Blue Note Fake Stereo ’70s reissues: a public-interest post.
For the Blue Note collector with a limited budget, and that is most of us I guess, reissues are an inevitable fact of life. It is also inevitable they will come across reissues which claim to be “stereo”, however that claim is not always to be taken at face value. There are recordings made originally in mono which were later subjected to a form of torture known as “fake stereo”
The problem of fake stereo Blue Notes is largely though not exclusively in Liberty and United Artists reissues of the 1500 Blue Note series, the early half of which RVG recorded only in mono, the technology of the day. Some time around July 1957, with BLP 1554 Art Blakey Orgy in Rhythm Vol1, Van Gelder introduced simultaneous mono and stereo two-track recording from the same board, meaning a stereo tape exists for many subsequent recordings, whether or not used for stereo release at the time.
BLP 1562 – Horace Silver’s “The Stylings of Silver” was the first Blue Note issued in true stereo, though from there only selected titles benefited from both mono and stereo releases eg 1563, 1566, 1569, 1571, 1575-9, 1587, 1589, 1593, the intermediate catalogue numbers being released only in mono. From BLP 1595 Cannonball Adderley Somethin’ Else all subsequent Blue Note titles were released in both mono and stereo except for a small number recorded overseas not by Van Gelder ( Dizzy Reece and Kenny Clarke/ Francy Boland).
A Blue Note reissue from BLP 1501 up to 1552 in stereo is fake stereo. Thereafter until BLP 1595 it may or may not be fake, depending on title. Beyond 1595, stereo is an available option, though there may be examples of unnecessary trickery.
The problem was exacerbated by faking stereo when it was entirely unnecessary. Whether through laziness or by design, Liberty UA engineers went on to create fake stereo out of mono, even though somewhere a true stereo tape existed. Saved a walk to the vault? So here below Kenny Burrell BLP 1543 is turned by United Artists into BST 81543, while gratuitously BLP 1597, for which we know a stereo tape exists, turns into BST 81597 electronically recorded to simulate stereo.
By the ’70s stereo had become a normal future-facing format for record buyers and mono had yet to become fashionably retro. What to do with those 1956-7 Blue Note recordings which only ever existed as one Van Gelder monophonic source tape? Move the problem from marketing over to the sound engineers. All the 1970-3 Liberty UA Black/Light Blue label recordings were issued only in Stereo. Any reissue BLP 1552 or lower was given the electronic treatment. Reissuing original mono was something left to the more respectful Japanese market. However questions remain regarding the over-zealous faking of stereo, and even faking whether they were faked, or even unfaked.
The MM audio gurus say (borrowed from Hoffman Forums):
Joe Harley: “there are lots of mismarked UA Blue Note jackets out there. I’ve had “Electronically Rechanneled Stereo” records that were true mono and had them be true stereo. You have to play them to find out. It’s easy to tell the difference. Just listen to each channel separately. If one side sounds like a bright transistor radio and the other sounds dull as dirt, you have “re-channeled” stereo.
If you have the normal real RVG stereo mix, you’ll have something like this:Trumpet left channel….piano and bass middle…sax and drums right. Avoid real rechanneled LPs like the plague.”
Steve Hoffman: “Only the Van Gelder cuts were made from the original tapes. All the recuts were made from various wacky dubs of one kind or another. Most operators had no idea that their “mono” reels were actually dubbed from stereo tapes with the channels combined. This stuff was not “sacred” like it is to us now. Just old stuff that needed fake stereo to make an extra buck. Little did they know that they had true stereo right there.
Like Joe sez, some of the covers say “fake stereo” but the actual record is mono or in some case, true stereo. My rule of thumb: Unless you see RVG in the deadwax, forget it…”
The Wisdom of Crowds: now forum posters have their say:
Why “fake stereo”?
“It actually was a selling point. In the mid-60s through the 70s it was pretty
much public demand for stereo pressings that lead to all this. People bought
stereo systems or consoles to upgrade to the newest biggest thing. That was
pretty huge for a generation that had gone from wind-up 78s, am radio, and
b&w movies to stuff that was so amazing that we really can’t appreciate it
all. At any rate, you go through used lps and you see that it was a thing for
older lps and compilations of older hits to be rereleased in the “new” stereo
for all those people who upgraded”
“When stereo first came out, many companies issued fake stereo records they tried to sell as real stereo. Because of complaints, Congress passed a law requiring all fake stereo to be clearly and prominently labeled.”
How did they fake stereo?
“In the reprocessing of original mono masters for stereo some just split what tracks the original tape might have had and mixed them into two channels. Some split things by frequency ranges, like what you can do with a stereo equalizer.The more insidious reprocessors did weird things with reverb and other effects.”
“A lot of them use delay and eq, so there is a spacial effect created and boosted by having the bassier eq on one channel. Sometimes the delay is like a slight gate effect, and others like a serious reverb, bordering on echo. Mercury rechanneled Stereo is the best, because if you hate it, you can get mono out of it. Unadulterated mono. Play the left channel only”
“Most of these “rechanneled” mono recordings won’t sum very well back into the original mono, because of the phasing tricks that have been played to simulate a wider soundstage.The absolute bottom of the heap was Capitol’s “Duophonic” method” found in the ’60s and ’70s.
