The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones In Mono album review
Sixteen-LP/15-CD box set of the Stones’ output from the 60s, as nature – and their Satanic Majesties themselves – intended it to be heard
This is the first time that The Rolling Stones’ 60s recordings – the UK and US versions of their albums, plus single A and B sides and EP cuts – have been available in one collection. That’s 186 tracks, 56 of which have not been heard in mono since rock went digital. In Mono includes every Stones album from 1964’s self-titled debut to 1969’s Let It Bleed as well as some of the most epochal 45s of the age, via a nifty 24-track compilation called Stray Cuts: Come On, Satisfaction, Paint It, Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women. Or to put it another way: here is a concise history of rock’s second decade, for a measly 120 quid. And you get to experience it in all its turbulent glory, from Kennedy to Altamont, with the concentrated power and period fidelity you can only get from mono – remember, for most of the decade, stereo was something of a hi-fi novelty, with most music heard through just one channel.
By the late-60s, you could reasonably argue that stereo techniques had improved sufficiently to warrant your owning Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967), Beggars Banquet (1968) and Let It Bleed in both iterations. But if you want the visceral thrill of the Stones as they were enjoyed in real time, In Mono is the only way.
If you thought cool minimalist artwork was invented by Factory Records circa Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, try the front cover of debut The Rolling Stones (known in the States as England’s Newest Hit Makers, with a different track listing, as per all the Stones albums up until Their Satanic Majesties). It features profiles of the Stones’ ugly-beautiful mugs in all their early surly magnificence, and not a jot else. Buy the In Mono CD box and you might just be able to make out, in tiny writing on the rear of the replica sleeve, another presumed 70s concept: 10 years ahead of Malcolm McLaren, it’s the ravings of hypemaster (and manager) Andrew Loog Oldham, who proclaims the Stones “more than just a group – they are a way of life”.