Saturday, September 6, 2014

I nerded out today, oh boy...

...I'm a lucky man who received a special parcel today.

Well, if my Summer had a soundtrack this year, it would be the albums of Electric Light Orchestra - I've been celebrating their entire catalog (except for Balance of Power - blech!) on an almost daily basis (so good!).  Anyway, that soundtrack was surprisingly, yet - in this case - delightfully, interrupted today as I received an item that I had been anxiously awaiting, a few days early.

Is that glorious new vinyl I see?!

Yes, yes it is!!!

and, yes, they've come to play!

the White Album is numbered as well - nice!

Yes!  The Beatles Mono Vinyl Box Set arrived a few days before the 9/9/14 release date!  I won't say where I ordered this from as I don't want to get them in trouble with any Industry dipshits who might be Release Date sticklers.  I didn't do a full "unboxing", but I do have to share a small video clip I took from my phone when I did the big "reveal".  I was audibly a little more excited than I would have like to have shown, because if you listen close you can hear me do a full-on nerdy mouth-breathing gasp.  So embarrassing, but it made me chuckle after the fact - so who cares.

I've never heard any of The Beatles albums in Mono.  Everything I have are Stereo versions, whether it be cassette, CD, mp3, or vinyl.  So, I was really looking forward to these, as The Beatles themselves had always considered Mono to be their format of choice (their last two albums, Let it Be and Abbey Road were Stereo though...thus, they are not included in this Box Set.), plus this new collection was being done in full Analog - no Digital bullshit in this set of vinyl (well, except for one song, but who cares)!

I had prepared for this Box Set a couple months prior by getting a Double-Y cable setup for my system.  The helpful folks at the Steve Hoffman Music Forums had shared a way to get the full Mono sound out of today's modern Stereo equipment that rarely feature a "Mono button" anymore.  Basically just buy a Y-cable that has one Male, two Female ends and another Y-cable that has one Female, two Male ends; connect them together to form an "X" or Double-Y; then plug in after your phono-preamp (or after your turntable if you don't have a separate preamp); and you've got yourself a permanent "Mono button" (remove the Double-Y cables before playing Stereo records though).  One of these days I may have to actually join those forums and say "thanks" for that bit of advice.

After unpacking everything and getting my nerdy mouth-breathing under control, I set up my SpinClean to give each record a good cleaning before playing.  For those on the fence about cleaning these new records before playing them - yeah, do it.  I had more dirt and grime sitting in the bottom of the SpinClean from these 14 new records than I've seen from 14 used and beat-up pieces of vinyl.

So, after everything was cleaned and dried, I got down to business.  My plan of attack was to start with the Mono Masters 3-record set and then listen to each album in chronological order...because I'm a dork who gets excited by things like this and thus, makes a plan of attack.

I put on the first Mono Masters record, cracked open the awesome hard-cover book that came with the Box Set, and began the awesomeness.  I don't have a world-class system or anything, but what I heard coming from the speakers put an instant smile on my face.  The vinyl was flat and quiet, and the sound amazing.  I was enjoying what I was hearing so much, that I actually had to put down the book because it was distracting me too much from the music.  Instead, I leaned back in my sofa, closed my eyes, opened my ears, and let the good times roll.

All the songs from the Mono Masters set sounded great, but the two that really stuck out for me were the alternate version of "Across the Universe", and "Hey Jude".  I've heard "Hey Jude" countless times but I was hearing things I had never heard before in this Mono format.  It was jaw-dropping good (but I refrained from any nerdy mouth-breathing this time)!

Next, the plan was to listen to the Please, Please Me album, but damn if that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band wasn't beckoning me to play it first instead.  That album, along with Abbey Road, constantly alternates position as being my favorite Beatles album.  So, I gave in and listened to Pepper instead.

Long story short - it's really, really good.  So much so, that I'm half tempted to just chuck my Stereo versions in the trash.  I won't, but I'm tempted to anyway.  The sound is just so much clearer, and there are some songs that reveal little bits and pieces that I had never heard before.  "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" has some cool phasing effects that I hadn't noticed before.  The orchestrations on "She's Leaving Home" are more pronounced.  The creepy carnival sounds at the end of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" sound better than ever.  The one song on this album that I was always "meh" about, though lyrically it's kickass, is "Within You, Without You"...this Mono version really makes everything just pop, and I've come to like it a little more now.  There's some extra guitar work that shines through in "When I'm Sixty-Four".  "Sgt. Pepper Reprise" is really amazing in Mono!  The crescendo-ing horns in "A Day in the Life" sound more natural, smoother, and powerful. 

Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten.  I'll be going back and listening to the albums in chronological order now.  I may be skipping football and listening to the Fab Four tomorrow instead.  If you're a fan of The Beatles, you have a turntable, and some extra spending money, you gotta get this set.  The cover recreations are great; the vinyl pressings are great (clean them though!); the book is great; the songs are great (it's The Beatles, so that's about as "no shit, Sherlock" as you can get); and most importantly - the sound is great.  Just amazing all around!

Oh, one more thing, now they need to re-issue an all-analog version of their final two Stereo albums, then it will be complete!

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