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5.0 out of 5 stars
Fantastic Reissue of these Classic Compilations....but better sound can sometimes be found elsewhere, 22 Nov 2010
Having collected pretty much all the Beatles' CD releases since 1987, I would like to present my considered (but by no means definitive) views on the re-release of the 'Red' & 'Blue' Album Compilations (1962-1966 & 1967-1970) which have been newly minted in remastered form by Apple Records.
For all fellow Beatles fans considering whether to invest (again!) in this paired title - I have played and compared them, track by track, against the original 1993 'Red & Blue' CDs and also against previous digital releases that hold some of the same tracks, namely The Yellow Submarine 'Songtrack' CD Album (from 1999), The Beatles '1' CD Album (from 2000) and the `Let it Be - Naked' CD Album (from 2003). My aim is to provide a useful, constructively-critical guide to anyone unsure about committing themselves to this purchase.
THE 'RED' ALBUM (1962-1966)
1."Love Me Do" - 2:23 (Mono)
I found the version on the '1' Album to have better focus to the vocals and more clarity to the tambourine than both the 1993 & 2010 Red versions.
2."Please Please Me" - 2:03 (Mono)
I think The 2010 'Red' version has better bass definition than the 1993 'Red' version and the electric guitars sound crisper, Ringo's background drum fills are also cleaner.
3."From Me to You" - 1:57 (Mono)
It seems to me that the '1' Album's version sounds less bright overall than the 1993 & 2010 'Red' versions, with John & Paul's vocals being noticeably clearer with less (distracting) delay to the studio echo which George Martin applied to them.
4."She Loves You" - 2:22 (Mono)
In my view the '1' Album has the better version of this track than both the 1993 & 2010 'Red' versions as the mix is less muddy and the symbols don't tend to wander in and out of focus, Paul's bass and Ringo's drums are also better defined.
5."I Want to Hold Your Hand" - 2:26
Although I think that the new 2010 'Red' Album version is an upgrade of the 1993 release, it's only slightly better than the version on the '1' Album, with the stereo image being slightly wider and the hand-claps that punctuate the track (which are provided by all four Beatles)sounding more lifelike.
6."All My Loving" - 2:08
I actually prefer the 1993 'Red' Album version of this track to the 2010 'Red' Album version, as the vocals and guitars appear clear and crisp in the centre of the stereo image - the newer release has them driven (annoyingly) hard right with the remaining instrumentation placed more distantly left of centre.
7."Can't Buy Me Love" - 2:13
In my view the version found on the '1' Album contains a better rendition than either the 1993 or 2010 'Red' Albums - having a bolder presentation of Paul's vocals, cleaner lead and rhythm guitars and added depth to the bass; there's also a satisfying punch to Ringo's kick-drum.
8."A Hard Day's Night" - 2:34
The 2010 'Red' Album gives a slightly wider and taller stereo image than it's 1993 counterpart, it also presents far more detailed and realistic bongos and better focused vocals, bass and electric guitars.
9."And I Love Her" - 2:31
The 2010 'Red' Album again beats the old 1993 CD release with a rendition that adds just the right amount of gain to bring out the full emotion of Paul's lead vocal, perhaps at the expense of just a touch more audible tape hiss, the trademark blocks used as percussion throughout the song also have a more realistic 'clack' which is all conveyed with better reverb & studio depth.
10."Eight Days a Week" - 2:45
The smoother intro to The 2010 'Red' Album version and its more accurate portrayal of Ringo's drums and symbols steadily builds to create an image that beats the 'splashy' mix on the previous 1993 release.
11."I Feel Fine" - 2:19
The new 2010 'Red' Album's rendition is now far less 'brittle' as the opening guitar feedback is generated and the lead guitars kick in, John's double-tracked vocal is also now clearly portrayed in the centre of the stereo image.
12."Ticket to Ride" - 3:10
I actually prefer the Beatles '1' Album version of this track, the stereo is ever so slightly wider with larger sound to the vocals, guitars and drums.
13."Yesterday" - 2:05
Again I feel that The Beatles '1' Album has the better sounding version of Paul's classic song, his acoustic guitar sounds a little more 'real' with a more audible ring after the strings have been gently strummed; the chamber Orchestra sounds fuller and cellos especially can be heard to better effect than the 2010 release.
1."Help!" - 2:19
In my opinion the 2010 'Red' Album version relays the best version of this superb song, the added clarity now means there is now no doubt that both 6 string and 12 string guitars exist in the rhythm track and John's pleading vocals are placed fully forward in the mix.
