The Ramones Go Back To Mono With Craig Leon For 3CD/1 Vinyl LP Reissue
London, July 2016: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the first album by the Ramones, the back-to-basics New York foursome that helped to revitalise rock in the late 70s, and arguably kicked the doors open for what rapidly became known internationally as punk rock. To celebrate the anniversary, Rhino is releasing a 3CD/1 vinyl LP deluxe edition of the album on September 9th, 2016 with the active participation of the album’s original producer, Craig Leon. In keeping with the band’s original vision for the album — which went unrealised in the 1970s — the finishing touches for the anniversary reissue have been applied at Abbey Road Studios in London.
According to Leon, the initial “wild idea” for the recording plan of the first album was to record it at Abbey Road, and they had also hoped to make a dedicated monaural mix for their debut, feeling that their stripped-down arrangements, consisting on the debut album almost exclusively of drums, bass, distorted guitar and vocals, would sound even punchier when presented in mono — but their record company’s distributor would not sanction a mono mix. Some mono mixes were made for single A- and B-sides during the recording sessions — which took place much closer to the Ramones’ home turf at Plaza Sound, in the same building as New York’s Radio City Music Hall — and a few guide mixes were made in preparation for a full mono version of the album, but in the end, Ramones was only ever commercially issued in stereo.
The 40th anniversary deluxe edition of the album goes some way towards fulfilling the band’s original intentions. In addition to preparing a remastered stereo version of the original album for CD at Abbey Road, together with all of the album’s 1970s mono and stereo single mixes and a selection of Tommy Ramone-produced demos for the second disc of the set, Craig Leon also created a complete mono mix of the Ramones’ debut for the first time, working with Abbey Road mix engineer Sam Okell in the world-famous Studio 3 on a vintage Abbey Road TG12345 desk, using his original notes and guide mixes from 1976. The new mono mix is included alongside the stereo mix on the first disc of the reissue, and is also featured on the vinyl LP included in the set. The third disc, meanwhile, contains two full live sets from August 1976, when the Ramones played the Roxy in Hollywood; the first set was previously issued and its original 1970s mix was also remastered at Abbey Road, while the second set has never previously been released, and was also specially mixed at Abbey Road from the original multitrack live tapes for the anniversary reissue.
Abbey Road Mastering Engineer Sean Magee was chosen for the reissue’s mastering and remastering on the strength of his previous work for the Sex Pistols and Magazine. According to Magee, the original 1976 mixes used for the set were first transferred at 192kHz, in Abbey Road Studio 3, to a high-resolution digital master, which Sean then imported into the SADiE workstation he uses in Room 6 at Abbey Road. Playing back out into the analogue domain through Abbey Road’s in-house-designed digital patch control unit to the word-clocked Benchmark Audio converters, he remastered the material using his custom-modified Abbey Road TG12410 mastering console, a Prism/Maselec MEA-2 EQ, and his favourite Manley and Chiswick Reach compressors. The material newly mixed at Abbey Road for the reissue by Craig Leon was recorded to half-inch analogue tape to maintain sonic consistency with the 1976-vintage mixes, and was then mastered by Sean Magee using the same signal chain. Last but not least, the set’s vinyl LP was cut at Abbey Road at half-speed by the studio’s regular half-speed mastering expert Miles Showell.
A long-time fan of the Ramones, Sean Magee describes the remastering sessions, which were attended throughout by Craig Leon, as “an absolute pleasure. In some ways, mono is the best way to listen to this kind of music, and Craig has a great sense of humour. At the mixing stage and at mastering, he did his best to ensure the mono and stereo mixes sounded consistent. We did this not by downgrading the mono mix to sound like the older stereo mix, but wherever possible, by improving the sound of the 1970s stereo mix to match the 2016 mono mix, ensuring that levels were consistent, and so on. Working on the live disc was also an awesome experience. The live tracks sound brutal, now — they really leap out of the monitors and strangle you, with all of the live energy the band could muster. Each set is a 25-minute relentless onslaught, really — you have to just turn it up loud and sit at a safe distance... or an unsafe distance!”
Craig Leon comments, “I’m so pleased to have been able to present the original 2 track master from Plaza Sound in 1976 and to recreate the mono mix that was intended to accompany it. Working on Ramones at Abbey Road fulfilled our original intentions and dreams from so long ago.”
The Ramones 40th anniversary deluxe reissue will be released internationally by Rhino on September 9th, 2016 in a limited punk-friendly run of 19,760 copies, and is available for pre-order now.