It’s no secret: I’m a fan of 1960s mono mixes. In the case of Nancy Sinatra, I’ve generally always kept the mono LPs over the stereo (once a good player came along, at least), but in the interest of science I have been picking up the stereo mixes here and there when I see them for a buck or two. The latest subject is Sinatra’s breakthrough, Boots, a Billboard top five album in early 1966. Hooking up with Lee Hazlewood finally provided the artistic tinder necessary to put Sinatra on the pop charts along with father Frank, as “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’” shot all the way to No. 1 (and is an undeniably classic record).
The mono mix of Boots is a reliably no-frills presentation, and for direct and punchy, the listener is directed here first. The stereo version, though, is a very enjoyable mix itself, and it’s evident much care was taken in building it. There are occasional moments where one side of the mix can sound empty (the first half of “I Move Around”), but as the song develops, those areas are filled in as the arrangement builds. The entire LP features a nice wide stereo mix, and there are no cases where vocals are on one side and the backing track on the other. Occasionally the stereo mix adds to the arrangement. On Sinatra’s cover of the Knickerbockers hit “Lies,” for example, the guitar and horns occasionally set up a call-and-response on opposite channels.
"Lies" by Nancy Sinatra
In fact, after going back and forth on a few tracks of the album, I would not be surprised if some parts of the mono Boots album are actually the stereo mix folded down. The way the stereo mix is built (with basically just the vocals in the center), it would fold down properly fairly easily. “Flowers on the Wall” provides one clue in this direction: There’s an organ part mixed low in the left channel of the stereo, which nearly disappears completely in the mono. (Reprise R/RS 6202, 1966)