Jimi Hendrix Mono Mixes Focus The Action

Phil "back to mono" Spector would be happy. Not about his upcoming HBO biopic starring Al Pacino but about the mono craze sweeping the record business if not the country. True its a single bristle sweep, but it's better than no brush at all.

Sony/Legacy released those Miles albums last Record Store Day and now we have Jimi Hendrix's first two albums (three if you count the mono U.K. version) and by Christmastime we'll have The Beatles mono LPs.

If you're old enough to have experienced Are You Experienced? when it was first issued in America your mind is probably still blown from your first listen and if not, why not? The back cover photo alone was enough to do it though it looks tame now. The music retains its power.

May of 1967 saw the release of The U.K. edition on the new Track Records label distributed by Polydor. As was typical of the time, the album did not include the singles that had been hits there for Hendrix: "Purple Haze" "Hey Joe" and "The Wind Cries Mary."

Not that most of us in America knew about any of this—at least not until Hendrix created a sensation at The Monterrey Pop Festival that summer. Then Reprise Records got plenty busy. The label had released "Hey Joe" in May of 1967 but it didn't create a ripple. In the U.K. it reached #6 on the charts, proving yet again that the Brits do have better taste.

Reprise issued the American Are You Experienced? in August of 1967 and for those of us who bought it, that fall and the ones that followed would never be the same! Reprise ordered a stereo remix and changed the tracks to include the hits, while omitting "Red House" much to Jimi's chagrin. He'd helped formulate the new order but didn't want "Red House" out.

The album was an instant hit. Its influence on popular music was profound but beyond that it oozed into a generation's mental ether and was probably more responsible than was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for the profound cultural shift that turned a large part of a generation from straight to stoned, both literally and figuratively.

The first few thundering bars of "Purple Haze" softened the brain, making it easier for the rest to march in and scatter the musical shrapnel. "Manic Depression?" Common phrase now but not then. For those accustomed to Arthur Lee's rapid-fire "Hey Joe," this one was positively disorienting and so it went on a first side filled with confusion, disorientation, doubt and fear. For Hendrix it wasn't a game or at least that's what it sounded like at the time, confirmed by later events.

Reprise issued both the remixed stereo version and the mono mix but by then stereo was king and mono copies were scarce. I've never even seen one. I have the original stereo pink/green/yellow "steamboat" release that never quite sounded right to me even back then. It's 'stereo' is odd and sometimes hokey but what did Eddie Kramer have to work with? A four track master featuring mixed and bounced tracks to make room for more of them? "Purple Haze" sounds mono save for Jimi's voice marooned on the right channel with lotsa echo on it. The "help me" and assorted "walla" bounces hard left and right. What's the point? Scared the shit out of you if you were listening for the first time on your Koss Pro4A headphones, that's for sure!

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So after all of these years, a proper 200g edition of the mono mix cut AAA from the original master tapes by Bernie Grundman and pressed at Quality Record Pressing (erroneously referred to on the sticker as "Quality Record Manufacturing") is most welcome!

It's coherent, powerful and not as "reverb-y" as the stereo mix that sounds suspiciously like a combination of re-processed for stereo mono with odd tracks taken from the original 4 track tape splattered left and right. That could be a wrong assessment but that's what it sounds like. Mitch Mitchell's drumming mostly centered in a wide diffuse messy image sounds like its a different recording from the guitars and vocals mostly spread left and right.

The mono mix puts it all together nicely and Grundman's cut is wide band, ultra-clean and dynamic. It's the American Are You Experienced? to have in my experience and believe me at this point I am experienced! The drumming on "May This Be Love" is so much more powerful and effective on the mono mix. In fact everything is better, but especially the drumming. The mono mix is cohesive. The stereo mix is fractured.

I did not get the mono reissue of the U.K. version but I do have an original (Track 612 001). It's got a different cover and of course different track order and different tracks minus the singles. Yes the singles are missed and an album starting with "Foxy Lady" simply can't compete with one that begins with "Purple Haze." The U.K. original has "Red House," a Hendrix blues original, "Can You See Me" and "Remember." "Remember" is amazing in that in retrospect it was Jimi creating the sound and format for the band Free (unbeknownst to him of course!).

The original U.K. mono mix (or at least the LP mastering of it) is literally devoid of bass. But more interestingly, it's an unusually clean, literal mix that removes most of the mystery and power found on the U.S. edition. It's as if Eddie Kramer, swept up in the times (it was the time of Sgt. Pepper's..., re-thought the whole thing for the American mono and pumped up the production to better reflect the musical intent. Unfortunately, I did not get the U.K. mono reissue so all of that is conjecture!

