Bob Dylan

The Original Mono Recordings

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Like any recording artist of the ‘60s, Bob Dylan had his albums mixed for mono during the bulk of the decade. Stereo mixes were simultaneously released, but they didn’t take precedence until the end of the ‘60s, when the industry and public tastes shifted toward two speakers. As the decades rolled on, those original mono mixes never again surfaced, but the unexpected success of 2009’s The Beatles in Mono box opened the doors for 2010’s The Original Mono Recordings, a handsome nine-disc box containing Dylan’s first eight albums in remastered mono and housed in attractive, stiff, mini-LP cardboard sleeves. As a package, The Original Mono Recordings is undeniably alluring -- the LP replicas are accurate, right down to the inclusion of the sheet of poetry in The Times They Are A-Changin’, the booklet thorough, highlighted by liner notes by Greil Marcus, and several rarely-circulated photos -- and that’s a large part of the battle of a collector bait set like this, which seeks to re-create the experience of listening to the original albums. Any fan investing in a set this expensive expects an experience as attractive as this, but the main draw is, naturally, in the music, whether the mono mixes offer a different experience than the stereo and, by and large, they do. Granted, sometimes this experience is rather subtle, particularly on the first four acoustic albums, which don’t feel drastically different, only slightly more intimate as they’re narrowed down to a single speaker. In contrast, the next four albums -- particularly Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, the hardest rock here -- bear the hallmarks of ‘60s mono rock & roll, they’re punchy, forceful, and direct, a more forceful listen than the stereo mixes. Of course, this may not be everybody’s cup of tea -- the stereo mixes allow for somewhat greater appreciation of the instrumental interplay since there is more space to breathe -- but these bold mixes were the sound of the times, and since it was a time ruled by Dylan, it is fascinating to hear these records this way, and for any serious fan of him or the ‘60s, it’s essential too.

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