Commonly known as the "Red Album", the 2LP vinyl set "1962 - 1966" became an instant classic when it was first released in April 1973 (as did its "Blue" counterpart "1967-1970"). When they were finally reissued onto the new CD format in 1993 however, they caused consternation because of their extortionate full price.
So is this newly remastered 2010 mid-priced 2CD reissue on EMI/Apple 5099990675225 any better - the answer is an emphatic 'yes'.
The first thing you notice is that the clunky double jewel-case of the 1993 reissue has been dumped for a three-way foldout card sleeve. The centre and right flaps picture the photograph on the inner gatefold of the original vinyl double album (St. Pancras Old Church in London, 27 July 1969, The Beatles with the public looking through the railings). It also houses the two CDs - CD1 has the full Apple label (13 tracks, 31:02 minutes) and the 2nd CD has the half Apple logo (13 tracks, 31:45 minutes). The vinyl set is yet to come, the Digital Download versions are available from 25 Oct 2010 and there's also an issue that lumps both the Red & Blue reissues together as one package in late November.
The left flap houses a new 32-page booklet. The lyrics are intact from the inner sleeves of the original album issue, there's new liner notes by BILL FLANAGAN the MTV Executive and author of "Evening's Empire" (a book on Rock in the Sixties) and there's plenty of superb colour photos from the period - it's impressively done. Downsides - some complained that the 09/09/09 card digipak sleeves for The Beatles reissues were easy to smudge once out of the shrinkwrap and worse - the inner flaps easy to tear as you removed the disc. I'm afraid these are the same. I suppose I would have been naïve of us to think that EMI would actually listen to the complaints of 2009 about packaging, but they haven't - the need for these issues to look the same as the preceding ones has overridden all considerations... Having said that, I still think they look great - substantial even...
It doesn't take a particular genius to work out from the playing times provided above that this set could easily have fitted onto 1CD (and even included bonus tracks). But EMI would of course argue that this would fundamentally alter the aesthetic of the original release. At least this time, the reissue is at mid price, so we're not being charged for the privilege. I think the new price pitch makes the `one' disc' argument a mute point. Besides, I like the break, taking out the first disc and putting in the second - it's how the original 2LP issue was. And better, it doesn't actually diminish the listen, if anything it enhances it.
The compilation itself is basically the A-sides of all their UK 7" singles releases between 1962 and 1966 in chronological release date order with a few key album tracks thrown in for good measure. Eagle-eye fans would therefore note that as ALL Beatles UK 7" singles for that period were issued only in MONO, so the tracks on the album should reflect that - the MONO single mixes. But EMI did nothing of the sort. In fact the original 1973 albums stated only STEREO on the labels and only the STEREO code was reflected in their catalogue numbers too. At least this time this new 2010 issue notes that Tracks 1 to 4 on Disc 1 are in MONO, while all other are in STEREO ("Love Me Do" is the album mix and not the single version). Bottom line - I would argue that accuracy's loss is the listener's gain, because the STEREO versions used here are awesome.
Although the compilation is copyrighted to 2010 (released Monday 18 Oct 2010 in the UK and 19 Oct 2010 in the USA), the liner notes don't try to hide that these are the 2009 remasters by the same team who did the much-praised Beatles catalogue of 09/09/09. The sound quality is fantastic - breathtaking clarity on instruments - George Harrison's sitar on "Norwegian Wood" - the string quartet on "Eleanor Rigby" and so on.
But what impresses most is the actual listen itself. Even now, it's truly shocking to hear just how accomplished The Beatles were. Re-listening to each disc in straight order is a gobsmacking experience - and by the time you get to the real song-writing genius of "Ticket To Ride" and especially "Yesterday" (the song that single-handledly shut all the begrudgers up) - you're left with a renewed sense of awe. "We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper" were a single for God's sake - not on any English album at the time of release! "Paperback Writer", "Ticket To Ride", "Michelle" - track after track of brilliance... Were they really this good - and so early on - the answer is yes - and always will be.
To sum up - the sound on these new reissues is fabulous; the packaging better than the 1993 versions and each is being sold at mid-price - available in most places for less than the price of a single new album. You can't help but think that millions of people globally will take one look at these beauties on a shelf somewhere and slap them straight into their shopping baskets. And rightly so...
I've loved re-hearing these classic Beatles songs in this beautiful sound quality - I really have - and despite some minor packaging quibbles - the 2010 version of the "Red" album is wholeheartedly recommended.