Confusing the matter was an early '90s mono reissue from U.K. Polydor (847 234-1) that featured the original U.K. front and back covers but the American track listing and order! It also sounds like a different mix or the U.K. mono mix but with the bass restored and an annoying amount of added echo and treble that some misguided souls think is the best version of the album. Really?

John McDermott's liner notes for Are You Experienced? say that Eddie Kramer created both mono and stereo editions of the Track U.K. version but I've never seen a stereo version.

118111axishend.jpgArguing for the superiority of the mono edition of Axis: Bold As Love is a heavier lift that I'm not going to make, but I will argue that it is at least as good as the stereo mix and well worth having. Again, there's power in the mono focus, and the drums in particular are well served. Cynics would argue that much of that power is due to the fact that when the album was originally mixed to mono it was through a single speaker but now it's being played back through two of them for double the bass! Think about it. It's true.

It's also true that I'm not about to slide a Wilson XLF to the center of the room and shut off the other one to listen in mono!

Some readers have asked how the new Axis.... compares to the the one from Classic Records issued last decade also mastered by Bernie Grundman. For one thing Classic's packaging is superior. That's my one complaint about this series: second rate jackets. We've come a long with with packaging. These are a step back. That said, I'd rather have first class mastering and pressing. Speaking of which, the QRP pressings are dead quiet and physically perfect.

Classic's thick, laminated paper on cardboard jacket is beautiful and you get the original Track Record label. Here you get the Experience Hendrix label and thin jackets with dull, less than vibrant reproduction of the cover art. It's not a big deal on the first album but the cover art on Axis: Bold As Love is positively Lysergic.

Sonically there's actually a big difference between Bernie Grundman's two masterings even though the new one like Classic's is said to have been cut using a monophonic tape head on a Studer running through tubed Ampex 350 electronics.

Classic's is definitely a hotter cut. The top and bottom are more pronounced—not the way Mobile Fidelity ruined The Beatles albums in the 1980s with pumped top and bottom that carved a valley in the midrange—but just a bit on both sides.

This new master is less pumped top and bottom and not quite as "hot". I like it better. I suspect Classic's was done before Bernie upgraded his mastering chain because the new one is more linear and less bright intrinsically and not just a matter of EQ. It's also somewhat more detailed and resolved in the midrange and I think that's independent of the equalization choices.

I'm not saying the new one is a "must" if you have Classic's but if you don't it is. At least if you're a Hendrix fan.

Both of these mono reissues are easy to recommend. The mono Are You Experienced? is definitive. (The sound ratings are relative to what can be expected from these recordings. Are You Experienced? is not a "9" in absolute terms).

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COMMENTS
WaxtotheMax's picture

Bought all the mono reissues from Sony/Legacy and really enjoyed the US AYE mono and the Axis mono alike. The US mono AYE was a full on sound that gave me the vintage feel I most definitely do not get from the stereo. The stereo versions sometimes come off as perhaps frightening or startling the way certain things are tossed about in the mix. The Axis mono came off even stronger than the US AYE mono,  but both are spot-on keepers! I couldn't agree with Mr. Fremers review more if I tried.

RobWynn's picture

Mono versions of...

- Round About Midnight

- Milestones (interesting since MoFi has listed this for a while now but date TBD) 

- Someday My Prince Will Come

... have been announced by the Legacy and Record Store Day sites.

takashi's picture

"I did not get the mono reissue of the U.K. version but I do have an original"

So as a result you did not review the UK AYE?

That strikes me as just plain weird.

Don't you review reissues of albums whether you own the original or not?

You reviewed the Beatles vinyl box and yet you own originals.

Why all the Beatles reissues and not all the Hendrix?

Why did you elect not to review the UK AYE?

How does your having the original UK tell us anything about the reissue?

I enjoy your reviews but am honestly mystified by your stated reason for not reviewing the UK AYE.

Michael Fremer's picture

Sony sent these two for review but not the U.K. <i> Are You Experienced?</i>.<p>

As soon as they arrived I dropped what I was doing to cover them for you. Would you have preferred I'd waited until I could order and have shipped the missing one?<p>

I was trying to get these up as quickly as possible. I've ordered the mono and will review it ASAP.<p>

takashi's picture

I'll look forward to your review.

I apologize if my previous comment was off the mark.

No disrespect intended!

AnalogJ's picture

Many the Hoffman forum are not liking the new mono reissue of Are You Experienced. A couple are sorry they bought and are looking to get rid of it. It's scaring me off from buying it.

takashi's picture

Indeed.  There has been the suggestion that the UK AYE is sourced from vinyl.