Duophonic (from Wiki): “splitting the signal into two channels, delaying the left and the right channels by means of delay lines and other circuits, desynchronizing the two channels by fractions of a second, and cutting the bass frequencies in one channel with a high-pass filter, then cutting the treble frequencies in the other channel with a low-pass filter. … In some cases, the effect was enhanced with reverb and sometimes adding stereo echo to mono tracks”
Is fake stereo all bad? Music industry PR says bad is the new good:
Nonesuch liner notes say: “The straight mono recording–no matter how good the fidelity–is reproduced with an unnatural, unmusical effect on a good stereo system. The better the stereo playback system, the more unnatural is the mono record. Contrary to the usual idea, the mono record is worse, not better, when played via a stereo player. The explanation is simple. A stereo playback system spreads out the stereo sound for a ‘sound-curtain’ that is often wider than the speaker’s separation. But the same system squeezes the mono sound together tightly in the center. The effect is unnatural and highly unmusical.
Electronic ‘enhancement,’ whatever its form, is a way to adapt the mono playback sound to the stereo machine. It creates an artificial sound-spread. This is the primary purpose of ‘enhancement,’ NOT the right-left locating of various musical instruments.
Good ‘enhancement’ creates differences in phase and volume level between the signals fed to the two stereo speakers so that the resulting sound, instead of operating in a pinched, forced, center point, spreads out from side to side. The improvement in musical naturalness can be extraordinary, quite aside from any ‘realistic’ spatial location. Thus, Stereo Enhancement is highly worthwhile for valuable mono reissues and is in no sense ‘fake’ or dishonest. It is a legitimate adaptation of the mono recording to the stereo player, for maximum musical impact.”
All stereo is “fake”- an engineering artefact which creates an imaginary soundstage. However it can be done in a way that the listener accepts as “real” – a good fake, or it can be done ineffectively, a bad fake, which is the outcome of electronically rechanneled stereo, which sounds horrid. You can not replicate RVG stereo master by “adding a little reverb”.
Musical instruments in a live setting are often mixed through the PA or come blasting at you all from the stage – effectively fake mono. No one stands there (shakes head) asking “why aren’t they playing in stereo?”
Taking issue with the Nonesuch viewpoint, mono is not point-source “tightly in the center”, at least not on my stereo, it’s a fairly wide stage but without differential instrument positioning. It is up for debate how much instrument positioning adds to the musical experience. In some cases it is an integral part of the musical narrative (think Ornette Coleman Free Jazz double quartet) in others it can be irrelevant or worse, a distraction from the musical intent. Some recordings work better in stereo, others work better in mono, none work at all well in rechanneled stereo.
Which to choose – Mono or True Stereo, LJC? Mono can often give lead instruments more focus than in some stereo mixes, like when Coltrane has somehow gotten inside the left speaker, there is a hole in the middle, or the sound stage is “balanced” only when everyone plays simultaneously. One stereo I listened to there were several brass lead instruments, and each musician played their solo on the same left channel, you pictured them running around like Keystone cops, pushing each other off the stage to take their turn in front of the mic
I don’t have a problem with people trying to making a buck, at whatever speed, I have a problem with lousy products like fake stereo, and ebay sellers who withold the information required to value them properly, as fakes.
Question: If God intended us to listen in mono, how come he gave us two ears? Answer: Truthfully, to stop people’s glasses falling off. God prefers Mono. Only to be expected, he’s a well-known to be into mono-theism.
You the jury decide…
You’ve read the arguments setting out the case for the prosecution and the defence. You have heard the expert testimony from the Music Matters gurus (hope they don’t mind me quoting them, full credit given) Now it’s time for you the jury to decide. I have one crucial piece of evidence left, namely an original true mono pressing on Lexington, and a simulated stereo of the same track by Liberty UA 1970-3.
For simplicity it is a Numark 160 kbps rip as I haven’t got the big system and laptop fully up to speed yet. Save waiting for this post.
Original Lexington – mono
Liberty UA rechanneled for stereo
What do you think guys?
What about titles like “Jackie’s bag( blp 4051) which were recorded only into two-track but released originally in mono. The UA stereo release having “electronically…” seems more like a mislabelling thing, or not? The result sounds convincing, not fake at all.
Slightly off-topic, but it turns out that even in 2014, the industry seems to have found a ‘niche’ in reissuing mono material of what I think has been commonly accepted in stereo… Look at this.
I wouldn’t pay $78.26 to listen to a purported mono “original” on CD, would you? Some niches seem to house strange inhabitants…
The reviews / comments about mono/stereo CD below the Amazon listing are quite interesting – an illustration of how some people think about the subject rather than whether they are “right” or “wrong”. More people listening to Miles can’t be wrong.
I think the most comprehensive, most unbiased, and most helpful review on the subject is this one, written by R.D.Wood:
I suppose it makes sense that Amazon users would be less “intense” and “objective” in expressing their opinions than, say, members of the Steve Hoffman forum or…well…commenters on London Jazz Collector. (Where’s that “hide-under-a-chair” emoji when you need it?)
