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An Album With Newly Elevated Status
on 26 September 2009
When it was announced that the entire Beatles catalogue was scheduled to be remastered & re-issued in 2009 I was in eager anticipation of hearing the band's recordings sounding as good as they do on this 1999 release. Now that the remasters are available in the shops, I very much regret to announce myself disappointed to discover that NOT A SINGLE ONE of the tracks featured on this album sound as good in their 2009 stereo incarnations as they do here. Was I expecting 'all too much'? It appears so. Whatever Apple's reasons (which I rather expect to be as unconvincing as the decision to remaster the band's first 4 albums in their original shoddy stereo versions) passing over these superb remixes they cannot help but leave this particular listener wondering what on earth's going on when the Yellow Submarine Songtrack contains tracks that still sound superior ten years later! As Allan Rouse was the co-ordinator for both this & the 2009 remasters projects, perhaps an explanation is out of the question? Again, it appears so. This album now stands as evidence, then, that whereas the 2009 Mono Remasters are a ground-breaking triumph the stereo counterparts represent an opportunity missed- squandered, even.
At the time of its release back in September 1999 this collection did not appear at first glance to be a very big deal at all; until, that is, you sat down and listened to its all-too familiar contents. It was only then that its abundant riches were exposed as track after track revealed finely tuned nuances that were a delight to hear. The chief engineer was Peter Cobbin, whose work here was so exemplary that it is to be lamented that his name does not appear among the credits on the 2009 remasters. It will be pleaded, of course, that these mixes were not the originals as issued back in the day- but neither are the mixes featured on the 2009 remastered stereo versions of Help! & Rubber Soul, both of which revive George Martin's excellent late 1980s versions, which effectively scuppers that particular argument. But if Apple's rationale doesn't make a whole lot of sense, the music on Yellow Submarine Songtrack certainly does! These tracks have been presented with loving care and a painstaking attention to fine sonic detail that places this album in a league of its own among Beatles compact discs. Sure, the bass registers have been enhanced, but that's by no means the full extent of what's on offer here as the entire width & depth of the stereo spectrum has been utilised to unlock & maximise the potentials of each track. 'All You Need Is Love', for example, may not have worn as well in our collective affections as many other Beatles hits but this version stands head & shoulders above any other available to you (& that includes the original mono single) as I write these lines. So: what in 1999 seemed like a worthwhile curiosity now enjoys elevated status as the one boasting the most impressive sound quality in the band's entire catalogue- a situation that we can be reasonably sure Apple & EMI did not anticipate when it embarked on the 2009 remasters project. If you want the Beatles sounding at their very best, you are recommended to make this album your topmost priority.