It would have been nice to hear what Mikey's opinion of the UK AYE is.

Maybe Sony/Legacy didn't want his opinion out there?

That's what I have to assume in its absence here.

cooksferry's picture

I wouldn't say that many on the Hoffman forum are in the negative, rather that those who are appear to be extremely persistent in pushing their view point. There are numerous positive reviews as well.

Besides you should trust your own ears rather than let others make a judgement for you.

MusicNut612's picture

And I can say the UK AYE is by far the weakest of them all. There's parts where the music fades in and out almost like a beat up record. I can't recall what tracks but one spot was really bad. I only played it once and shelved it. The other two though are really nice. Also noticed there was no surface noise on these pressings. No non-fill issues. Wish more labels would start using QRP.

jlstrat's picture

As usual on that forum, some people hate these LPs, others really like them.

Michael Fremer's picture

Perhaps it sounds as I described the original in this review. It's probably authentic and faithful to the original but the original was dry, overly clean and lacked bass.

jlstrat's picture

While I rarely disagree with Mr. F, I think a few caveats are in order here. First, you need to crank the volume a full notch before the music comes into focus on the new mono US AYE. The first time I played it, it sounded terrible. Pulling the volume up helps a lot. Second, some tracks, including "The Wind Cries Mary" and "I Don't Live Today," sound great. Others, such as "Purple Haze" and "Hey Joe" sound good, but no better than good. "Fire" and "Foxy Lady" sound terrible. The drums fade back during the vocals on "Fire" and when Hendrix's solo comes in at the end, the rhythm guitar drops out so suddenly, I thought one of the channels went out--then I remembered it's mono. The guitar pull-offs at the beginning of "Foxy Lady" are bland and indistinct. I have a feeling this is a historical reproduction of  the US mono as it was released in 1967, at a fraction of the cost of an original. Worth having on those terms, but sonically, I find it less compelling than George Marino's all-analogue stereo cut from a couple of years ago. 

Michael Fremer's picture

To each his own, of course.... 

takashi's picture

Did Sony send this to you? 

Is there a photo credit by any chance?

And what do you make of the "Copy From Master" text at the bottom?

Thanks for your insight!

takashi's picture

Michael Fremer's picture

I received the LPs from a Sony publicist. I bought the UK mono but it's yet to arrive. I thought I'd posted that the photo was by a friend of mine who does some work with Bernie Grundman. I also thought I'd posted that I thought "Copy From Master" meant they had <i>made</i> a copy from this master, not that this was a copy from the master. I also thought I'd added that even if this was from a copy off of the master, it would be find with me....production masters, which are copies from the master are often used to cut lacquers.

rosser's picture

Say it ain't so! (That was sarcastic.) Chad Kassem's notoriously horrible jackets keep coming back and preventing me from buying any number of his wares. After the industry-setting jackets of Music Matters, I won't buy another one of those horrid AP Blue Notes for the same money. I bought one and it made me feel like a chump. I agree that the discs are foremost, but the album art is also a big part of the vinyl experience. Every time you think he's learned the lesson (The Doors 45 rpm, for example), then he cheaps out again. Disappointing. 

J. Carter's picture

Let me understand you correctly. If the record sounds better than any other version of the music available and you really like the album, you will consider not buying the album because the jacket isn't up to your standards? Really?!? I understand what you are saying about the album artwork is a big part of the vinyl experience but it's not like it doesn't have artwork. Given a choice between great quality jackets and poor quality vinyl or super high quality vinyl and poor album artwork, I will take the later all day long. Yes I would prefer to have both but it won't stop me from buying a superior master on vinyl. BTW why did you post this in a Jimi Hendrix QRP pressing review?

Michael Fremer's picture

The poster confused the fact the company that pressed it with the company that issued it. His complaint is with Sony/Legacy. I thought my review made it clear whose reissue it was...he needs to fess up to his error. 

Michael Fremer's picture

There's really no excuse for your ridiculous rant and I'm not defending Chad Kassem because he advertises on this site, because he doesn't. You are sadly misinformed blaming him for the jackets on these Hendrix releases.

They are issued by Sony/Legacy. Chad Kassem has nothing whatsoever to do with the jackets here. Please get your facts straight before launching an assault like this.

Yes, his earlier Blue Note jackets were second rate but since then he's consistently releases reissues with superb "tip-on" paper on cardboard jackets and he's gone the extra mile on some, like the Patsy Cline, issuing them with gatefolds that include bonus photos. 

I'd say you owe him an apology. Don't you think? 

