Someone in the crowd coming out of the ApolloTheater last Monday, on December 14th, 2010, after the Paul McCartney concert said, “the performance at the Apollo Theater was one of the best concerts seen.” The event was broadcast simultaneously on SiriusXM radio, and the audience of an invitation-only 1,300 mostly consisted of celebrities and Sirius subscribers.
Shortly after 8 pm, McCartney burst onto the stage in a black suit to the sounds of Magical Mystery Tour. “I have a feeling we’re gonna have a little bit of fun here tonight,” McCartney told us at the beginning of the show. As red and green confetti rained on the cheering crowd. “Here we are tonight,” McCartney said of the Apollo. “I dreamed of playing here for many a year.” He mined deep into the Beatles’s catalogue, he played lead guitar on a brief version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” paid tribute to the Apollo and R&B with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike,” and in celebration of the season, performed his late ‘70s tune “Wonderful Christmastime.” Toward the end of the show, McCartney had a couple surprises left, a great closing with a version of Wonderful Christmastime featuring the Choir Academy of Harlem.
Maybe one reason Paul did the concert at the Apollo is the release in December of The Beatles Mono Box Set compiled as a special interest package for the hard-core fan. It presents the first ten albums in re-mastered mono (the final 3 albums made their debuts in stereo only), and a double album of singles and EPs, called “Mono Masters”. At the time of writing, the mono albums are not available individually. Why would anyone want a newly minted mono collection? The final mono songs were sometimes different. Stereo mixes were usually done days, if not weeks after the original mono mix, and could include different takes when the engineers made the overdubs. Stereo mixes, particularly for the first five albums, did not include as much critical listening from George Martin, and almost none from the Fab’ Four. Also, stereo in early 60′s England was not broadcast over the air, and the format was largely the preserve of the hi-fi snob.
For more than half The Beatles recorded repertoire, the most affordable “weapon of choice” for the twisting, shouting teenage market was the mono mix. Ironically – this box set is the best The Beatles have ever sounded. Like the stereo sibling these are re-mastered, not re-mixed, but unlike the stereo, they have not been clipped or limited to push levels closer to current music ingested through our MP3 players. These albums are cleaner than ever before and compared to the 1980s CD editions you’re taken aback by how much dynamic range is on those original tapes. Nothing in this box sounds like a 45 year old recording. Each disc is presented as if it were a miniature “33″, replete with plastic anti-scratch sleeve, inner paper sleeve, original album cover, inserts and all original text rendered frustratingly small for anyone old enough to have bought the LPs the first time around. Get it here.