Monday, April 23, 2018

Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Mono Re-release

I told you about my Record Store Day haul. Something that I am not, is a collector of new vinyl. Despite the magnificent quality of the 180-gram re-releases, it is rare that I shell out 30 bucks for one LP. As you could see from my haul, $30 bucks goes a long way. Of course, there are exceptions. I own Sgt. Pepper and several of the Steven Wilson remixes like Close to the Edge and Gentle Giant's The Power and the Glory. I will, of course, seek out items that I know will be collectible, but only when I really want them. The 10th-anniversary issue, for instance, of Jack's Mannequin's Everything In Transit, which I scored for $25 and it now worth a couple hundred.

My collection though, much of it museum quality, is not a museum collection. I buy vinyl to listen to vinyl, not for posterity; that too with exception. I've played my mint condition Pet Sounds, but rarely. I cherish its provenance; it transcends my collection. The same is true of Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn in its mono Tower label pressing. Like Pet Sounds, I've played it once. But then came an extravagance I couldn't pass up: the Record Store Day release date of Piper in Mono.   

The original, is an LP with little personal provenance. Indeed, I didn’t hear "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" until the U.S. release of A Nice Pair, which I got for Christmas in 1973. Of course, by '73, everything was in stereo with no one commenting on the superior quality of a mono disk. Over these past 45 years of my interest in Pink Floyd (my first Floyd was a cassette tape of Dark Side that a girlfriend copped for me from Topanga Plaza), I've grown to include nearly the entirety of the Floyd catalog in my rotation (I just can't do The Final Cut, and it's a rare occasion when I listen to Atom Heart Mother), and today I’ve truly added this mono mix 51st anniversary release of Piper. It is magnificent.

Piper's blend of rock, jazz, folk and blues transcends all those genres and combined with its whimsical arrangements, daring improvisations and Syd's surreal lyrics create a truly unprecedented and revolutionary experience for anyone who knows the history of rock (like the readers of AM). The mono vinyl version of the classic LP was released as a limited-edition premium 12-inch, remastered by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman from the original 1967 mono mix. 6000 copies were made available for U.S. release and 15,000 copies for Europe on 180-gram black vinyl.

A new LP cover envelope slips over the standard record sleeve (the original, kaleidoscopic album cover photograph taken by Vic Singh – with a prism lens leant to him by George Harrison. The Beatles, if you recall, were recording Sgt. Pepper in Abbey Road’s Studio Two while Pink Floyd was in Studio One). Designed by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis with Peter Curzon, this new outer card envelope features a gold emboss of the graphic created by Syd Barrett that appeared on the back of the original mono LP. A 540 x 388mm poster of a photograph by Colin Prime that inspired Syd’s graphic is included inside printed on fine art paper. The package also contains gold and black labels, a gold sticker and a black poly-lined inner record sleeve bag to protect the heavy vinyl disc. The reissue includes the 11 tracks from the album plus the original mono-single mixes of "Arnold Layne," "Candy And A Current Bun," "See Emily Play," "Apples And Oranges" and "Paintbox," as well as the first studio session recordings of "Lucy Leave" and "I’m Your King Bee" from December 1965. So, hooray for all that.

Last night then, I listened to both my 180-gram Piper indulgences: the 2016 stereo release and the new 2018 mono mix. Growing up in the age of stereo, I'm not a mono guy, but I have to admit there is many a nuance that's missed in the stereo version. Hope you didn't miss out.

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