Help!   Mono Reissue Mirrors Original

After the unexpected sophistication of “A Hard Day’s Night”, the goofy follow up movie that probably served as The Monkees’ TV show template was disappointing. The 14 song Parlophone Help album was not.

After the out-of-focus Beatles For Sale, George Martin predicted The Beatles would “perk up”. It was more like a raging musical hard-on: in less than one week, beginning a little over a month after the release of Beatles For Sale they recorded and mixed to mono 11 new songs for a movie in which they would star and about which they knew very little.

Two days later, on February 22nd, 1964 The Beatles flew to The Bahamas to begin shooting. A day later Norman Smith supervised stereo mixes all 11 songs.

The percussion heavy darkness of Beatles For Sale gave way to a series of mostly high energy, up-tempo, exuberant (even when they were really downers like the title tune) pop rockers that were arguably the group’s finest and certainly most eclectic of what turned out to be the end of an era.

“Help” was recorded after the movie shoot as were “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “I’m Down,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Yesterday”. They’d also recorded “Yes It Is”, which was released in America on Beatles VI but in the U.K. got kind of buried.

Help! containing 14 songs was released in the U.K. August 6th, 1964. Along with 7 impossibly unique songs from the film on side 1, Side 2 contained “Yesterday” “It’s Only Love” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face”! While American track order partisans claim the latter two belong on Rubber Soul they were written well before The Beatles jumped into the musical pressure cooker in which they had to quickly come up with yet another new collection of songs.

The arrangements and mixes on this album are curious. The drums for the most part been been pushed well down in the mix. Acoustic guitars and multi-part, folkie vocal harmonies abound and there are jangly, Byrds’ like electric guitars.

If you’re conditioned to hear the stereo mix this one might at first sound oddly mixed, stuffily EQ’d and opaque but over time (if you don’t immediately) you’ll appreciate the mix’s finesse; the careful layering that by closely juxtaposing various elements exposes far more detail than does the stereo mix that spreads thing apart and so should reveal more detail but somehow doesn’t.

On the title track the tambourine so prominent in the stereo mix during the chorus has “vanished in the haze”. It adds sparkle but once you’ve acclimated to the mono mix you might find it obtrusive. Ringo’s snare slams are tucked in further back helping to give Lennon’s voice greater prominence, which also reveals with great clarity the tonal disparity in the vocal double tracking.

Paul’s vocal brightness on “The Night Before” is on the tape because it’s also there on the original. Again the drums are mixed so far down under the dine they are barely audible. Lennon’s voice on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” might sound a bit “down in the valley” but listen to the tambourine’s clarity and the acoustic guitar’s inviting warmth. You don’t hear it this way on the CD but you do on the original LP.

If you really want to hear what an all analog LP can do that no digital version can begin to do, play first “You Like Me Too Much” and “Tell Me What You See.” They are rich with percussive textures and harmonic colors that digitization seems to blunt and bleach out. As with

Beatles For Sale, the overall tonal picture is rich with some built in harshness probably EQ’d in to punch through particular details. The result is exhilarating, as is the large centered image of John Lennon singing “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” behind which hovering in space slams a convincing sounding tambourine. However the overall balance is warm. If you've got a warm-sounding cartridge the original or the reissue might sound muted in the upper mids.

the digitally sourced stereo LP missed the sonic mark.

Again, the reissue and original are more alike than they are different. The original is more transparent and less congested in the midrange, the reissue sound somewhat recessed and exhibits a bit less overall energy. It’s a very old tape. Still the differences are minor, which means on “Ticket To Ride” you can crank it up (you need to if you want to compare the cut-at-a-lower level reissue with the original) and the tambourine will jingle cleanly, Ringo’s skin slams will sound richly textured and you’ll have a greater sensation of hearing Lennon singing live on the other side of the microphone than you’ll hear on any digital version.

This is an album you can crank up as loudly as you prefer and it just keeps sounding better and better as does the music after so many years.

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DavidFell's picture

Some may not be aware that the mono mix of the title song has a different vocal performance from John than the stereo version. The rougher one here is the one that became a hit single all over the world.

Really enjoying these reviews. As you go on, I'd like to hear more about the contrast between these and the mono CDs.

myheroiscoltrane's picture

Are you cleaning these before you listen? If so, are you using the audio desk system? I can never tell how aggressive to be with new records.