2."You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" - 2:11
In my opinion The 2010 'Red' Album version has the best portrayal of the tambourine, maracas and 12 string guitar used on the backing track, John's vocals are superior to the 1993 release.
3."We Can Work It Out" - 2:16
It's my belief that The Beatles '1' Album has the best sounding version of this joint collaboration between John and Paul, as Ringo's drums sound more realistic and the picture painted by backing track comprising the accordion, tambourine and symbols is more solid and crisp than the 2010 'Red' version.
4."Day Tripper" - 2:49
I think the best lead and harmony vocals of this track can be found on the Beatles '1' Album version , they also don't suffer from audio drop-out and the lead and bass guitars sound far better than the 2010 remaster.
5."Drive My Car" - 2:27
The 2010 'Red' Album now gives a clean and accurate representation of this bouncy song that beats the old 1993 'Red' album version with ease the vocal echo now gives studio depth to the lead vocal provided by Paul.
6."Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" - 2:05
I believe The 2010 'Red' Album has the best sounding version of this song from John, the remastering now brings clarity to George's Sitar and makes is clear that there were timpani bells as well as tambourine used in the percussion.
7."Nowhere Man" - 2:44
I believe the version on The Yellow Submarine 'Songtrack' CD sits head and shoulders above those created for the 1993 or 2010 'Red' Album releases in fact the stereo image is so broad, defined and detailed it makes the other albums' versions sound almost mono in comparison.
8."Michelle" - 2:42
Starting a run of three tracks that sees the 2010 'Red' Album as the place to find the most satisfying versions, this pseudo-French song from Paul is now a step-up from the 1993 release in most departments, most obviously with the fuller bass and cleaner vocal.
9."In My Life" - 2:27
The 2010 'Red' Album continues its run with John's moving retrospective song, the new remastering bringing Ringo's drums and symbols into a fuller stereo image packed with information.
10."Girl" - 2:31
The final track in this fine run for the 2010 'Red' Album has the sultry brushwork by Ringo on his snare drum clearly sweeping around the mix with ultimate realism, the strong intake of 'breaths' from John are also now far more detailed.
11."Paperback Writer" - 2:31
I think the Beatles '1' Album gives a better view of this song than either of the 1993 or 2010 'Red' Album releases, the lead vocal stands further forward of the harmonies and the bass really drives hard.
12."Eleanor Rigby" - 2:08
It's abundantly clear to me that the version contained on the Yellow Submarine 'Songtrack' CD is the one that leaves the listener most satisfied; it has been created without the clumsy panning to the right when Paul first delivers the vocal of 'Eleanor...Rigby' and it also includes superior depth and detail to the cellos as well as conveying all the drama of the score George Martin created for the Chamber Orchestra.
13."Yellow Submarine" - 2:37
Without a shadow of a doubt the best version of this track still remains the title track from the Yellow Submarine 'Songtrack' CD, it surpasses the version on the 2010 'Red' album in every respect.
THE 'BLUE' ALBUM (1967-1970)
1. "Strawberry Fields Forever" - 4:10
I found the new version on the '2010 'Blue' Album to have far more detailed and defined mellotron in the opening bars of the song than the old 1993 CD, there's also better resolution to John's vocals to the point where the `splice' that makes up the two halves of the track can now be clearly identified; the increase in added information continues with the gently whispered '1, 2, 3, 4..1, 2' count by George Martin mid-song now clearly audible in the mix.
2. "Penny Lane" - 3:03
I think that the 2010 'Blue' version has much better bass definition than the 1993 'Blue' version and the piccolo trumpet and flute scores are now crisper and more believable, Ringo's symbols now have truer metallic edge and Paul's plaintive vocal is fuller in the mix.(It has to be noted that the version on the '1' album was particularly bright and brittle sounding in the brass section).
3. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - 2:02
It seems obvious to me that the Yellow Submarine - 'Songtrack' versions of the next three songs sound superior to anything available on the 1993 & 2010 'Blue' albums, in this case Paul's vocal is delivered with greater scale and dynamics, Ringo's snare has a real 'crack' to the impact on the drum skin and the French Horn parts are full of vigour.
4. "With a Little Help from My Friends" - 2:44
The superlatives continue with the Yellow Submarine - 'Songtrack' version of this track too, starting with the lead vocal from Ringo which has the kind of resolution that makes you believe he's in the room with you, allied to the stunningly detailed answering harmonies from John and Paul and the crisp and realistic tone to the tambourine that now doesn't sound like someone shaking aluminium bottle-tops. Nothing on the1993 or 2010 'Blue' album versions come anywhere near it.
5. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" - 3:28
Again I think that the Yellow Submarine - 'Songtrack' delivers the best rendition of John's psychedelic song than either of the 1993 or 2010 'Blue' album's can muster, the stereo image is wider and more expansive the effects-laden lead vocal is more powerful and direct, Ringo's drums have better presence and Paul's bass sound is both richer and fuller.
6. "A Day in the Life" - 5:06
I actually much prefer the new 2010 'Blue' album's version of this track to the previous 1993 incarnation, it's clear from the outset that the reverb-drenched lead vocal from John now has a larger scale and that his punctuated end delivery of '....made the grade...t-t-t-t-t' leaves far more echo to decay far deeper into the soundstage; the climactic Orchestration now has real bite and menace and the ring of the alarm clock that signals Paul's bouncy middle eight is crisper and more defined than on the previous version.
7. "All You Need Is Love" - 3:48
Back to the Yellow Submarine - 'Songtrack' CD for the best rendition of John's `One World' signature tune in my view, the sweeping string section of the Orchestration has a more clear sonic bite and the lead vocal is more solidly delivered than either version found on the 1993 or 2010 'Blue' albums; Ringo's opening drum-roll is far more precise and the wandering cellos reveal each bow movement from there score in greater detail.
8. "I Am the Walrus" - 4:37
The 2010 'Blue' Album gives a slightly wider and taller stereo image than it's 1993 counterpart, as a consequence the mellotron part is now more audible, Ringo's drums are better defined and John's heavily distorted vocal is more focused; the trumpet score is now particularly large and imposing allied to the stronger potency to the swirling effects tape that punctuates and ends the song.
9. "Hello, Goodbye" - 3:31
I think the Beatles `1' Album contains the better sounding version of this bouncy single from Paul than either of the 1993 or 2010 'Blue' albums, although the detail level in comparison to both is 'brightly lit' which may not suit all tastes, it does mean the Orchestration of the strings is relayed with a touch more realism and the strike of Ringo's drumsticks against his symbols is audibly `metallic' - Paul's bass figuring is also fuller and more rounded.
10. "The Fool on the Hill" - 3:00
It's clear from the outset that the 2010 'Blue' Album version beats the old 1993 'Blue' Album CD as Paul's dreamy vocal delivery now has stronger depth and fuller studio reverb, the background timpani, triangle and maracas are all better realised and defined.
11. "Magical Mystery Tour" - 2:51
The smoother trumpet intro to the 2010 'Blue' Album version and its more accurate portrayal of Paul and John's driving vocals throughout the song allied to stronger bass and striking cowbell percussion means it is clearly better than the previous 1993 CD release.
12. "Lady Madonna" - 2:17
I much prefer the new 2010 'Blue' Album remaster of Paul's boogie-woogie style thumper to both the old 1993 version and the version on The Beatles '1' Album, the tack piano is better defined, the sax solo is stronger and Ringo's drum kit has a meatier drive to the beat.
13. "Hey Jude" - 7:08
Again I feel that the new 2010 'Blue' Album has the better sounding version of Paul's classic single, his opening vocal sounds creamier and his punctuation at the microphone and the bass and drum tracks really hit home hard as the song builds to its climax. (It has to be noted that the Beatles '1' Album version was plagued with sibilance to the vocal and brittleness to the sound of the symbols in comparison)
14. "Revolution" - 3:21
In my opinion the 2010 'Blue' Album version of this rocker beats the 1993 incarnation in every department, it's a no-brain clear winner with superior drums, guitar, bass and vocals - wow.
1. "Back in the U.S.S.R." - 2:45
In my opinion the 2010 'Blue' Album version only just pips the 1993 'Blue' Album version - as this track probably comes the closest to saying that there's no dramatic sonic improvement, the vocals are a little clearer and the tack piano is a smidgen better focused with a touch better sound to Ringo's drum kit - but it's all very slight.
2. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - 4:45
I think the new 2010 'Blue' Album presents a perceptible upgrade to the previous 1993 release, George's vocal is sweeter with a touch more studio echo, Paul's bass is smoother and Ringo's kit now holds the beat with real 'snap' to the snare and metallic 'tap' to the high-hat.
3. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" - 3:05
Again, it's my belief that the new 2010 'Blue' Album holds the improved version of this quasi-Reggae track from Paul, the core bass, piano and drums are all better presented and the handclaps that open the track now sound like human hands rather than damp rags.
