Mono vs. Stereo: The 1960s Takoma albums.

There is quite a bit of confusion over which of the early Fahey albums were released in stereo, so I hope that this will clarify things.

The 1963 release of 'Death Chants', the 1964 release of 'Blind Joe Death', and the 1965 recording of 'Dance of Death' were all mono recordings. In 1966 Takoma released 'Guitar: Volume 4' and, despite the widespread belief that this was available in both mono and stereo versions, this was never so. Some later pressings of this record said 'stereo' on the record label, but the sleeve never made any such claim, and the record continued to be pressed from the same mono master. The following year, exactly the same happened with 'Days Have Gone By'.

In 1967 John decided to re-record his first two albums in order (it is said) to issue them in stereo. However that is unlikely to have been his main purpose, as when they were released, they were still mono, and carried stickers assuring purchasers that they were 'NEWLY RECORDED in MAGNIFICENT MONO!'. Those two albums appeared with matching Tom Weller designed sleeves, dominated by 'psychedelic' lettering, and 'Dance of Death' was reissued in a matching cover, but remained the original 1965 recording.

John then recorded Requia for Vanguard, and that and the subsequent Yellow Princess were both true stereo releases.

In 1968 'Voice of the Turtle' was released, claiming on both the sleeve and the label to be stereo, but it certainly wasn't. Most of the tracks on the album were old recordings, and therefore of necessity mono, but so was the new material. Then, at the end of 1968 'The New Possibility' appeared, and this was the first Fahey album to be released on Takoma that was actually in stereo.

It was eventually decided to reissue the 1967 recordings of the first two albums in stereo, and the tapes were given a stereo mixdown. Tom Weller designed new sleeves for the first three albums with the well-known woodcut designs, and was aware that it would only be the first two volumes that would be stereo since they were clearly labelled as such on the front of the sleeves where volume three wasn't. However the rear paste-ons for the three sleeves were not so carefully designed (scarcely designed at all in fact), and they were all given a 'stereo' labelling. They must have been prepared well ahead of the eventual release dates, because they tell the purchaser that 'Voice of the Turtle' will be released in June; by the time the stereo pressings appeared that date was long gone. They were eventually released (probably in 1969), the labels were identical to that of the earlier monaural versions with the 1968 black and silver label design which made no claim as to whether the record was mono or stereo. Takoma almost immediate moved on to the orange label, both those labels for the first two (stereo) albums prominently claimed to be 'monaural'.

By the time Takoma issued those first two volumes in stereo, the Swedish label Sonet, who had acquired the European release rights to Takoma, had already put out Volumes 1 and 2 in a very strange 'stereo' (and strange sleeves too!). It is very doubtful that Takoma had allowed them access to anything other than the mono tapes, and presumably they were electronically 'enhanced'. Takoma themselves never released any processed stereo versions, and 'Dance of Death', 'Guitar: Volume 4', 'Days Have Gone By' and 'Voice of the Turtle' were only ever pressed from the original mono masters, despite later pressings invariably being labelled as stereo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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