If it does make sense, maybe it’s because audiophile fundamentalists don’t visit Amazon much… (or do they? I have met some a.f. who don’t care about vinyl nor about any specific music at all, but instead listen to … uhm, whatever it is, in the most perfect sound ever achievable.)
People may be interested to read that the Blue Note Connoiseur series CD ‘John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell’ offers stereo and mono recordings of two tracks: Sharon and Chalumeau. I also recall that the version of ‘Dusty in Memphis’ that I have contains mono and stereo versions too. Which do I prefer- not enough hours in my day to comment at present, I’m afraid.
Opinion thirded (is that even a word?) And is it just me or does the fake-stereo rip sound a bit sharp (or fast)?
I finally listened to the electronically rechanneled Silver file above and it sounds like all they did was pan the mono signal 2 o’clock…I don’t even hear any frequency spread. I think I can hear a teeny tiny bit of added stereo reverb from time to time but really overall it just sounds like they moved the mono signal over a little.
Well I’m basically a Stereo guy but this fake stereo business is just plain WRONG!
On a more positive note I bought a nice Liberty stereo copy of “Stylings of silver” – expecting it to be fake stereo I listened to it in the store on phones and “Heuvreka” it was REAL stereo that sounded very good to me. I have an original mono too and yes it’s very dynamic and exciting but maybe the stereo holds a candle here…..
Stylings is a phenomenal stereo recording–especially if you take into consideration that it was his first stereo recording at Hackensack–and without even hearing the stereo spread!
Some very good discussion here. For me I prefer stereo on a well setup speaker system. Making sure to get the distance and toe in correct is very important. And of course having good speakers you enjoy. Meeting all those criteria even a primitive stereo mix like Blue Train can be extremely enjoyable without sounding unnatural.
During solos mono is very pleasing. However during harmonies with multiple instruments even with a Miyajima Premium Be cart what I hear is a jumbling of instruments all playing in unison from the same spot on the stage. In my opinion having heard countless jazz gigs in NYC and Boston this isn’t how live music sounds. For me jazz isn’t about the visceral punch, so much as being enveloped by the musicians and the emotional experience that creates.
For rock music this is where I greatly prefer a well done mono mix. For example the mono mix of Cream’s Fresh Cream annihilates the stereo mix. Same with Buffalo Springfield’s Again or Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. Rock music needs to be guttural and it’s not so much about following individual instruments.
On the subject of electronically rechanneled stereo, it’s something I avoid at all costs. This is the worst type of “mix”.
Very, very well said. Great point about how an album like “Blue Train” is desirable in stereo even though it was undoubtedly mixed and monitored in mono. And you’re spot on about the pluses and minuses of mono and stereo: during solos, stereo can leave gaping holes, but during the head when everything is balanced it sounds really good.
Regarding the way in which recordings should or shouldn’t reflect a live performance, you make another great point that I’ve heard more than once about rock “making more sense” in mono than jazz. I suppose the fact that it’s typically so much louder than jazz might make it more difficult to discern a direction from which the sound of each instrument is coming live, and perhaps the punch of mono rock recordings make more sense to some people.
But I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the stacking of the instruments in mono jazz doesn’t sound pleasing or that it doesn’t sound like a live performance would. First, when all the instruments “lock in” in mono, I personally think it is a beautiful sound, perhaps more akin to Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” and Brian Wilson’s stuff, and I am definitely *not* of the mindset that recorded jazz has some sort of separate rules from rock in that it has to sound as “lifelike” and as “realistic” as possible (sorry Deepak but I really don’t get why people have this dichotomy in their heads).
Regarding whether or not mono jazz records at all simulate a live performance, it depends on what facets of a live performance you are focusing on. For example, stereo records, though they create more of a sense two-dimensional space and directionality, they are also by default more ambient and it is easier to discern the sound of the room and reverberation. In small, packed nightclubs, there is simply no such thing. No sound is bouncing around, for the space is too small for the sound waves to grow and the people are absorbing them as well. So in that sense, the immediacy and the phase cancellation that inherently occur on mono records does make them sound inherently immediate and dry, but to someone like me, that actually makes me think of and feel the essence of a small, packed nightclub.
But with all that being said, I don’t necessarily look for a recording to sound like a live experience anyway haha 😛
This will be a little off message, but I find your perspective interesting. I agree with you that a good setup of your speakers will definitely enhance a nice stereo mix, especially if you add the correct amount of room treatment. On the other hand, I don’t experience any confusion or jumbling of the instruments with my Miyajima. To the contrary, I find it refreshing and truer to life, and especially with Blue Note mono. I am a retired trumpet player and always found it odd during a Lee Morgan solo on a Rudy Van Gelder engineered recording, to find Lee almost outside my left speaker during his solo. And I had everything centered and toed in with my speaker setup.
Honestly, I think that it’s a bit extreme and artificial. Don’t get me wrong, I love Blue Note – and I have a lot of it. But I always tell anyone who will listen that the spacing is sometimes extreme to my ears on Blue Note records.
Take a listen and you will notice that “live” recordings of small jazz ensembles, or big bands don’t have spacing like that. Musicians on a stage tend to stay close so that they can first of all, hear each other, and secondly, they are trying to stay in tune with the band, especially horn players. The only time I know that a musician would be off from the main ensemble is for some special visual effect.