Thanks for your reviews; am glad I waited for this box!

Steve Edwards's picture

it's always a good idea to clean brand new records; there are tiny little particles left on the surface from the production / pressing process.
Play on

AnalogJ's picture

Michael, unlike for the previous albums, reissues you pretty much rave about, it seems as though for Help!, you're searching for things to like about it. You write more in analytical terms (picking out this and that instrument) rather than in the emotional terms of how you were affected by the music.

That the new reissue is more congested and rolled off does not probably portend all that well. It may be relative, but certainly giving this a '9' for sonics doesn't make all that much sense. My original stereo UK is brilliant and has presence and clarity. The UK mono of this album was always known for its relative cloudiness in comparison to not only the stereo counterpart, but to other mono Beatles releases. I think many were hoping for more, an improvement on this album's original UK mono, but it seems that is not quite the case. In that light, why do you rate this a '9'?

holdbyedges's picture

for the most part. I have the orig UK monos & always thot Help was the weakest sonically of the orig mono LPs, a bit subdued or, as Michael put it, "congested", with the caveat that Ticket To Ride on the original sounded incredible & side 2 seemed better than side 1. That said, I think the new box set is freaking fabulous, knocks it out of the park, & deserves all the raves. I preordered my box as soon as I saw the youtube Michael attached to his opening salvo about its upcoming AAA release & saw the great care that was implemented to get this all analog & to get it right. The producers succeeded,IMO. There are discernible improvements throughout, and the dead quiet vinyl is a plus. I was hoping the producers could improve Help, but alas it still has a relatively subdued, closed sound, perhaps not even as lively as the orig. Maybe you just have to crank this one up; perhaps it was cut with less gain for some reason. Ticket to ride will definitely have to be cranked up on the reissue, as Michael noted, to approach the energy & liveliness of the orig. BTW, I think the review here was extremely accurate, perhaps the sound rating was just a bit optimistic.

Devil Doc's picture

Thanks to my Independent Record Store, my Mono Boxed set came in today.

Cartel's picture

Waiting for delivery of Beatles box set and Audiodesk washing machine.
Do you give these babies a bath before the stylus hits the groove?

azmoon's picture's a no win situation and I don't envy you. I'm glad to have your take on these while I await shipment to occur.

Cartel's picture

Waiting for delivery of Beatles box set and Audiodesk washing machine.
Do you give these babies a bath before the stylus hits the groove?

WaltonGoggins's picture

are being issued?

kenkirk's picture

an 11 across the entire box and be done with it! Really, any of the records will be hard to not just flip over for the next side. I grew up in the 60's, but by the time I had money to buy vinyl, the Beatles had broken up. So I was buying Zeplin,The Who, The Stones, etc... because I had heard every Beatles song a million times on the radio. I did get Sgt. Peppers. Anyway, my box should ship on the 9th. And I just can't wait! I have some MOFL's of the Beatles, but they have eq issues. To me, this will be the first time I have ever heard the Beatles done properly! And they are my favorite all time band. This is epic! And your reviews are wonderful and worth the effort! Thanks!


bill lettang's picture

As the great film composer Dimitri Tiomkin was fond of saying when disagreeing.."please don't hate me". I never cared for the mono mix of Help! I like the alternate Lennon vocal on title trk, but it and others on that L.P. offer some weak mixes of the rhythm section (save for Ticket to Ride). I want to hear Starr & McCartney in full glory...and after being a recording musician for over 30 years I've come to learn that the drums and bass is where the weight of many grooves come from. Even the Beatles themselves complained about the lack of lo end weight on some of those earlier records. I know I'll enjoy the new lp's from a different perspective, and I thank Michael for his heads up, but my go to will probably still be.."please don't hate me...the 2009 stereo remaster L.P.'s........

bill lettang's picture

Ooops.....meant 2012 remastered stereo l.p.'s

amarok89's picture

I have always had trouble with the mono mix on Help! Even the stereo lp's I have are too cloudy. I'll get the single LP just to make my current Beatles Mono vinyl collection complete. I hate to say it but if I want the songs from the film to come alive I throw on the US LP. Shields up!

tjingram's picture

Always run your vinyl,new or old through a record cleaning machine. I have a Record Doctor V from Audio Advisor for $199.99. Mr Fremer did a review of it on this site.

bill lettang's picture

hello Michael: I have in my possession what may be the most famous video in audio, taken the night of the gathering @ Electric Ladyland Studio on Sept.8. We are about to listen to Yesterday..probably the most covered song in music history, restored to its' full glory. You gently cue it up..within a few seconds there's what appears to be 2 loud, reverberating vinyl pops...the 2nd being the loudest...your jaw drops..everyone is motionless... I can't imagine what you thought.The look on your face is priceless. Must have sounded like shots over THAT system. Anyway, I hope you take this in the good nature its delivered....we have to have a laugh at ourselves's healthy! By the way, I do have a frozen in time still of you're reaction if you're interested. B.L.

