Friday, September 04, 2009

Beatles Stereo Remasters

Both my blogmate and I agree; until the Beatles mono remastered box set arrives, it will require one thing and one thing only to tide us over - an ever larger box set.

I thought I'd post some quick pictures and impressions of the stereo Beatles remasters.

There are two songs ("Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You") which couldn't be included in stereo due to the lack of the proper mastering source, so the engineers wisely present the mono versions here rather than an inferior stereo mock-up.

The astute observer will note that, while the original UK Parlophone and Apple record labels are replicated for the 2009 disc art, Magical Mystery Tour uses the North American Capitol record label with colorband and silver Capitol stamp since it was first released in the US. I am of the opinion that all Capitol CDs should use this disc art, even today.

Attention was spent on detail with the aesthetic packaging of this boxed set. While the iconic yellow Parlophone logo was used throughout most of the Beatles releases on the label, from year to year and album to album, there were slight variations on the typeface and text placement. EMI/Apple made sure they were all replicated with the disc art (current logos and legal verbiage notwithstanding).

As for how the boxed set actually sounds, the first word that came to mind is "crisp." While listening to the first several albums, they finally sound the way they were meant to - full of energy, fast-paced, plenty of bottom end that sends McCartney's bass notes into your shoes and furniture, in-your-face guitars and vocals that scream out. On the later albums, once the engineers began paying a little more attention to how to properly mix for stereo (as opposed to the first couple of LPs with instruments on the left, vocals on the right, rinse, repeat), the sound begins to fill out with more elaborate arrangements and studio techniques, and these CDs demonstrate it far better than the 1987 masters.

Over the next several weeks, we're sure to hear all about how the engineers either created the finest digital remasters in the history of both digits and masters, or that it's "too loud" with "no sense of space" and how they've completely botched it for future generations, and that Sir Joseph Lockwood will be spinning in his grave - so I won't bore anyone with a long review of each album. As a huge Beatles fan who spent their own money, I'd be biased anyway. Besides, if you're reading this, you've probably read a dozen other reviews, already. Let me just say that they sound every bit as good as a modern CD made from the original master tapes can sound, which is long overdue. These remasters have successfully sent the 1987 CDs back to 1987. Without pristine early vinyl pressings and an expensive turntable and hi-fi system, you will not get a better impression of how the stereo records were intended to sound. Were the band's producer and engineers preoccupied with giving the recordings a huge sense of "air" and space? Not at all. By today's pop music standards, it certainly seems that way, but the Beatles were never exactly an audiophile's delight, either. The Beatles recordings are just some great sounding rock n' roll, pure and simple, and it's evident on the original master tapes. Now, for the first time, it's evident on CD as well. And for what it's worth, it's reinvigorated my hunger to hear Beatles music again.

1 comment:

audioexplorer said...

What a scoop!