 

 

rosser's picture

I did have my facts wrong on the Hendrix reissue, so I'm sorry. But sadly, the second-rate jackets continue with his high-dollar reissues. The first Verve reissue, Getz/Gilberto, had a nice gatefold with tip-on printing. After receiving that one, I bought several subsequent releases, and was disappointed to find he had immediately returned to the flimsy, single jacket -- I know because I own 3 of them: Illinois Jacquet, Ben Webster with Oscar Peterson, and one of the Ella Fitzgerald's. Sort of shoots a hole in your "consistent superb tip-on" statement. This series is ongoing. Maybe you forgot about those Verves, which is one of his current premier reissue series. It makes me reluctant to buy any more of this series. I am in the advertising/design business, and this kind of shoddy presentation actually offends me. Compare one of these with the Music Matters jackets -- heck, compare it with the Getz/Gilberto from the same series -- and I find it, well, off-putting to put it mildly. So to call my error a "ridiculous rant" when it still applies to ongoing releases is a bit over the top. Yes, sorry, he didn't do the Hendrix. But the fact that I immediately thought of Analogue Productions when reading about a shoddy jacket is telling. 

Michael Fremer's picture

Which Ben, which Oscar and which Ella have shoddy jackets?

RobWynn's picture

The post-er can reply himself I'm sure but just want to inject a third party voice into this, one who has a subscription to the AP 45RPM Verve series...

Fact: All the titles released in this series have been released in the single-pocket thin stock jackets, the same that were used in the BN 45RPM series, with the exception of the Getz mentioned earlier.  There are titles by Ben, Oscar and Ella in this series.

My perspective: I believe a driving factor in the design of the series is how the original was released.  The Getz originally was a gatefold, so we get a gatefold for the 45RPM release, while all the others are older titles and thus came out in single-pocket style so AP put them out in their single-pocket design.

I have yet to see a thck cardboard tip-on single-sleeve wide enough for two 180/200g LPs, but I haven't seen all the records in the world so I could be wrong.

Note that I did say original design is "a" factor not the only factor, as I'm not so naive to think that cost may not be a factor either.  Personally, I prefer the thick tip-on jackets, especially for 2LP 180/200g sets because when they are in the thin outersleeves it just seem incongruent with what is inside, like those awful LP outer sleeves that were popular in Europe that were as thin as inner sleeves.

marcel_kyrie's picture

I'm having a hard time understanding why so many albums are being released in mono mixes these days. I can understand it when an album's original release was mono, then later re-released in "fake stereo." In those cases, we're trying to get back to the artist's (or producer's) original vision, or the "truth" of the recording.

But it seems many originally multi-tracked recordings are coming out in mono mixes. Certainly many early stereo mixes were botched, especially in rock music, but why not remix them in stereo? What does mono have to offer?

Perhaps I'm a product of my time? When I first started buying records in the mid to late sixties, monaural was good enough for mom and dad, but we wouldn't touch it. It was yet another thing that signified the "generation gap" and I guess that prejudice has stayed with me. But until a few years ago, I thought mono was dead, anyway.

Hope you don't think I'm being sarcastic, here. I'm really trying to understand this new interest in mono. Perhaps someone can explain it to me?

miles's picture

I currently use a Miyajima Kansui stereo cartridge.
I think I will setup my 2nd turntable with a mono cartridge.
The mono cartridge would be a Miyajima PremiumBE or Miyajima ZERO.

Can I play the mono “Are You Experienced” with a stereo cartridge?

Would it sound much better with a Miyajima mono cartridge?

 

Michael Fremer's picture

Of course you can play mono records with a stereo cartridge with no harm done. The benefit of a true mono cartridge is that the generator will only respond to lateral motion, which is how the mono record is cut. However, inevitably there are vertical cantilever movements due to record warpage, which occurs with even the flatest pressings. Any vertical movement will produce rumble and noise that's not part of the musical signal. So a mono cartridge will sound fuller and "to the point." However if you have a "mono" switch on your phono or regular preamp you can cancel out those vertical modulations that way. Still, a mono cartridge with a .7mil stylus is the ideal way to play both old (sometimes 1mil groove width) and new (usually .7mil groove width) mono records... 

Logansport Berry's picture

While Love cut a pretty grumpy, fast version of Hey Joe, people would most likely have known the song from the version that The Leaves hit the Top 40 with in '66.  

