On November 28, Record Store Day is celebrating Black Friday by issuing many exclusive releases, including the Beatles Long Tall Sally EP. This release will be in Mono, and will "complements the recent release of The Beatles in Mono vinyl box and individual vinyl reissues" according to the Beatles' official website. In the words of the Record Store Day website, The “Long Tall Sally” 7” vinyl EP is being specially rereleased for Record Store Day’s Black Friday in a very limited quantity.
We took a little while to post this review of the mono box set because it is fairly a large chunk of music to listen to, analyse and compare. We wanted to do it thoroughly and do it right, and not just push a quick review that will say like every other review, that it is truly the best sounding ever made Beatles product ever.
Well, to be fair, it a pretty impressive box set that Apple prepared there!
In two short points, to me, the best quality of this new set is the fact that, compared to the previous stereo LP set, this was not made from the 2009 digitized remasters. Granted, the stereo LP set was made from a higher quality digital source than its CD counterpart, and was not boosted to fit the new iPod players, but it came from a digital source nonetheless. This mono set was made directly from master tapes, so no digital conversion at any point.
Don’t get me wrong, digital is not bad at all, but in the context of the reasons that motivated the preparation of this set, the all analog process is just a well appreciated cherry on the sundae for collectors - in respect to the original format. (this also justifies Apple’s slogan that claims this set is how the Beatles intended us to hear them).
On the other hand, the most disappointing element of this product is that the mastering seems a bit uneven… But more on this later.
First off, To have a new set of MONO pressings was amazing news - as we all know, much more effort was put into preparing mono mixes until 1968. The Beatles were involved in the mixing process, engineers spent more hours on them, while preparing the stereo mixes more quickly because they had to… often even a few weeks later without any input from the Beatles. Engineers did a pretty good job with the stereo mixes, but the bottom line remains: mono was the standard back then, so to have a great set of these standard mixes today is pretty impressive!
I for one, prefer the mono mixes of Revolver and Pepper because I always perceived the general feeling as different, the albums sound more “rock” with heavier drums and a different bass presence, while stereo mixes seem more “processed for commercial release” and a little further from what the Beatles probably were as a band. This set was therefore a big treat!
And what a treat it was! Simply starting with the construction of this box set: amazing! The box set resembles the stereo box set, but white, and features all the albums plus a beautiful book, similar to the impressive book from the stereo LP set. Difference is though, that every album replicates the original LPs to the smallest details: the artwork, the back flap covers, the laminated from cover with its rougher matte back cover, printer credits, labels… everything is as it was in the 60s!
Well, almost everything, the legal information in the perimeter print of the labels is different to reflect today’s copyrights. Also, a detail that got every collector wondering: why did they not include the original EMITEX inner sleeves? Apple went into so much trouble to replicate everything, why they omit this important detail?
In terms of sound (this is the reason why we all bought this after all!), I must admit that the whole sound spectrum is richer and opened up, sounds are clearer and well defined, and the relative position of the different sounds in the mix are really well defined. This “new” view on old sound has got me to go back and forth and compare with my set of original UK LPs, and the new masters definitely revealed stuff that was either buried in the mix, or that we had never really noticed before! Sometimes nice surprises, sometimes awkwardness that was probably better left burried..
Guitars on With The Beatles for example are clear and full, rich and deep, it definitely gave the feeling that this is what the band would have hoped us to hear in the first place. Sometimes, on the other hand, it seems the mastering was pushed a little too far on some tracks, revealing a little more than it should.. Michelle, on Rubber Soul, is a good example because the track is pushed so far that it is extremely saturated and sometimes causes an undesirable distortion in the overall sound…
At first I thought it was a crude mistake, so I went back to my original copies and to my surprise, a fair amount of saturation was present in the original mix too - the track was pushed to its limit in 1965, but then, the saturation was smoothly buried into the mix. Revealing it with the new mixes makes it just a little too noticeable and a bit annoying… I have noticed this through a couple of tracks across the set, namely on Rubber Soul and Please Please Me. So it gives the impression of an uneven mastering job. But in reality were the original mixes faulty, or is it the new masters that reveal a little too much? We have to give it to the engineers: they stayed true to the original mixes!
So I compared back and forth with my original UK copies, but I was also curious to compare to our favorite unique Canadian pressings too! Well, there was no surprise that I came to the same conclusion - our first few albums originating from UK master tapes source identical to those used to press the first UK albums… But it confirmed to me that our original records were pretty darn good pressings that still sound amazing even today! Maybe I am biased, but Canadian pressings are amongst my favorite worldwide, alongside the UK, and German pressings!
As an avid collector, I was looking forward to explore the little details that make Beatles collecting unique. I was, like many others, hoping to find the XEX 606-1 mix of Revolver, but it seems that they chose the more common (and officially deemed standard) 606-2 mix… I am not surprised, but it would have been a nice perk…
Also, many fans underlined that the choice of using the US configuration of magical Mystery Tour as the now official format for this album is inaccurate. While I understand Apple’s choice, I too would have been more excited about seeing the double EP set instead - From a historical and collectable point of view, the US album among all these UK configurations has always felt a little bit odd to me.
Another interesting detail about this LP set is that the triple MONO MASTERS album feature the real mono mixes of the Yellow Submarine tracks (and not the fold down mixes found on the original UK pressing). These are the tracks that were supposed to end up on the UK Yellow Submarine EP that was cancelled before even being issued!
