Nine discs which follow the original vinyl releases. The sound is warm and clean, with good sonic separation. Each disc is housed in a very substantial cardboard reproduction of the original album jacket. Inside is a paper sleeve (first album, "Bob Dylan", only) that reproduces ads ("The Sound of Songs...Stereo...Bands...Jazz...Dancing...Fun...on Columbia Records") for other (then current) Columbia Records artists-a nice touch. The album "The Times They Are A-Changin'" has a lyric sheet insert that's a continuation of the lyrics, printed on the back of the album cover. The remaining paper sleeves don't have this artwork. All discs are housed in a substantial cardboard slipcase. The 56 page booklet contains an overview of Dylan and his career (by noted Dylan writer/critic Greil Marcus) up through the last of these releases. Included is an album by album chronology, with song titles/dates, and musicians on each album, plus a list of album/singles release dates beginning in 1962 up through 1967. There's also many new photos of Dylan-in both color and b&w. The bonus disc, "Bob Dylan In Concert Brandeis University 1963" is approximately 38 minutes in length, and has pretty good sound. There's a bit of echo to Dylan's voice, but overall, the recording is very worthwhile. The disc is in a cardboard jacket which, on the back, uses a reproduction of a ticket stub from the concert, with a list of the songs and other interesting concert information-another nice touch. There's also a digital download that has the song "Positively 4th Street" (in mono) as a bonus-that can be found on the single album of tracks taken from this box set.
I came to Dylan, through a friend, somewhere in the summer of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" in 1963. I had heard the first album, but "Freewheelin'" was the first record that told me there was something to this Dylan guy. The next two albums had songs I liked, but it wasn't until "Bringing It All Back Home" that Dylan delivered what I heard as a devastatingly good rock 'n' roll record. This same friend also told me about a movie Dylan was in with my favorite song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" in it. We went on a Saturday with all the other people who seemed hip (we all thought we were privy to something others didn't know) to what Dylan was all about. Wow-that was it! Dylan was all over the car radio-AM, there weren't any FM rock stations. And as rock writers/historians have written, you really could, once in a while, walk down the street and hear Dylan blaring from kids windows. That impressed me. All the above is just a prelude to this wonderful box set of mono albums. In that long ago era we first heard Dylan in mono-on our little "pocket-size" transistor radios, or on our simple record players-the kind with the speaker built into the box under the (slightly wobbly) turntable. Stereo albums were around, but they cost a dollar more-a lot for teenagers in those days. And now this box set brings back that illusive sound that captured so many people's ears, when each Dylan record was fresh and new and exciting.
As most people know, these albums were originally meant to be heard in monophonic sound. They were recorded with mono sound in mind-something Dylan thought was very important to his sound on (then) albums. Stereo releases of some of the original vinyl albums had fairly harsh separation between the voice and the instrument (s)-stereo was almost an afterthought at the time. Back in the days of car radios (with one tiny speaker!), or a simple home record player (before the emergence of widespread stereo use in later years), mono sound was very important. And this doesn't include the (originally mono) horrific sounding "re-channeled for stereo" records that were released for a time before people heard how horrible they were. This music (at the time) was meant to be heard through one speaker-no matter if it was a quality speaker or something simpler. I still recall hearing Bob Dylan, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, and other groups of the era in full, powerful mono sound. And while stereo Dylan albums were sold concurrently (which I, too, bought), a number of people (like me) still clung to their mono copies of cherished bands/musicians. And Dylan was at the forefront as an example of what immediate, powerful sounding music (especially the acoustic tracks), listened to in glorious monophonic sound, could be.
Good mono sound is truly something to hear. Today's younger listeners don't know the pleasure of good, uncluttered monophonic sound. No left/right channels, no voice/instrument splitting from two or more speakers-just great sound, like you hear at a rock concert that has a line of amplifiers putting out that sound. Live music,for me, is heard by the ears/mind in monophonic sound-it's only at home (or in the car) that music is heard in left-right separated stereo, with some engineer's idea of what the music should sound like, by splitting the music into parts-if he thought about it at all. Sometimes stereo was an afterthought in the early days.
These albums, now well known, have a subtle power and presence that's missing in stereo. The pure sound of Dylan's voice and guitar/band is very immediate sounding. Now, with these albums remastered, that sound is even better. All of these albums (especially the solo/acoustic tracks) benefit from mono sound. Dylan's voice has more power and presence than in the stereo releases. And the albums where Dylan is backed by a band (especially a full electric band), the power of those musicians comes through loud and clear. But there is a curious difference, with several instruments plus voice, sometimes a particular instrument isn't as loud sounding in the mix as heard on the stereo release. That's not a bad thing, just different. And while the recent stereo remasters are fine indeed, for people of a certain age (like me) these mono releases are truly fine sounding. Will these albums replace the stereo versions? No. Is this a better way to hear Dylan? Possibly. Along with THE BEATLES mono releases, this set is something many people have only dreamed about. Now, that dream has come true. Listen and hear for yourself.