ミスター・タンブリン・マン(紙ジャケット仕様) Limited Edition, Original recording remastered
Such was my reaction when I saw that Sony Japan was coming out with the Byrds' first five Columbia albums at a fairly hefty price tag per disc. After buying 45-rpm singles, vinyl albums, open reels, cassettes, the 1990 CD box set, the Sony Legacy remastered CDs, Byrd Parts 1 and 2, The Preflyte Sessions, the Sundazed release of the 1971 Royal Albert Hall concert, and other releases, I didn't figure on buying much more Byrds music -- especially imports. But then I learned each disc in this new Sony Japan series would include both the stereo mix and the mono mix of the album. Sony Japan would also be releasing a two-disc compilation of the band's mono singles.
Okay, the record companies got me again. Hearing the mono mixes in digital format was just too much to ignore. Like the other main titles in this series, Mr. Tambourine Man incorporates Blu-Spec manufacturing technology but plays fine on a standard CD player. I'll leave it to the true audiophiles with a trained ear to determine how these new 2012 editions stack up with the Sony remasters issued in 1996 and 1997. I have a very good sound system, but it's not in the same league with theirs. To me, the Sony remasters and these new imports sound equally good in stereo.
Yet important distinctions do exist between these two versions of MTM released 16 years apart:
1996 MTM: has just the stereo mix; I had only it to A/B with the 2012 edition's stereo mix
2012 MTM: has the stereo mix of the album AND its corresponding mono mix; having the mono mix again after all these years is the main reason I bought this import
1996 MTM: 6 bonus tracks (5 in stereo, 1 in mono)
2012 MTM: 3 bonus tracks (1 in stereo, 2 in mono)
1996 MTM: a 16-page booklet with publicist/talent scout Billy James' original liner notes, David Fricke's excellent essay, Johnny Rogan's authoritative song notes, and some cool photos
2012 MTM: a 28-page, text-heavy booklet (almost all in Japanese, naturally) with track listing and song lyrics in English. Booklets for other 2012s contain a few errors in the printed lyrics, but I haven't taken the time to thoroughly read the lyrics in this booklet, so perhaps they're error-free.
1996 MTM: housed in a standard jewel case with a clear tray through which the original back cover photo shows
2012 MTM: housed in a beautifully rendered facsimile album jacket about half an inch taller than a standard plastic jewel case; the CD itself mimics a black vinyl record (complete with "grooves") with a red Sony Music label; it, like the 1996 remaster, has the iconic Columbia Records "walking eye" logo; the disc itself is snugly protected by a U-shaped sleeve
Here's the track order for this new 2012 import edition of Mr. Tambourine Man:
Tracks 1-12 are the mono mix of the original album.
Tracks 13 and 14 are the mono bonus tracks "She Has A Way" and "All I Really Want To Do" [single version].
Tracks 15-26 are the stereo mix of the original album.
Track 27 is a new stereo mix of the title track.
Although I bought this new edition of Mr. Tambourine Man to get the album's mono mix, I was very curious to learn how the title track might sound in a new stereo mix. After repeated listens to all three mixes of the song, "Mr. Tambourine Man," I can share the following with you -- and much of it is just my opinion:
The mono album mix still sounds vibrant because Roger McGuinn's lead vocal and Ric 12-string are front and center, with the rhythm section (especially Larry Knechtel's sliding bass guitar) clearly evident throughout. When David Crosby's and Gene Clark's harmonies come in, it's pure bliss for this lifelong Byrds fan.
The stereo album mix still opens with a rush of Rickenbacker and bass guitar predominantly in the left channel, but from there the song starts losing some of its punch when the instruments and vocals are spread across the stereo field. I do like how Roger's lead vocal is brought out in the stereo mix. I just think the song's mono mix has more immediacy.
This edition's new stereo mix of the title track differs greatly from its siblings. Roger's 12-string opens in the right channel, Larry Knechtel's electric bass enters on the left, and the vocals are mostly down the middle. Perhaps my ears are playing tricks on me, but it sounds as if the track has been ever so slightly slowed down, giving all the vocals a more deliberate delivery and a nice warm tone. Like the stereo mix on the 1996 remaster, the fade here is longer than the one in either the mono mix or the stereo mix on this 2012 disc. Roger's familiar ringing 12-string riff that opens and closes the track is heard seven times in the fade. I won't say this new stereo mix overshadows the song's mono mix or its original stereo mix, but I do like it. It's certainly distinctive.
I've said repeatedly in other reviews I've posted on Amazon that I don't necessarily opt for mono over stereo or stereo over mono on a consistent basis. But my fondness for the mono mixes of specific songs is tied directly to my being a baby boomer who cut his teeth on the mono singles played on Top 40 radio in the 1950s and 1960s. (That's why the 2-disc mono singles compilation is such a kick for someone like me.) That said, after repeated listenings to the entire MTM album in both the mono and stereo presentations, I have to go with some songs in mono (especially the title track), at least two in stereo ("Here Without You" and "I Knew I'd Want You"), and still others being a toss-up (mono "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" is punchier on the whole, but Roger's Ric 12-string soloing is absolutely breathtaking in the stereo mix). But these are my opinions, my tastes, my preferences. You will have your own if you A/B the mono and stereo and they will be just as valid as mine.
I would caution those of you unaccustomed to listening to pop and rock albums presented in mono that it is a very different experience from listening to those same albums in stereo. So please don't rush out and buy this pricey import of Mr. Tambourine Man just because I like it for offering both mixes. Remember, I grew up with both.