Indeed, hcalland, it’s completely understandable that one might think of the “slam separation” on Blue Note stereo LPs as “artificial” in the same way that those who prefer the stereo think of the mono as sounding like the musicians are “stacked on top of each other”. They’re both recordings in the end, right? So technically speaking, they’re both “artificial”. 😉
Regarding how live performance sounds (again, FTR, not my measuring stick on the desirability of a recording), I have heard some interesting points on both sides. Some people have said that how “close together” the instruments sound depends on things like where you are sitting and how big the stage is. If you’re in the front and the stage is big, the musicians might be further apart and the sound from each instrument might come at you kind of wide. But if you’re in the middle or the back for the same performance, the sound will probably sound less “stereophonic”, regardless of stage size and how close or far apart the musicians are. But there’s more reverb in the back and less in the front, which doesn’t sit too well with each respective option.
Again, I don’t really look for records to sound like live performances to begin with so it’s no sweat off my back, but I can definitely appreciate both sides of the discussion.
Hi Rich, and hcalland, I’ll address these in a single post rather than write out two.
Rock music is also heavily multi-tracked, manipulated and post processed; even in the good old days of recording to analog tape. As such there is no true “imaging”, even in stereo. Rich I am not sure what you mean by 2-demensional space? A good stereo mix on my system (and my friend’s) will create a 3-demensional space. I’ll also have to disagree that you can’t get “space” in a small nighclub. IMO even sitting at the front row table of a gig I can hear the space between musicians. The last time I was in the front was seeing Ravi Coltrane (an amazing experience, shades of his old man coming through and all) and I could “see” the space with my eyes closed. Also Sonny Rollins even on a tiny stage had a tendency to walk around (as much as he could). That said all this is only the perspective of someone that is used to seeing jazz from the audience. I’ve never played an acoustic instrument (only electric bass) or any jazz.
hcalland you bring up a very good point about room treatments, which I neglected to mention. They will make an enourmous difference in the realism of a stereo since a pair of speakers haphazardly placed in a living room can have 10-15 db swings in the bass and other sorts of frequency anomalies. I feel almost dirty quoting Tom Port, but I fully agree with his view “80% (probably more like 90 or 95%, truth be told) of the sound is what you DO with your audio system, 20% (or 10 or 5%) of the sound is the result of the components you own.”
A bit more “imagining” I realize it is nothing more than an illusion recreated by the auditory, sensorineural centers and nucleas accumbens. Like so many things in audio so heavily debated on message boards (like those tweaks or more dubious audio equipment that many claim to hear differences in but
might fail to identify in blind testing) it is unique to how the listener may or may not experience it.
The reason I hold jazz (and classical) to the live reference is because it is for the most part unamplified. Rock music is what you are hearing through the sound guy’s PA. I also come from the Harry Pearson school of The Absolute Sound which I can understand for many is an antiquated view point in these days of ProTools, musicians recording on laptops, etc, but I am too used to it.
I did not mean to come off as anti-mono. Some of hose recordings where RVG recorded in mono are truly sublime. In his transitional phase I take on a case by case basis. ie Blue Train I can flip a coin and enjoy equally in mono and stereo, the coin may land on stereo a bit more than mono though 😉 For recordings where he was solely recording to 2-track there are some where I prefer to use the mono button on a stereo LP. I am not sure if this is the same as a true mono LP? I will leave that to our mono/stereo expert Rich 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Deepak. I’m going to look into this Harry Pearson fella you mentioned. (Should I be ashamed that I’ve never heard of him??)
By “two-dimensional” I meant in contrast to the “one-dimensionality” of mono.
Great point about rock being amplified (not the drums, of course, nor the piano in a more classic “rock & roll” arrangement, but I hear you) and that having an effect on your appreciation of the immediacy and impact of mono versus stereo. And I hear you about how you can still perceive space between the musicians in a small nightclub, and that makes sense if you’re sitting up front, no matter how small the stage is. But I personally feel that mono typically captures the *spirit* of that setting more effectively than wide stereo.
I really appreciate your perspective on the mono/stereo discussion–in all of our past exchanges, for some reason it never came across before! And I can totally understand someone preferring the stereo version of even something like Blue Train which was definitely monitored and mixed in mono and created when Van Gelder was in his “experimental” phase on recording to stereo.
But let me ask you, because you seem like the type of person who is very particular about these kind of things: is the bass being on the far right of that recordings troublesome at all in a highly refined stereo listening setting such as yours?
Has anyone given any thought to Columbia reissues of the per-stereo Miles Davis recordings?
I have recently acquired mono versions of many of my Columbia (CS Six Eyes) re-issue based on what I discovered on this and other blogs. I now have two and sometimes three of Miles Davis pre 1960 recordings in both mono and stereo. And in this case, they all sound great. Although, I must confess, I believe I prefer the stereo CS six-eyes version to CL six-eyes mono of the ubiquitous “Kind of Blue.” And I have several copies of both.
I have also just picked up an almost mint CS six-eyes copy of Miles Davis – “In Person at the Blackhawk Vol. 1.” I have both volumes 1 and 2 in mono, and love how intimate they both sound. I can’t wait to compare the stereo to them.
