Introduction    Mono    Stereo    Final thoughts

Welcome to the Club - 1959

Stereo Releases


What a mess!!

To date, there have been four attempts (well....5, sort of, or maybe 6) at letting the album escape in stereo format, and all are flawed.

  1. 1.In 1959, five months after the albums monaural release, a stereo LP was released, but the released mix suffered from an odd characteristic: the vocal appearing hard left rather than in its typical, centered position.

  2. 2.In 1962, Capitol released The Swingin’ Side of Nat King Cole, containing all eleven LP tracks, but in a revised running order, using the same cockeyed original mix.

  3. 3.In 1968, Capitol released the 3-LP set, The Nat King Cole Deluxe Set, which contains an LP identical, in terms of running order, to The Swingin’ Side, but with a major difference: It’s a fresh remix, with vocals centered, although it saddens me to say that the tone leaves something to be desired, with way too much reverb.  (It sounds like the vocal has gone through a compressor/limiter with some mildly “splattery” side effects.)

  4. 4.In 1991, Capitol released the largely excellent-sounding Big Band Cole CD, with nine of the eleven songs tastefully remixed from the 3-track session tapes by Malcom Addey.  Here, the vocals are appropriately mixed to the center, but a.) only nine songs got this treatment, while the other two are presented in mono; and b.) the songs are presented in the order recorded, not the order of the original LP.

  5. 5.In 2006, Bear Family of Germany released its massive 11-CD Stardust boxed set.  Like Big Band Cole, the songs are in the order recorded, not original LP running order, and to make matters worse, they are split over two discs: four on disc 7; seven on disc 8.  To make matters worse still, 8 of the 11 original tracks use the off-center 1959 mix, while the remaining three have new mixes with vocals centered, as does Madrid, which was also recorded at the last album session, though not released on the album.  (Note that this set was the basis for the single-disc release on the Collector’s Choice label, paired with the Tell Me All About Yourself LP.  The mastering is the same.)  The remixed-to-center tracks are not the same songs that appear in mono on the Big Band Cole set.  Those songs appear in their original, wacky stereo mixes.

  6. 6.In 2007, the Collectors Choice label took the Bear Family mastering, and re-ordered the tracks to their original LP running order, paired with a later Cole recording with Dave Cavanaugh arrangements, Tell Me All About Yourself.

Since the 1959 stereo LP and the 2006 Bear Family mastering use the same source mix for most of the tracks, I suppose we should start there.  Please have a listen, below.  The clip starts with an original UK stereo pressing mastered by some anonymous guy with good ears, and transitions into the Collectors Choice CD (using the Bear Family mastering by Jürgen Crasser), courtesy SH.TV member “apileocole.”  With each lyrical phrase, we alternate from one version to the other; 6 sections total.  Click the photo below to hear audio.

So, you want to hear Welcome to the Club in good stereo?

Let’s remove the botched mixing job from the picture for a minute.  There are three songs that were remixed from the three-track tapes for both the Capitol and the Bear Family (Collectors Choice) CDs, with vocals centered, one of those being,  “Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere.”  Let’s listen first to Big Band Cole, then the Collectors Choice/Bear Family version in three brief clips, belowClick the waveforms to hear the audio.

Clearly, there’s some pretty heavy limiting going on with the Bear Family mastering.  (See waveforms above.)

As far as stereo LPs go, I own three well-made stereo pressings:  a 1959 UK original, a 1984 Pathe-Marconi French reissue, and the 1986 UK reissue from the Alan Dell series.  They are all well-manufactured “good sounding” records insofar as that goes, but they all use that vocals-on-the-left mix that fans of this album have been hearing for years.  To paraphrase Spinal Tap, “You don’t want to put this on your ******* turntable,” at least from a technical standpoint.  (Musically?  It’s great!)  Regardless, here are some comparisons (below).  At left: A 1959 UK original; At center: the 1984 French reissue; At right: The 1986 Alan Dell digitally-remastered reissue.  Click the waveforms to hear the audio.

Look at those waveforms!  Remember, the Basie Band is primarily in the right (bottom) channel, and those are pretty consistent between the three versions.  How about the left (upper) channel, though?  That’s where Nat’s voice is, and look at how much more dominant the voice is in the 1959 pressing compared to the reissues, especially the French version!  For that reason alone, I’d give the nod to the ’59 original, although I don’t like the vocal being far left like that.

More on the next page.  Click here to continue.

I’ve stated all along that the original stereo mix is “defective,” and clearly somebody at Capitol felt the same way, as in 1968, the LP received a complete stereo remix, a move that has no precedent in the Capitol “classic vocal pop” catalogue, to my knowledge, and a strong indicator that somebody at Capitol realized that the original mix was problematic in the extreme.

Was the remix superior to the original?  In some ways yes, in some ways no.  While the original mix had poor stereo placement and good tone, the 1968 remix had good stereo placement, splattery tone, and way too much reverb.  Here’s a comparison, 1959 mix first; 1968 remix second: Blues UK-Deluxe.mp3

To illustrate just how mediocre that 1968 remix is, next is a clip that starts with the 1968 LP remix and transitions into the Big Band Cole CD remix, which strikes me as vastly superior.  Listen for yourself: Blues Deluxe-BBC.mp3

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