THE BEATLES PART 4: Bargain Pressings

The vinyl resurgence has brought many older music fans back to their turntables and a younger generation into the wonderful world of records. Large art work and the visceral experience of listening to vinyl is the payoff for many. If you are on a budget and want to acquire clean LPs of this Beatles title at a reasonable cost – there are some options for you. A 1978 UK stereo reissue of The White Album is similar to a 1968 UK original for almost a tenth the price. Physically, the reissue is on lighter weight vinyl and has lighter colored labels. Sonically it differs from the original just a bit with a slightly flatter soundstage, a little wooliness to the bass, and a bit of grain to the vocals. But this reissue will satisfy all but the audiophile purist and is a best buy for the stereo analog fan on a budget – about $30 in excellent condition. Better yet, buy a complete BC 13 Beatles blue box in great shape for less than $300 and you will have all twelve UK stereo studio Beatles albums, plus the LP of Rarities.

The original US Apple release (SWBO 101) might seem like another choice, but it’s dynamically compressed with edgy vocals – although it sounded pretty good on my Kenwood stereo when I was a teenager! For about $20, a later US purple label reissue sounds better and is cheaper. The Japanese pressing I have on hand (EAS-50039-40) is another option and costs about $40 with obi. It is immaculately pressed and packaged as expected. It provides tons of detail and a solid bass line, but the brightness on this Japanese mastering can become fatiguing on some systems. And while the MFSL half-speed mastered pressings for several of the Beatles titles sound very good, this one (MFSL 2-072) never takes off – even with all the jet noises on “Back in the USSR” urging it to do so. When you turn up the volume to improve dynamics, the treble is too bright and the bass is muddy and indistinct. While not one of MFSL’s best efforts, a mint open copy of this double album still goes for about $75.

In summary, time has deepened my appreciation for the complexities and breadth of The White Album. With songs like “Back In The USSR”, “Dear Prudence”, “Glass Onion”, “Rocky Raccoon”, “Birthday”, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Blackbird” and “Mother Nature’s Son” you can’t go wrong. This album and Rubber Soul are worthy bookends to the highly regarded Beatles landmarks of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. If you feel the compulsion to collect another copy of The Beatles’ groundbreaking double LP, I hope you’ll find one among those I’ve recommended. Happy listening!

Randy Wells

See Randy’s Audio/Music Evaluation System Here.