Kind of Blue is one I actually enjoy a bit more in mono, I have a CL 6-eye.
I heard the new KOB mono remaster, and I thought it sounded great. At some point I am definitely going to pick up an original mono 6-eye.
To me, it’s hard to explain, but Columbia recordings “make more sense” in stereo actually. I think it’s because I know they took a great deal of care in making those stereo recordings sound great. (I mean, they pioneered the technology, right?) But also, the 30th Street Studio just SINGS, and the room sound on those stereo recordings (coupled with the “echo chamber” reverb) is heavenly to my ears.
There is no shame in not knowing who Harry Pearson is. He is a retired hifi/music reviewer, an old schooler by todays standards; loves vinyl, stereos, vacuum tube amps, etc. His shtick was reproduced hifi in the home should be compared to his “absolute sound” (what he would name his magazine) which is live unamplified music. You can search his name on Youtube to see a lecture he gave at an audio convention, might be easier to get an idea of his POV rather than sifting through 40 years of old reviews.
The bass being mixed on the right was only present during his transitional phase correct? That’s why for recordings like Blue Train I like the mono and stereo. There are other recordings in that transitional phase where I strongly prefer the mono. As a side note with Blue Train in particular the first stereo pressing by RVG has a much more extreme panning (same with the Classic Records reissue) than my reference version which is Hoffman’s 45 rpm vinyl.
RE: stereo Blue Train, I was under the impression that the MM 45 RPM reissues were panned hard left and hard right, and again, on the contrary, I was under the impression that RVG’s original stereo LPs were automatically “folded in a little” (source: Michael Cuscuna) by the stereo cutter head he had for his lathe…???
Interesting stuff indeed. Just checked three of my Liberty pressings that say ‘Stereo’ with no electronically rechanneled added. A Date with Jimmy Smith 81547 – quite clearly is fake stereo and sounds dreadful. Further Explorations by the Horace Silver Quintet 81589 is quite clearly (to me anyway) real stereo and sounds very nice.
However the most interesting case is Rollins’ Newk’s Time, the first of the 4000 series- marked 84001, This sounds like mono but one channel sounds almost imperceptibly duller than the other whether that is an effect of the mono being played through a stereo cart I don’t don’t know.
I compared it to my CD which is also marked 84001 and is mastered by Yoshio Okazaki. On listening I discovered that this sounds almost exactly like my vinyl and is therefore mastered from the original mono tape – I think.
I read from one of the Music Matters guys that the stereo tape is marked with a warning that there is severe tape drop-out on it but on listening they discovered that it was in fact Sonny Rollins moving around the room while RVG desperately used his faders as he moved Sonny to a different mic. This perhaps means that almost all Newk’s Time editions whether labelled stereo or not were in fact mono.
I’m sure someone with more in-depth knowledge will know for sure.
BTW none of these editions are Rudy stamped
To clarify my point I mean the Newk’s Time editions must have been sourced however indirectly from the mono mix rather than the stereo.
Sounds convincing, Andy. Unfortunately, I have never heard “Newk’s Time” on vinyl (i.e. I never heard the original mono if there was any), but it seems that all the CD versions available are some kind of fake stereo made from the mono mix, which I don’t like at all.
P.S. Having listened to LJC’s rip I can say that the mono is infinitely superior to all subsequent versions.
So it would seem that everything apart the Music Matters that’s listed as stereo is fake stereo taken from the mono. I have to say that it’s not the worse fake stereo I have heard in that it almost sounds like mono to me with a slight leaning to a brighter sound on one side.
I suppose it makes the original mono even more valuable and desirable.
Very true. – No, it’s not the worst fake stereo I’ve heard either. The bass in the right channel even made me wonder at first whether it was fake at all, but it is. But it’s far from one – very acceptable – fake stereo version of “Saxophone Colossus” that I have come across.
Van Gelder gave Newk’s Time a very odd panning. From what I hear on my RVG Edition CD, drums are left, sax and piano are center, and bass is right. But let’s not fault him for this, as it was recorded at Hackensack and monitored in mono.
I’m curious as to whether or not your editions are in fact true stereo but they kind of sound like fake stereo because I wouldn’t say the bass is very “well-defined” in the right channel, and the cymbals (in the RVG Edition anyway) sound kind of “flange-y”–but I am positive it is true stereo–for me, the key is listening to how the full frequency range of the bass is positioned right during the solo in “Tune Up”.
That being said, if I was a big fan of this album I was definitely need an original mono mix.
Apparently there are lots of issues with the stereo tape involving drop-out and faders – so Rudy must have remastered the tape to eliminate these elements if he used that source – I haven’t heard the RVG edition TBH.
Just for a spot the looney exercise, I put my headphones on and listened to the RVG Newks Time again. Rich is right, it is stereo indeed.
LJC, my sincerest thanks on picking up and running with this concept. I’m willing to wager good money that a few of us have been burnt with buying fake stereo LPs unknowingly. I haven’t been at this long myself so have made that mistake perhaps more recently than others – Bob D. mentioned Riverside never put out any fake stereo recordings. Well unfortunately, I learned through my own mistake that they did….as I learned on this forum and read more about it, apparently Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” was reissued in fake stereo. You can imagine how annoyed I was to learn that after the fact and given there seemed to be literally nothing listed on the record cover stating this so it must’ve been released prior to any regulatory changes requiring fake stereo be clearly marked. Does anyone know of any other examples (aside from any already mentioned) of records not clearly marked that were indeed fake stereo?
