The two new Beatles box sets are in the stores, and the reviews are flying in. They’re almost uniformly positive. Almost.
Reactions run from (the predictable) rave reviews to the (equally predictable) crabbing from Beatles audio purists. Sorting out the Fabs’ various mixes and intentions has always been a messy affair; the pair of Beatles box sets no doubt continues the tradition.
The new releases, of course, are “The Beatles: Stereo Box Set” and “The Beatles Mono Box Set”
After wading through dozens of day-and-date reviews, it looks like the consensus (of the better critics) is that the mono mixes are preferable to the stereo, at least up until “Rubber Soul.” From “Revolver” to “Sgt. Pepper” the stereo wins out, with notable exceptions. (“Abbey Road&” and “Let It Be” rise above the debate, as they started life in stereo, only.)
Unfortunately, Capitol Records chose not to include both the stereo and mono mixes on the CDs, which would have been an easy fit on most of the albums (the early ones run a half hour or so). Good business. Bad karma.
Another dodgy decision was releasing these treasures to CD only, when DVD-Audio and Blu-ray would have offered much higher-end audio — as well as the option of more Beatles in surround sound.
If the CD format is dying, what a way to go, though.