Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Rolling Stones In Mono

 

Now, I have always been 110% a stereo man but I was still inspired enough by some of the reviews on various media to purchase this excellent box set. The sound is certainly crystal clear and marvellously remastered. In some ways it has redressed the balance quite considerably. After hearing this, it is more 60-40 in favour of stereo and I certainly now derive a lot of pleasure from these mono recordings.

For sure, the first batch of albums - "The Rolling Stones"; "12 x 5"; and "The Rolling Stones Number Two" were, I believe, released originally in mono and sound excellent here in punchy, clear remastered mono. The stereo tracks from "The Rolling Stones Now", like "Down The Road Apiece" are better served in stereo, to my taste. However, I prefer the two "Out Of Our Heads" versions and "December's Children" in mono, by far. These two sound superb in mono. With the mono it is all about the bass - it comes out of your speakers pounding full and loud, just as I like it, and from a central position. I am just listening to "Lady Jane". It is fantastic. Check out the intro to "Under My Thumb" or the punch of "It's Not Easy" and the thump of “High And Dry” from "Aftermath". Or "That's How Strong My Love Is". Wonderful. The sometimes problematic "Heart Of Stone" sounds better than it has ever done here. "Good Times" just sounds marvellous.

Many people prefer "Aftermath" and "Between The Buttons" in mono. I am sold on “Aftermath”, with its big, bassy sound, but I am not completely convinced about “Buttons”, however I can hear where they are coming from. In many respects, though, they come alive in stereo. Particularly "Buttons". However, "My Obsession" and its drums from that album sounds impressive in mono. It is from these two albums onwards, arguably,  that stereo is certainly the preferred medium, for me. It definitely is for "Beggars Banquet" and "Let It Bleed". Those two have excellent stereo versions. All that said, I have to say that I recently listened to “No Expectations”, “Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Prodigal Son”, the bluesy numbers from “Beggars’ Banquet”, in mono and they sounded big, bassy and floor-shakingly powerful. "Midnight Rambler" from "Let It Bleed" sounds excellent in mono too, as it happens. So too does “Gimme Shelter” and “Monkey Man” so there is far more of a case for the mono versions of these two than I originally thought.

As for "Her Majesty's" I have to admit there is something of an appeal hearing what is musically often a bit of a mess, remastered here in mono -"Light Years" in particular, but again, stereo probably just wins out in the end. Only just though, because of the multi-instrumentation of the album. 

My same logic applies to the "Stray Cats" bonus material. The pre-1966 ones are pretty much all better in mono, after that stereo is king.

So, in conclusion, there are, however, always things to discover in these box sets. I love big, booming bass and these mono recordings certainly give me that.

These are just my opinions and, as I said, I am (maybe was, though) more of a stereo man, so they are pretty predictable. It is still a highly recommended box set, however. A great document of this seminal band at their 1960s best in some gloriously powerful sound.

A-



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