Surprisingly i’ve just discovered a fake stereo Japanese pressing – my copy of Tadd Dameron & John Coltrane ‘Mating Call’ on Prestige/Victor (simply classified as ‘stereo’) was always a bit strange…playing it now i decided to check the individual channels & just like suggested above one side is bright & the other one dull. Moving the record to the mono turntable fixed the problem for good, sounds much better now. Had to play it again just to enjoy it as it supposed to be…great album.
Reblogged this on The Jazz Collector.
Hello, first post here to this excellent forum.
Well, the only electronically remaster stereo recording i have is PR 7782 Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis: The Rev in the purple prestige label. It is a 1970 Reissue of prestige 7161 The Eddie “Lokjaw” Davis Cookbook Vol. 2(prestige 7161).
The record sounds very good with tenor sax and organ in the right channel and bass, drums and flute in the left. I recommend this reissue if you can’t find the original mono.
Hi Spyros. I don’t think your 1970 reissue of Cookbook Vol.2 is fake stereo. It’s REAL stereo. These recordings were made in real stereo in December 1958, and the fact that the 7782 cover says “electronically remastered for stereo” just reveals a certain sloppiness on the side of the producers. From the way you describe the sound of the record it MUST be the stereo version.
This article and some of the comments have put me more in touch with the way in which stereo would have ultimately dominated the consumer market in the 70s (and perhaps the late 60s I suppose). It makes perfect sense that albums originally recorded in mono only would need to be “stereo-ized” in order to be sold at that time, and it also makes perfect sense that after all the stereo hype would have died down (perhaps in the 80s or 90s I guess) that people would have realized that the notion of listening to these classic mono recordings in electronically rechanneled stereo is, quite frankly, absurd. I say that in full acknowledgement that there are always exceptions to the rule (Bob with a handful of titles for example, though I’m not sure he’s saying he actually prefers the fake stereo to the mono for those titles), but I would never prefer a fake stereo copy of a mono title simply on the principle that it is manipulation of the recording that was not intended by those involved in creating it…though it doesn’t help that it usually sounds absolutely atrocious to me in comparison to the mono version, so it’s not even worth the effort.
Rich – agree with you absolutely – Most times the “masses” don’t even know what they are buying. If the market place has it, they assume their government it okay with it – I guess. Who knows! I know I have some of it in my record collection, and regret I did not know better back when I brought it home.
BTW I read your tread on the Hoffman site. I believe I read it back when I purchased the Miyajima. I was doing some research to educate myself on what I was buying. This site helped as well with the explanations on record labels and record distributers. Thank you LJC
No question that the mono is worlds better than the fake stereo on this one. The latter just sounds so limp. I need to recheck the few fake stereo copies I have as I recall there being variation with them. Perhaps some are true fake stereo while others were true original mixes.
While I posted this before, seems like it bears repeating on this topic: I should note that my speaker setup is actually unique. I have 4 speakers with 2 on one side of the system and 2 on the other. What I did though is mix the channels. So on each side I have a left and right channel. This makes even the worst stereo separated mixes more tame. It subdues any ping-pong affect and just makes the music dance around in front of you as opposed to going side to side.
Lucky for me I did not waste money on a Liberty UA rechanneled for stereo for my copy of Horace’s “6 pieces of Silver.”
However, it was not due to a lack of trying. Let me explain. When after many weeks of searching I could not find a copy on eBay of this record I decided to pluck down the cash for a reissued 200 gram Classic QUIEX SV-P mono copy. If memory serves I think I paid about $30 or $50US for it; less than what a decent copy was going for on eBay back when I purchased my copy.
Now that I know better, I spend my money on a decent reissue rather than go cheap on eBay, because “one usually get what one pays for.”
My copy is not an original mono issue, and therefore not “Collectible”, but those are so hard to come by in today’s market.
P.S. I did just manage to buy a 1957 original US pressing of Miles Davis “Bags Groove Prestige 7109” The dealer was asking $100, and lower the bid to $70 with best offer option. I offer $35 because he had not play tested, but has a good rep. Well he accepted my offer and the record is on its way. Hope I am not disappointed. I have been looking for an original of this gem for a long time.
The mono Lexington wins hands down on my iPad. I’ve just got the evil silver disc (ESD) version which will do me unless a great pressing comes my way at a low price. In the meantime cost benefit encourages me to generally go for quantity over quality- the ratio of ESD to vinyl purchased is currently running at around 5-1.
The particular evil of the RVG ESD version of Six Pieces of Silver is the vocal version of your selection, Señor Blues- not my cup of tea at all (NBA: American readers may want to substitute coffee).
From my extremely lo-fi childhood days I remember our radiogram- bought more as a piece of furniture than a means of reproducing sound- had a reversible stereo and mono stylus. I remember buying big-time into the notion that stereo was modern and mono was arcane. I also remember a late neighbour instructing his daughter not to play stereo records on the family Dansette because of the possibility of damage to the mono stylus (could have been his distaste for the Monkees though).