AnalogJ's picture

Wow. The mono reissue is very warm and a bit congested compared to the stereo. As usual, the mono mix is more cohesive, everything layered as the engineer intended. But my early Help! Parlophone stereo sounds like The Beatles are in the room with you. There is spectacular and presence. You may lose the careful layering, but you gain quite a bit of visceral impact, in my opinion. More so than, I think, any of the other mono/stereo comparisons.

AnalogJ's picture

Side two is a whole different story. Much more tonally and dynamically closer to the stereo. THIS is the version to listen to when it comes to this album. I don't know why the first and second sides sound so different.

azmoon's picture

As I posted under the Rubber Should review, Help from this set is a disappointment to me. Fairly lifeless and lacking in detail. Stereo sounds way better IMO. I played this and then played my stereo German import - the stereo was way more engaging. So this set is a mixed bag - some great and some not. Still need to listed to the next few - hopefully better than RS and Help/

samman's picture

My thoughts on the new mono Help vinyl. The different mixes (and vocal on John's Help) on the mono vs the stereo makes the mono essential for Beatles fans. The mono Help, for some reason, is not as well recorded as, say, the mono Rubber Soul. Side 2 seems to be better recorded than side 1. I just love the mono Yesterday, as Paul's voice is so big and round and upfront compared to the stereo. That being said, I must say that there is clarity and additional room reverb that I do enjoy when listening to the stereo Mofi pressing of Help. Say what you will about the happy face EQ that mofi applied, in this case, the EQ helps, in my opinion. For example, on "You've Got to Hide your Love Away," I can hear more of the studio reverb when John is singing. It's somewhat similar to what one would experience when listening to a German stereo version of their first lp called "Die Beatles." So while I do feel that the mono Help is essential to have, in comparison to my stereo mofi, it comes across as a little dark. Basically, you need both.

hans altena's picture

First of all, there is no debating taste. When I had commented on the fabulous mono White Album, which to my surprise defeated the stereo I grew up with, even if Revolution 9 was a fold down and not what lennon intended, but still confrontational in sound, so allright with the whole picture of the album, someone reacted and said he found the mono lifeless in a lot of songs, exactly the opposite of what I thought. It might have to do with the wide spectrum of stereo which gives acces to some feeling of grandeur. The mono works on a different level, an organised sonic attack that is more aiming at your stomach, and things are darker down there. That works for the White album, but there the acoustic songs bring in some space to breathe. Not so with the first side of Help! When hearing that for the first time it came accross as coming from a dungeon. I always thought the stereo pretty, uplifting. But was that the overall intention of the album? I think the mono fits the message better, when you listen to the lyrics, the growing anxiety in the voices. And what is more, the details are more upfront, but as viewed at falling dusk. The drums and bass are really packed in the background, but from that distance they create a punch behind the shimmering guitars and emotional singing which call for attention to the atmosphere of impending doom, though that is confronted with some genuine Beatle feel: we dance. The Beatles are about creating a sonic palette, a painting of sounds. In the past that rang as a bell, now they're into descending into the soul. And perhaps inspired by the organised chaos of Dylan. Later they would explore more psychedelic sounds, and so they continued their search. But to me, that search is best expressed in mono, where all things come together to slap you in the face with beauty. Sometimes their experiments had their faults, as in the production of this album that built what Rubber Soul would expand on, yet even those 'mistakes' become part of the blissful experience of being on the road to something mythical.

hans altena's picture

And oh yeah, to make a long story short, this garage band mono album should be turned up loud to be fully appreciated, there the compact layering of all this musical darkness will reveal itself as a bolt of lightning, with all details shining against the stormclouds...

PaulMossUK's picture

Some fascinating comments on a fascinating album.
Here's my search for a great sounding mono Help