles songs that appear in the movie.

Hey Bulldog takes pride of place as the first song on the album (after the title song), and this was released as the only single from the album. Of those 4 previously unreleased songs that appeared on the original soundtrack, it’s clearly the best one – a nice little riff-driven rocker by Lennon that wouldn’t have been out of place as a B-side around the time of The White Album when it was recorded.

This is a nice addition to my Beatles collection – the tracks are fully remixed from the original multitrack tapes (something that they didn’t even do for the 2009 remasters), making it a pretty unique release. And of course it’s on yellow vinyl, and who doesn’t like coloured vinyl?

Hit: Yellow Submarine

Hidden Gem: Hey Bulldog