“not my cup of tea at all (NBA: American readers may want to substitute coffee)”
“For jazz fans with audiophile tastes but limited budgets, the problem of fake stereo is located largely in Liberty and United Artists reissues of the early 1500 Blue Note series, which RVG recorded exclusively in mono.”
Andy, I beg to differ. This may be the case when it comes to Blue Note, but one label does not a Jazz collecting make.
In fact, the world of Jazz (and not just Bop) is overflowing with fake stereos: Prestige, Decca, King, Atlantic (and Atco in particular) , Pacific Jazz and/or World Pacific, Savoy, Verve, Fontana….etc, etc…all of these labels (and more) were guilty as sin of doing fake stereos. Even the stereo leaders such as Columbia, Mercury and RCA were not completely immune to the disease. Plus, some true stereos (Fantasy and Prestige come to mind) were so bad that they might as well be faux.
Notwithstanding those labels that were releasing only mono titles, or which disappeared before the inception of the stereo age (Debut, Emarcy, Clef/Norgran), the only recording label which, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, never released any fake stereo titles was Riverside (I cannot recall a single fake-stereo Riverside title, but I am sure someone will think of some), but this changed in 1966 when Riverside was absorbed by ABC-Paramount and when ABC started issuing older, mono-only Riverside titles in faux stereo format, most often with a completely different artwork and graphic design.
Some of the biggest names in Jazz were given a degrading faux stereo treatment: Miles Davis (Miles Ahead, Milestones, ‘Round about Midnight, Live at Carnegie Hall, plus two Blue Note volumes), John Coltrane (late Prestige titles 1962-1965), Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt (practically their entire discographies, but this can be partially justified by the fact that there are no multitrack recordings of Parker and Reinhardt that I am aware of), Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, etc, etc.
Some of the faux-stereo recordings are actually quite nice and rather professionally done. I am partial to some of the Buddy Holly & the Crickets titles in faux stereo (yes, I know, I know, this is a Jazz blog, I am self-flagellating as we speak), and some are borderline on true-stereo fidelity (such as mid-’60s Chess and Checker Blues titles in “stereo”). But, as Jazz goes, fake stereo should be avoided like a leper in final stages of disintegration.
Is it live or is it Memorex? if it is recorded prior to 1958 and sounds like $#!+ you can bet your sweet hind end it is a fake stereo. Caution, though: when it comes to digital, many pre-1958 titles have, in fact, been remastered in true stereo and are available in stereo format for the first time ever (Dinah Washington sings Bessie Smith on Emarcy (now a part of Universal) comes to mind, and sounds gorgeous in stereo). In those cases where faux analogue or true digital are a dilemma, I will ALWAYS opt for true digital stereo. In fact, in some cases I find true digital stereo preferable even to true analogue mono, but that’s just me. Paint me weird.
The only Riverside fake stereo I know of is “Brilliant Corners”. On April 2, 1986, Orrin Keepnews himself wrote to me, after I had asked him about the purported “stereo” version of that album:
“…As the producer of that album, I am in a position to tell you quite authoritatively that you actually have already supplied the correct answer to your own question. There was no stereo equipment involved in the original recording of this material; RLP 1174 was a later “electronically enhanced” version. It was one of the very few occasions on which Riverside went in for this kind of trickery. If you ever do locate a copy of 1174, you will have a very rare item; all subsequent reissues have been in the original mono form.
The first Monk recording in stereo was “Monk’s Music”, for which separate mono and stereo master tapes still exist. It was simultaneously issued in 1957 as RLP 12-242 and RLP-1102.”
I do not own RLP 1174. Good hunting, fellas!
To be fair (to me) Bob, the post is subtitled ” Blue Note Fake Stereo ’70s reissues”
Now I have heard tell, not just a rumour, that there are other labels which published jazz, not just Blue Note, and even that there are other types of music than jazz. But the post topic is Blue Note fake stereo, so that is what you get.
I’ll make some stealth edits to the post so the intention is clearer. And correcting some of the dates, which are capable of greater accuracy.
Shhh, Andy…just between the two of us…the post title reads: “Blue Note AND Electronically Rechanneled Stereo” (emphasis on: AND).
Mono is dynamic, stereo is spacious. I have rigs to play both, so I enjoy both. I do dislike thoes fakes, and before I knew better, purchased some bad stuff that I am now on a mission to replace.
When I first heard true mono on my mono cartridge I was absolutely floored; couldn’t believe how immediate it sounded.
Mono is dynamic, stereo is spacious.
Yes, this is generally the case, but there are major, major, exceptions and aberrations from the rule. I could talk for hours about mono recordings that are profoundly spacious and ambiental (practically the entire Phil Spector catalog) and stereos which are dramatically dynamic (practically every RCA Living Stereo and Monument Golden Stereo title)
I am advocating non-dogmatic approach: play it and see. Some monos will be both dynamic AND spacious and some stereos will be both spacious and dynamic :-). There are no rules cast in stone.
Let me first qualify my knowledge of this stuff before moving on. It is limited – I am just getting started, after spending nearly 30 years as a professional musician (US Army Band), I never paid much attention to the medium music was recorded on – CD, vinyl, tape, mono, stereo. It was enough that I could listen to it. Now that I am retired and don’t play much anymore, I find that getting involved in this hobby is the next best thing to playing live music.
