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Beatles Remastered....but should they have been Remixed?
on 15 September 2009
I've had the Beatles Stereo Box set for nearly a week now, and have listened to all the albums a number of times through and feel compelled to post my feedback to help anyone unsure about taking the £169.99 financial 'plunge'....
In fairness, I have to admit to being a dedicated Beatles fan (for the past 40 years) - so I'm not going to give an unbiased view on the music collected together here in one place...it's a true treasure trove.
However, I do back up the point a number of other reviewers have put forward that, whisper it, some of these remasters don't actually sound that good - they're better than the 1987 releases, without a shadow of a doubt - but let's face it, it would be difficult for them not to sound better after 22 years of CD development!
Now don't misunderstand me, several albums in this Box Set sound substantially better compared to the late 1980's digital releases:
ABBEY ROAD is now a very satisfying, detailed and dynamic listen - this is especially apparent when you hear the musical 'duel' of guitars and drums that make up the album closer 'The End' - in truth, every track on this remaster is far better than the muddy mix on the 1987 CD.
THE BEATLES (White Album) now delivers a fine stereo image with real 'studio depth' it relays intricate detail to vocals whilst projecting plenty of power to the lead guitars and well defined low end grunt to the bass guitar - all in all this new release beats the old 1987 2CD set quite easily.
SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND is now a more balanced stereo experience, especially satisfying on Headphones - all the instruments and vocals now sound believable and crisp, with Paul's melodic Bass playing really jumping forward - it makes the 1987 CD version redundant.
RUBBER SOUL and REVOLVER have a number of highlights - as does the PAST MASTERS set.....but the earlier albums, from PLEASE PLEASE ME to HELP! and the final LET IT BE disc are (at times) not really in the same sonic ball-park.
Now, how could I possibly be so critical of the sound on this Box Set? - Well, I've no doubts that the Abbey Road team have done their best - but they have simply squeezed the maximum they can out of 40 to 47 year old Album Master Tapes.
In comparison, over the past 5 years or so we have been treated to the remastered back catalogue of a growing number of equally prominant Artists such as The Doors (on DMC), Elvis Presley (on FTD) and The Rolling Stones (on ABKO) who, after initial 'slap-dash' releases in the 1980's and 1990's have all finally done justice to their heritage by making every effort to trawl tape vaults and sound archives to find, wherever possible, the First Generation Session Multi-tracks to Remix fresh Album Masters - anyone owning any number of these CD's will bear witness to the fact that as a consequence of all this extra effort, they sound truly 'STUNNING' - sounding like they were recorded yesterday....
In fact this technique isn't anything new to the Beatles' Technical Team either, the very same work was done on the 'Yellow Submarine - Songtrack' Album as well as the 'Let it Be - Naked' release - which is why they both sound superior to their respective 2009 remasters.
As such, I feel an opportunity has been lost to make this release a truly definitive one, especially when the Technical Lead for the Remaster Project at Abbey Road (Allan Rouse) has been quoted as saying (in the latest October 2009 issue of The Record Collector Magazine) that the Remastering process for all the Albums only took around 3 months - not the 4 years that is so often quoted in many reviews...it seems there was plenty of time to provide Remixed Album Masters from the Original 2, 4 and 8 track Session Multi-tracks....but this fantastic opportunity wasn't taken - perhaps it was stopped by the surviving members of the Group - but it's a real shame it didn't happen.....
So, is it worth buying this Stereo Box Set? Well, yes it is.....each CD album is held within its own glossy digipack which includes informative liner notes in a booklet stored within...the outer box (with its outer slip-case and magnetic securing clasp) has been beautifully designed and manufactured - as a result, the whole package gives the owner plenty of user appeal...
Is this the best The Beatles' Albums have sounded on CD? Well, at the moment yes.....but if they'd been Remixed from the Original Session Multi-tracks they would have sounded even better!