Here's version #1 from 1965, which is more jangly sounding than the later, fuzz laden hit version:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15jjuosW2xg

Here's the mono 45 hit version with plenty of fuzz guitar:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf-Rzkvo4Jo

Here tis in <s-t-e-r-e-o>: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNmu3z8XEzw

Logansport Berry's picture

Sorry - double post - carry on...

kozy814's picture

Thanks Mike for the nice review. This LP sound about as close as I'd expect for a mono reissue of an album that was assembled from mixes prepared over several months time starting in 1966. Some folks on the forums are throwing up tales of needledrops having been sourced for this reissue – conspiracy theories to be sure.  The reel tape photo used in this review prompted questions as to where the 1stgen mono master might be (Again, I think Mr. Fremer addresses that in an acceptably logical way…).

One prevailing question remains unanswered:  Did the French Barclay use the same mono master? – (now I think they went ahead and copied the master and did some EQ-futzing, but that’s me). 

In the end, I really enjoy having and hearing this mix.  It’s a snapshot in time, while Hendrix was still “indie” and had to settle for “good-to-go” mono mixes because of time/cost.  Since it was never meant to be a great audiophile LP, we can’t really complain….  Ahh, shucks – audiophiles couldn't stop that even if we tried, can we :D

Oksana's picture

I was about nine years old when I bought the 45rpm with Red House on it. Even at that age Jimi's guitar just connected with me. I'm glad to read he didn't like the idea of taking the song off the record. To this day when the subject is Jimi, my mind goes to Red House as it my favorite.

Somehow, and I don't remember the circumstances, I have a two LP set from Polydor. It's Axis Bold as Love and Are You Experienced. It starts with Foxy Lady and has Red House.

I'm glad I read this review, becuase now I might like one these re-issues with the alternate songs I don't have.

shannon's picture

Sorry for asking Sir, I have just tried to find some info about what you said about the Back to Black version of the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album. I'd bet I read it somewhere.

At that time, I remember I bought it because it was remastered by Eddie Kramer and George Marino supervisioned by Janie Hendrix (I think from digital source). The first side of this double LP begins with Purple Haze and Foxey Lady comes just before the last second side song, Are You Experienced?

Thanks in advance and thanks a lot again for your terrific job!

s.

shannon's picture
Naomicansas263's picture

Behind all the succesful albums isthe greatest artists that have comeupwith that ideas and later became part of the music society. - Mallory Fleming

DJ Huk's picture

Well, last Friday was my birthday, and I figured: what better way to celebrate than to blast the new Hendrix mono Are You Experienced, American style, on my rig. Especially inviting was the fact that Music Direct has moved close to my neighborhood here in Chicago; all I had to do was take a brisk walk in Chicago's version of summer this year (69 degrees) and pick up the vinyl.  But when I eagerly cleaned it and then put it on the turntable, a whole blast of obnoxious surface noise hit me, from beginning to end.  I've picked up classical records for 49 cents that were cleaner than this clunker. And the sound was murky and distant.  Granted, my stereo was not in peak condition that day, but really, surface noise like that isn't warranted on any current repressing. When I told another music lover about my Bad Experience, he said he's been hearing a lot of bad repressings out there lately, with out-of-sync mixes and the like.  I recently purchased some Classic pressings of Kind of Blue that I thought would for sure be a clean listen, but here too, surface noise.  I guess another walk to Music Direct to bring back the Hendrix will be good exercise, but after Mikey's rave review, I was heartbroken ... and on my birthday, too!!! 

Maury's picture

I have a copy of this UK LP and it is stereo or I need help. To compare for example The Wind Cries Mary to the Sony 2010 stereo issue (with a tag saying it was cut from the original stereo tapes). In both cases the voice is on the left, the drums are on the right and the guitar is between them.The mix seems the same. As for Fire, Jimi's voice in on the left, the backing voice is far left, the drums are centered and there is a guitar on the right.

There are tonal differences. The Sony is fuller sounding and Jimi's guitar sounds similar to the concert I attended in 67. The UK 847234-1 has a bit thinner clearer sonics and the voice and guitar have some nuances that are covered up in the Sony. I listened carefully to the drums between the two versions and I can hear echo on both but it is clearer on the UK LP. I am not sure there is more echo or whether the clearer sonics just separate the drum sound and the echo more obviously. My system doesn't have the resolution of yours so it may seem oppressive in your case.

I found a possibly German CD issue of AYE with the similar number 847234-2. Perhaps this UK LP was mastered at the same time.There was also an UK LP issue of Axis with the number 847243-1 while the CD was 847343-2.

mr-terence's picture

I'm confused by the existence of TWO versions of the mono version of Hendrix's Are You Experienced?

One is the 200g reissue on Sony Legacy (which currently seems unavailable).

The other is the 180g Music on Vinyl reissue.

Can anybody comment on the difference between these two, in terms of who did the remastering, is it all analogue or not, and which sounds better?

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