With that, I am curious – what are you guys using as a mono playback setup? I use a Miyajima mono cartridge. Great cartridge for what it does. I still run it through a two-channel phono amp and preamp, and two speakers. I have a phono amp that can process mono only, but find it does not degrade or improve the mono reproduction from the two-channel setup. What I realized is that it’s the cartridge STUPID.
I find that mono played on a stereo cartridge sounds confused. In fact, I did not realize mono sounded so good until I setup a special table and cartridge to play it on.
I mostly listen to jazz, but have recently collected some folk, blues, classical, classic rock, R&B and Soul.
I am really curious about these “Living Stereo” recordings. Have seen it advertised, but don’t have any yet. Guess I will be buying some now, as I have to hear where a recording can be both spacious and dynamic, and all at the same time.
I plan to do some measurements later this year to try and determine the true dynamics of my mono and stereo albums. I have heard, and suspect that the mono will have deeper bass and higher treble. Not louder, just more dynamic.
Hello! From what I have seen and heard, those Miyajima carts are relatively expensive but sound good, that’s pretty cool that you have one. I’m using a Shure M97xE (a stereo cart) with an amplifier with a mono button. This may not sound like an optimum setup for mono listening but I’ve done some A/B testing and I can’t tell the difference between the two configurations (see this thread I started a while ago on the subject at the Hoffman forum: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/one-more-time-true-mono-carts-vs-mono-buttons-y-cables.330790/page-4#post-10072352).
I wouldn’t personally describe a mono record as sounding “confused” with a stereo cart, but the vertical noise is indeed completely detached from the music in that it is panned hard left and hard right and thus is much more noticeable than when the channels are summed or with a mono cart like your Miyajima 🙂
I got lucky on the Miyajima – I was not sure about the purchase, but got an offer I could not refuse. Anyway I am glad I accepted. It has really made me realize just how nice mono can sound. And I accept that “confused” maybe to strong a word for mono played with a stereo cartridge, but if one can make the stretch and invest in a mono only cartridge they will be duly rewarded.
One other point, the new “reissue mono” albums sound great as well. As an example, I was given a Lee Morgan mono recording some years ago as a Christmas gift and did not enjoy it on my stereo cartridge. At the time I did not think about it much, I just put the record away. Well you know what happened. It blew my mind how much better it sounded play on the Miyajima.
I totally agree on the Mono cartridge! Transformed by listening experience with old records. I have a deck for stereo, one for mono and one for 78 rpm records set up in my main system.
Hi Bob! I have a neat little Rudy Van Gelder quote for you that I thought you’d like. From a jazz.com interview dated 4/11/09:
Q: What sonic characteristics do you strive for in your recordings?
RVG: Aside from all the mechanical details, I personally prefer recordings which have a sense of space. The degree of that relates to the characteristics of the music.
Q: Have those characteristics changed over the years?
RVG: Yes, the characteristics have changed over the years. In the very early years, of course, there was just mono. I believed then–as I do now–that the sense of space adds to the effect of the music. People have said to me that even in my mono recordings they feel a sense of space, and I agree with that. Spatial characteristics are not related to stereo only.
Gosh, Rich, I am so thrilled that RCA Victor never allowed Rudy Van Gelder to record all those wide-open-spacious Fritz Reiner and Chicago Symphony or Alexander Gibson RCA Living Stereo masterworks in (gasp!) Dying Mono! Now, THAT would have been an acoustic atrocity from the underbelly of hell. Thank you, Messrs Layton and Mohr from keeping one Rudy Van Gelder as far away from RCA’s recording and mixing consoles as possible
Personally, I would not be caught dead listening to Kind of Blue or Sketches of Spain or Coltrane’s ‘Ballads” in mono, NO MATTER what The Guru has to say on the subject.For than matter, I would not be caught dead listening to any of the hundreds of RCA Living Stereos, Mercury’s Living Presences or London Bluebacks in mono (not that many exist in mono). Ataúlfo Argenta in mono???
Dear Abby: is there something wrong with me?
No there isn’t, Bob. In THIS matter I fully agree with you. Listened to a mono version of Mundell Lowe’s Porgy and Bess (originally an RCA Living Stereo), and found it disgusting. Would never listen to KoB in mono either.
I don’t mind Ballads in mono; interestingly it’s the smallest ensemble you mentioned and coincidentally the only Van Gelder recording. Go figure.
BTW: I wasn’t trying to disagree with you, I just thought you’d find the quote interesting.
Have a stereo copy of Ballads but always prefer to listen to it in mono…
IMHO recordings with only one horn don’t work too well in extreme stereo (Kenny Dorham ‘Quiet Kenny’ is another example).
Very confused stereo…like the music is coming from behind a cloud, definitely fake. Some of the ‘rechanneled stereo’ on Prestige blue trident label are not too bad though, probably a real stereo mix.
I have a 47 west mono copy of this Horace SIlver, good album but never considered it as one of Van Gelders best works, sounds a bit lo-fi to my ears.
no-brainer here: mono rules, big time and puts stereo to shame. end of debate.
Indeed. Opinion seconded.