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The Rolling Stones: Rolling Stones in Mono [Limited Edition]

Album Notes

It's often unfair to compare the Rolling Stones to the Beatles but in the case of the group's mono mixes, it's instructive. Until the 2009 release of the box set The Beatles in Mono, all of the Fab Four's mono mixes were out of print. That's not the case with the Rolling Stones. Most of their '60s albums -- released on Decca in the U.K., London in the U.S. -- found mono mixes sneaking onto either the finished sequencing or various singles compilations, so the 2016 box The Rolling Stones in Mono only contains 56 heretofore unavailable mono mixes among its 186 tracks. To complicate things further, the box -- which runs 15 discs in its CD version, 16 LPs in its vinyl incarnation -- sometimes contains both the British and American releases of a particular title (Out of Our Heads and Aftermath), while others are available in only one iteration (Between the Buttons is only present in the U.K. version). All this is for the sake of expedience: this is the easiest way to get all the mono mixes onto the box with a minimal amount of repetition. To that end, there's a bonus disc called Stray Tracks -- with artwork that plays off the censored artwork for Beggars Banquet -- collecting the singles that never showed up on an official album, or at least any of the albums that made the box. Along with the odd decision to have the CD sleeves be slightly larger than a mini-LP replica (they're as big as a jewel box, so they're larger than a shrunk vinyl sleeve, a size that's rarely seen in other releases), this is the only quibble on what is otherwise an excellent set. The sound -- remastered again after the 2002 overhaul for hybrid SACDs -- is bold and colorful, with the earliest albums carrying a wallop and the latter records feeling like they're fighting to be heard in two separate channels and all the better for it. If nothing here provides a revelation -- none of the mixes are radically different, the way that some Beatles mono sides are -- this nevertheless is the best the Rolling Stones have sounded on disc (or on vinyl) and there's considerable care in this package, from the replications of the sleeves to the extensive notes from David Fricke. Plus, hearing the Stones in mono winds up being a hot wire back toward the '60s: this feels raw and vibrant, as alive as the band was in the '60s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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