Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Taking stock of my Beatles on lp collection

This post is about my Beatles collection on vinyl lp.
I've been buying new Beatles records since 1977 and adding the odd used copy over that period since been introduced to them by friends and family as a kid but like many, my collection went through a turbulent spell in the mid 80's when their UK albums were issued on cd and as some lps sadly showed their age through wear and damage in my teens, so they got to replaced by the cds in a few cases and in others the launch of this new format meant I never got around to completing the vinyl collection either. Indeed for a three year period I was minus a lot of their more important albums, period!
In the intervening years, I have managed to almost complete the collection and replace several damaged copies but in part through a resurgence in playing vinyl I'm slowly going through the process of re-evaluation my collection from the stand point what albums I need having a very extensive compact disc based collection and critically how the copies I have sound because for the most part how the vinyl sounds compared with compact disc is the main driver for keeping and enjoying the collection.
For the most part I did go through as period in the mid naughties (2000's) of replacing a number of not so good Capitol albums by better sounding later copies where those titles were different to the UK copies and I was brought up on those issues made available to Canadians they hold a large amount of affection for me personally.

This weeks unfortunate disaster with one record brought forward one replacement job that I'd left off.

My copy of the much acclaimed Abbey Road album had for many years been a early 80's Canadian Capitol album with a couple of issues that had come to a head.
The first being , the stampers used to make each lp side have a noticeable difference in how they sound, the first was pretty good with reasonable bass but the second sounded like someone had cut most of it out -which what happened in North America for all the early copies.

The second was compared with most other versions including the two compact discs releases issued in 1987 and 2009 respectively, the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds had been reduced with the second side particularly so. As some of the songs are meant to go from soft to very loud it takes away much of the impact!
This was the record that got badly gazed leaving a soft click running throughout three tracks on on side two!
The replacement lp I bought used was this UK 1979 edition with the -4 and -3 HTM stampers (PCS 7088) and having listened to it several times, I feel it is a lot better than my old Canadian copy with more and deeper bass which is very noticeable on Because and Sun King as well as preserving the quieter passages better.  It is very smooth sounding too.

A Hard Day's Night (Mono)
Capitol CLJ 46436
This, the first movie album issued by the band is a favourite of mine and the first UK stereo album I bought. I love the stereo lp (the cd was a disappointment) but the mono mixes are great having owned from my youth the UK Extracts from the Film EP and later on the Extracts from the Album one as well as the two UK singles.
I got this in mint condition and although this is sourced from the 1987 digital re-master it does sound pretty good no doubt aided by the late Wally Traugott's mastering just lacking that midrange warmth of an analogue copy which one day I'll find in as good condition.
Beatles For Sale (mono)
Parlophone PMC 1240

Look, I was raised on Beatles '65 and it's follow up Beatles VI and still struggle with the running order, getting up to lift the tone arm and then realizing we've a few tracks to go but the American versions in mono were either folded straight to mono from the stereo or played with from the stereo (Type B mono) so to get the 'real' mono you need UK.

This copy was part of a very limited repress from 1982 using the original mono master tapes which sold to collectors so it's a sure fire bet you get a decent copy on quite though thin vinyl with matrix numbers -5 (Harry Moss cut solid state) and /-3 (tube cut), this was a pleasant surprise sounding better than the otherwise very good mono cd in the 2009 Beatles In Mono box.

Help! Original Soundtrack.
Okay you younger readers may not have seen or even own this but when the movie came out in 1965, in North America we had a soundtrack album with gatefold sleeve comprising of the seven songs from the film plus instrumentals by Ken Thorne that were part of it. The Brits had a studio album with the movie songs on the first side and ever since 1987 that's been the only separately available version available thought the World.

In 2006 the North American soundtrack was issued in the Capitol Albums Volume :2 cd box set remastered by Ted Jensen.
Currently I have both the Canadian soundtrack album plus an 1973 UK Parlophone that I bought a few years back as I was fed up of having to skip tracks to here the Beatles own songs as Capitol in the States mixed the songs and instrumentals across the two lp sides rather than putting them on separate ones.