The question of the numbers on the White Album cover has also stirred up some interesting conversations on the internet. First off, all albums are numbered starting at 9 000 000. I ordered my set from Amazon and got a fairly low number (9 013 854), but otherwise, it is not know yet how numbers were distributed around the world. That being said, all copies seen in Montreal and Quebec City were around the 9 045 000 /9 050 000 range. Maybe specific ranges of numers were sent in different countries, or on the other hand, maybe they were spread around randomly, no one knws for sure. It is not known either how many copies were made in total. 9 050 000 sound pretty low if two million copies were pressed, but is fairly high if on the other hand, only around 100 000 were pressed...
To sum it up, I think this mono box set is an amazing package, well crafted, where great efforts have been made to achieve the best possible sound, as well as to please picky collectors like us who will scrutinize every millimetre of the item… If the stereo box set would have been crafted with the same level of details, and pressed in a good pressing plant in Germany as well, these would have been seen as the official LP reference for the Beatles catalog for many years to come.
Personally, the albums that impressed me the most were the white album, with its amazing sound, and cool top loader and black inner sleeves (the only album along with Pepper to have the original inner sleeves reproduced), Sgt Pepper’s and With The Beatles. They look good, they sound amazing, and those are probably the three albums I will buy separate extra copies of to listen to all the time. (and individual albums each come with a cool sticker on the shrink wrap!).
The albums that disappointed me the most, were Rubber Soul, one of my favorite albums that I was looking forward to hear… and Please Please Me that was good.. but to my ears, just not “up there” with the others yet. Although, the pressings and cover construction are flawless - the problems are possibly just what the new mixes revealed (or how they revealed what was on the tracks..)
So if you are ready to invest in the glorious mono catalog, this box set it well worth it, no hesitation. I give it a well-deserved rating of 9 out of 10!
Otherwise, I strongly recommend you buy individuals pressings of your favorite albums, and who knows, you might like them so much that you’ll keep adding other pieces of the catalog from time to time and end up completing the set before you even know it!
The Scaffold was a Liverpool beat / pop humour group (trio) who released records on Parlophone between the first half 1966 and into the 1970s. Their personnel included Mike McGear (aka Mike McCartney), Roger McGough and John Gorman. The flirted with Fame in Canada in 1968.
The Scaffold issued two great (their very best!) singles on the Capitol label in Canada. In the USA, the group was signed by Bell Records who also had The Box Tops, Paul Jones (later releases) , The Troggs (later releases), etc.
Bell issued one Scaffold album in the USA in the spring of 1968 (Bell 6018 stereo).
If a Bell album by The Scaffold had been issued in Canada, it would have been pressed and distributed by Quality Records. But it wasn't. And Capitol chose not to release a Scaffold album. And what a shame as it surely would have appeared on the Capitol 6000 series. The songs on the 1968 USA Bell album were:
Long Strong Black Pudding, Goodbat Nightman, 2 Days Monday, 3 Blind Jellyfish, Thank U Very Much, I'de B The First (6 songs)
Do You Remember, Knees Up Mother Brown, 123, Today, Please Sorry, Jelly Covered Cloud (6 songs)
If the album had been issued in Canada in 1968, we would have been able to hear these other wonderful songs as they were meant to be heard. Scaffold Airplay In Canada!
Thank U Very Much was their first hit in England and the song was composed by Mike McGear. We can only speculate today whether the line "Thank U Very Much .. for our Gracious Tea", sounding just like God Save The Queen, may have inspired older brother Paul to pen the ditty Her Majesty.
The group was very popular in Sweden and in other European countries but their brand of clever pop never really did catch on in North America. The Bonzo Dog Band would fill this North American gap later with their albums. And then of course Monty Python. But for me, Scaffold was first.
The two great Scaffold singles that were issued here in Canada on the Capitol 72000 Series did get quite a bit of airplay and I do remember hearing Thank You Very Much quite a few times on the Ottawa radio stations including CFRA. I bought the Capitol record in Ottawa "as a delete" a while after it was released and I always enjoyed the humour of the B side.
Capitol 72524 The Scaffold Thank U Very Much / I'de B The First (February 1968) (this 45 was also issued in the USA on the Bell label as Bell 701)
This was their first hit in England and the song was composed by Mike McGear. I loved "Thank U Very Much" without knowing of any Beatles connection. It stood out among the other Pop records of the time.
NOTE - Bell in the USA also issued Do You Remember ? / Carry On Krow as Bell 724 (it was not issued in Canada)
Capitol 72562 The Scaffold Lily The Pink / Buttons Of Your Mind (this 45 was issued in the USA on the Bell label as Bell 747)
Lily the Pink did not get as much airplay as "Thank U Very Much" here, but it was also a unique sound with a nice climactic end.
None of the Scaffold 45s issued in Canada and the USA came with a picture sleeve which is too bad. The picture sleeves issued in Europe, like the one shown here from Sweden, are highly sought after.
The Scaffold were a quirky group and succeeded on their own unique talents without any endorsement from Mike's brother.
A few years later I found out that they had issued many other singles on Parlophone in England during the 1966 through 1971 period and these are recommended as well. Each single they made was good. I especially liked Do You Remember and Charity Bubbles. An album of their A and B sides is well worth looking for.
This has been just another brief detour on our journey through the Capitol of Canada 72000 series of singles!