4. "Get Back" - 3:14
I think the best adaptation of this driving single from Paul comes packaged within the `Let it Be -Naked' CD from 2003, the stereo image is far more accurate and the soundstage wider and deeper; Paul's bass is stunningly deep and the piano parts (both standard and electric) are far more defined within their own space in the sonic image - amazing.
5. "Don't Let Me Down" - 3:33
It's clear to me that the `Let it Be -Naked' CD has the superior version of this heartfelt song from John, Ringo's bass drum has a real 'kick' to it and the backing track of bass and piano are cleaner and more accurate than the new remaster.
6. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" - 2:59
It was a close call, but the version from The Beatles '1' CD seemed to me to have better vocals and piano than the remastered version on the 2010 release; it also suffers less tape-hiss and the simple drumming provided by Paul is relayed with better clarity.
7. "Old Brown Shoe" - 3:18
I believe The 2010 'Blue' Album has the best sounding version of this song from George, the remastering now brings clarity to the bass, tack piano and most especially to George's lead vocal which turns from the 'muffled' sound on the 1993 release to a delivery that more accurately describes that it was captured in the space of a vocal booth.
8. "Here Comes the Sun" - 3:05
It's clear that George's beautiful song of freedom and renewal gets a fresh outing on The 2010 'Blue' Album remaster, it trumps the previous 1993 CD version in most departments with significantly improved lead guitar, drums and bass; the background sound of the moog synthesiser is `fatter' and the Orchestration in the closing bars is portrayed with a wider and more crystalline stereo image.
9. "Come Together" - 4:20
As this Chuck Berry influenced rocker from John is based mainly on the trio of guitar, bass and drums it's significant to hear the improvements of all these instruments on the 2010 'Blue' Album remaster, John's heavily reverb-drenched vocal and Ringo's thumping drum fills are a clear step up from the older 1993 CD as well as the newer 2000 '1' release.
10. "Something" - 3:03
George's gorgeous love song gets a definite clean and brush up on the 2010 'Blue' Album version - his vocals, Paul's bass and the backing organ and Orchestration are all a major upgrade when compare to the dry 1993 CD and over-processed and sibilant '1' CD version.
11. "Octopus's Garden" - 2:51
It's clear to me that the 2010 'Blue' Album version of this upbeat song from Ringo beats the previous 1993 CD in every way, the drum track drives harder the high-hat and symbols now relay the detailed `tap' of drumstick on metal and the lead vocal, harmonies and bass figures all register far more distinctly in the stereo mix.
12. "Let It Be" - 3:52
As previously outlined, unless you're a huge fan of the 'Spector' mix of this single I'd point you in the direction of the 'unadulterated' version that exists on the 'Let it Be - Naked' CD from 2003 as the piano, vocals, drums, bass and harmonies are all superior in every respect. (for those of you who are partial to the `harps & harmonies' version then, although it falls short in key areas for me, the new 2010 remaster isn't too shabby).
13. "Across the Universe" - 3:48
Again, unless you're only interested in the 'Spector & Klein' origins of this track I'd wholeheartedly recommend the version on the 'Let it Be - Naked' Album, as you're closer than ever before to John's plaintive vocal held against a sparse but dynamic background of acoustic guitar and swirling swarmandel. (if you must hold to the overdubbed version, then the new 2010 remaster is a fair alternative - with only slightly improved sound over the 1993 'Blue' CD).
14. "The Long and Winding Road" - 3:38
A final call for all 'Phil & Alan' fans who can have a decent upgrade in sound by visiting the new 2010 remaster - but, in my honest opinion, the real gold lies buried within the `Let it Be -Naked' Album as this `undubbed' version clearly excels in all areas, you can easily distinguish between the makes of instruments within the generously expansive mix as Paul delivers crystal clear vocals over his Blunther piano parts and John delivers his best bass attempts on the 6 string Fender Bass whilst George's Telecaster solo has never sounded so rich and true.
So in closing, I can recommend these new 2010 Apple records' releases to all those new to the Beatles' musical catalogue as it's the best place to start and end an overview of their recorded work - for all those others, like me, who are already 'addicted', you can buy this CD set knowing most of the tracks will give an upgrade in sound quality to the 1993 'Red & Blue' releases....
However, if you don't have them already, I also recommend that you buy the Yellow Submarine -'Songtrack', The Beatles '1' & the `Let it Be - Naked' CD albums to fully realise the best sounding versions of these 54 tracks.