In the last few years, the release of The Beatles catalogue in its original mono, as well as Bob Dylan's first eight albums, encouraged John Corcelli to enter into the discussion which his usual candid clarity.
The technology to record in stereo was only in the hands of a few major companies such as EMI in Britain and Columbia/CBS in New York. It was rare to find a stereo studio in the mid-west United States or in Canada for instance. Public broadcasting services such as the BBC, CBC and NPR probably had stereo equipment if they had the money and mandate to buy such equipment. In 1958 the first stereo LPs were issued featuring classical music. By the 1970s, with the rise of FM radio in North America, stereo was taken for granted in every LP, or single, we purchased or heard on broadcast radio.
here for a comparative study of The Beatles in both stereo and mono.)
here and hereto hear the difference).
So if mono is the way to go, why isn't everybody recording in this way? Since we're at the start of a trend, it's not hard to figure out. Digital software such as Pro Tools has virtually replaced all the analogue equipment around the world and this equipment is in stereo, not mono. You can do so much with the digital technology that sounds interesting and inventive that you'd have to be crazy not to work in this way in 2010. But for a period in music history, mono was the recording "currency" as it were. So record companies can now dust off the tapes and blend the high fidelity of digital processing and issue recordings originally done in mono.
We only have one brain and two ears but if it means a re-discovery of a great artist to listen to it in mono then let's hear it.
- originally published on November 27, 2010 in Critics at Large.
– John Corcelli is a musician, writer and broadcaster. He’s a member of the Festival Wind Orchestra. Corcelli is also currently working on another radio documentary, with Kevin Courrier, for CBC Radio's Inside the Music called The Other Me: The Avant-Garde Music of Paul McCartney.