Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more
Monday, September 14, 2009
Released in 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band marked the Beatles most ambitious recording project to date. Originally released on vinyl in both mono and stereo, the mono version quickly went out of print and has never been issued on compact disc until now. Favored by many hardcore fans as representing the true intention of the band, a mythology has developed behind the mono version and many younger fans are now hearing it for the first time.
While there will always be some debate over which is the greater version of the recording, there is no doubt that the mono Pepper remaster has been about as highly anticipated as any other of their recordings, save The Beatles (White Album) in mono. Given that interest, Myvinylreview reviews the Pepper mono remaster today.
(The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper's, 1967)
In preparation for this review, I pulled out my original U.K. Parlophone mono (with -1/-1 matrices) for comparison with the remastered mono cd from the Beatles in MONO box set. As with all of the reviews in this remaster series, my method was repeated listenings of full album sides, plus occasional back to back comparisons of individual songs.
In this instance, E.M.I. did an excellent job of not only giving us a fantastic sounding Pepper, but also in staying faithful to the sound on the original Parlophone mono vinyl. As advertised, there is no evidence of any compression or limiting being added during mastering--and this cd sounds better and better as you turn it up. Unlike the mono remastered cd of The Beatles (White Album), where it sounds like the EQ was changed from what is on the original vinyl to bring a more modern, uniform sound to the double album, the EQ on the mono Pepper remaster stays true to the sound of the original.
I've always preferred the mono Pepper over the stereo for all but the epic closer, A Day in the Life, where the stereo simply works better in conveying the overall apocalyptic mood of the song. And this remastered mono cd really delivers from start to finish, conveying 98% of the experience of the original U.K. mono vinyl, if only bringing a bit less air and ambiance to the mix. For many, the lack of any surface noise or inner groove distortion will make this their preferred listen even if they already own the original vinyl.
A great deal of what makes Sgt. Pepper's such a compelling experience is the orchestration that accompanies much of the record. And the mono remaster really delivers the midrange richness of the strings during She's Leaving Home, as well as Harrison's dreamy sitar-driven Within You Without You. The mono remaster also beautifully reproduces the sweet midrange wood of the clarinet as well as the character of McCartney's voice in When I'm Sixty-Four, with the same realism as the original vinyl.
Only on the opening title cut (and the later reprise), and during some of the transitions between songs, does one really even notice that last bit realism and ambience to be lacking on the cd--and there is a good argument to be made that it is the noise inherent in the vinyl format that contributes to this difference, rather than any mastering choice by the engineer.
All in all, this is an excellent effort by E.M.I. Given the true-to-the-original EQ and lack of surface noise and inner groove distortion, this mono remastered cd is what I would consider essential. Those who own the original U.K. vinyl (and don't needledrop) can put it away, as this cd will get you 98% there and then some. Hopefully, E.M.I. will use the same approach in doing the remastered stereo vinyl, and then we can also have A Day in the Life in all of its stereo glory.
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Posted by My Vinyl Review at Monday, September 14, 2009