The sound on the soundtrack was always troubled me sounding muddy so you couldn't easily make out the fine timbre of the string sounds as well as sounding generally 'shut in' with no sense of space between the instruments. As well, for reasons best kept to themselves Ticket To Ride is in an echo laden fake stereo version that sounds as if John Lennon is singing in a bath even though the true stereo version was available in England. The instrumentals do sound clearer but the whole album sounds very steely.
The cd isn't that good but it is less fatiguing to listen to at normal listening levels and has the mono version too.
By way of contrast the UK album is excellent sounding, transparent better contrast between the louder and softer parts of the music with good bass and crisp high notes. The second side contains songs issued on the Beatles VI, Rubber Soul (Capitol version) and Yesterday and Today albums that sound to varying degrees better than those respective albums being much closer to the actual master tapes as good as my current copies of each are.
Having listened extensively to each, I plan to remove the soundtrack lp from my collection as clearly it doesn't sound anything like as good as my UK lp relying on the cd version of the Sound track from the box set for such gems as Help! with the James Bond Intro and the soundtrack instrumentals

Help Mono lp Parlophone PMC1255

I got yesterday (6/20/2011) the 1980's mono re-issue lp of this having been enjoying since Sept 09 the mono version in the Mono CD collection.
For those that care the matrix numbers are -3 (HTM) and -2 (for side two) which means the first side was recut using solid state cutters especially for this issue while the second is a tube cut from the late 60's when these lps were last available in mono.

Having always had a soft spot for the mono mixes although the stereo ones are really good sounding I'm delighted with this copy as the first side isn't quite as boxy compared to original copies others have played to me

Magical Mystery Tour. New lp!
Capitol lp C1-48062
Roll up, roll up everybody I bought this 'brand new' pressing issued in 1995!
Yes it's from the digital transfer but let's ignore that as digitally mastered vinyl isn't the end of the World whatever the doomsters elsewhere say and concentrate more on what matters, the sound.

First off, one benefit of this pressing is everything is in true stereo being from the same original source as the much talked about Horzu German lp rather than the awful duophonic fake stereo of the analogue US and UK versions on the songs Penny Lane, Baby, You're A Rich Man and All You Need Is Love.
Secondly the renown American mastering engineer Wally Traugott cut this and he did an extremely good job of getting deep bass on it, the treble is very smooth, and the presence on the vocals almost fooled me into thinking this was analogue sourced, lacking the harshness you sometimes detect on cd. He uses most of the disc area to keep a good cutting level consistent with his mastering.
While I'm sure the Horzu lp may well go a little deeper and have that bit extra being all analogue, this does sound extremely good with a wide sound-stage clearly sounding much better than previous Capitol versions and even Harry Moss's UK cut lp which until now I thought was the best from that source.
I liked the 87 cd for the most part being very dynamic and compared to that this sounds less 'digital' and in some respects even more believable.

Past Masters (1988)
A product of the 'core catalogue' is all you need idea, this was compiled and issued in 1988 to round up material that didn't make it's way into the individual UK albums that for the most part I never owned then but to which were all re-issued on cd world-wide the previous year.
These weren't just obscure tracks but actually a good many of their British singles and the whole Long Tally Sally ep that for North Americans we got spliced into either part of the Long Tally Sally lp for Canadians (originally in mono only) or the American inspired Second Album and Something New lps that were issued North of the border too.
I needless to say bought the cds as soon as they were issued and have the 2009 for the additional stereo selections added.
From my point of view the main value lies the the tracks that sadly we never got on our lps in real stereo such as This Boy, I Feel Fine, She's A Woman and Yes It Is plus the regular UK mixes of Day Tripper. An aside: It was a shock to here I Feel Fine in stereo compared to the very echo filled fake stereo when I got the UK RED album.
I was fortunate to get a lp copy recently so that rounds of my stereo lp record collection and in terms of double albums it means I now have the RED, The BLUE, the SILVER (Rock and Roll Music), BROWN (Love Songs) and now the BLACK!

