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John McDermott explains how Jimi Hendrix mono reissues came together

The UK version of "Are You Experienced"
The UK version of "Are You Experienced"
Experience Hendrix/Legacy

In a previous article, John McDermott explained the rationale behind reissuing Jimi Hendrix on vinyl; here he explains how the reissues were produced.

The new mono editions were mastered by Bernie Grundman, working with the original flat masters, and using an all-analog mono mastering process. Grundman used a Studer tape machine with a full track mono head block, and even refitted the machine with Ampex 350 tube electronics to get the sound as close as possible to the original releases. “Bernie added some very slight touches, as every mastering engineer does to get the maximum amount of sound, and the range, even in mono, of what you’re hearing in that cut,” McDermott explains. “And then, all of the technical process is carefully managed from the plating to making sure that the 200 gram pressing is as pristine as it can be.” Initial runs of the new releases were also numbered limited editions; later pressings are un-numbered.

Fans of mono should be especially pleased that both US and UK versions of “Are You Experienced” have been released, for both albums not only have different covers, but different track listings; there are three songs on each version that don’t appear on its counterpart (“Purple Haze” is only on the US edition, for example).

The US version included Hendrix’s recent singles, as was the custom in the US, which encouraged fans to buy the album instead of the single. But Experience Hendrix felt it was important to release both editions of the album, as they’ve done on CD. “We certainly we want to be respectful to history given that ‘Are You Experienced’ came out internationally with that [UK] cover and that track listing first, in 1967,” says McDermott. “The footprint that Jimi left we always try to honor as best we can. Because that was his record, done his way, released in the manner in which it was with that cover, with that sequencing, with all of that. So we always feel like that’s the road map right there.”

The sound is terrific, and there are the kind of subtle differences between the mono and stereo mixes that Beatles fans have had fun identifying in the mono and stereo mixes of the Fab Four’s records; if you know the stereo mixes inside out, listening to the mono mixes gives some freshness to a well-loved classic. But there’s no mono edition of “Electric Ladyland” because the album was never mixed by Jimi in mono. “There was a fold down mix, but it was not done by Jimi,” McDermott says. “So it doesn’t really have any significant historical value; it’s more a curiosity than anything else.”

Coming up: what's next from the Hendrix archives.

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