Please Please Me Parlophone PMC 1202 (DMM) Mono

I got this in mint condition cheaply recently as one of my copies of the Candian new equivalent Twist And Shout has a pressing fault on it sounding fuzzy and noisy. This one was released around 1991 as it had added the Apple logo on the rear but no Apple Corps and Beatles text which later copies have.
I feel it sounds a bit better than the '87 cd and is quite acceptable as play copy although I'd love a analogue sourced copy. Fortunately I have 12 of the 14 songs from it on Analogue sourced UK mono EP's so it's not so critical.

Rubber Soul (UK) New lp!
After spending over two decades with the North American stereo lp I got a early 80'sd Harry Moss cut UK version which sounds great with the treble being more fine detailed and less harsh making it easier to listen to which is a real gain imho although I still much prefer the mono mix.
I'm keeping my Canadian Capitol I've had for decades for the different tracklisting that I'm most familiar with although I feel this sounds much better overall.

Rubber Soul (UK) 1982 Mono
I did briefly acquired a mono original UK album version of this album that was in a very poor state - noisy with clicks and some distortion and more or less gave up on getting a better copy relying on the mono cd in the Mono Box.
However with a generous discount I was able to pick up the 1982 very limited re-issue of it from the original stampers for a reasonable price. The difference between this and an original is in the lighter (thinner) vinyl and the matt thinner sleeves used compared to laminated originals.
The main strength of the mono is the mix which is much fuller and lacks the irritating vocals on one side,instruments on the the element of the original mix.

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Stereo)I actually broke down and bought a two box of this a day ago from Wilson's in Wallasey on the Cheshire coast overlooking Liverpool, professionally cleaned on a record cleaning machine, re-sleeved and play tested. It dates from around 1975/6 judging by the stampers ( -2/-3).
My experiences having borrowed the odd UK copy were never great - might of been just bad luck - but most I'd heard were thin sounding and somewhat noisy compared to my original Purple Canadian Capitol lp so I was somewhat apprehensive although the dealer seemed to be refreshing straight by UK standards on grading and heck even price.
The minute I lowered the needle on my phonograph into the groove in could tell this was very different to other copies being dead silent and then hearing the orchestra tuning up, I met presence something a bit muted on my original Capitol and by the time the band got playing bass made an appearance, extended and firm it was sounding shall I say, wonderful!
Moving into With A Little Help From My Friends, it didn't sound overly bright although I like how that track was mastered on the 09 cd a lot (the transfer on the '87 was fine imho it just needed decent mastering!) and so it went side1 through side 2.

In comparison my older copy had its high notes rolled off a little and lacking a little in bass.
In fact apart from a few soft pops on the final seconds of a Day in the Life you'd could of called this near mint for the silence and absence of of inner groove distortion that can be a problem on used copies.
The Capitol goes into storage from now on!

Mono edition Parlophone PMC 7027
This version is very different and some would say more fully realized than the stereo version available new on vinyl for many years and I had a Capitol version which was very thin sounding and lacking in 'top end' and am expecting this soon.

White Album (aka 'The Beatles' )
This as an album was always a hard one for me to get into as despite it's sheer musical variety that gives you a clear idea where each beatle goes to musically speaking in the 70's, the lack of clear focus kinda put me off buying it until the cd era and until a few days ago I never had a copy on vinyl.

I was able to get for a reasonable price the 1988 C1-46643 Capitol re-issue which shock horror was digitally sourced and cut by the late Wally Traugott at Capitol and pressed by Speciality.
Most original Capitol copies sounded bad because they couldn't cut longish sides back then and the messed up the sound by cutting out the bass, far treble and then compressing it so they could rather than buying the same sort of cutting lathes EMI used in Europe which could cut them right.

Rather than take a chance on getting all four sides being the better ones, I skipped that entire issue by buying this one with a small 'Capitol Dome' on a purple label that used the digital masters used for the '87 cd issue that I prefer for sound over the remaster cd as they didn't raise the volume of some of the quiet tracks on the original such as Long, Long, Long.

I have to say it does sound really good improving on the cd issue when it comes to the sheer ability to listen intently to it.

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