Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's The Beatles!

It's The Beatles!

After every news outlet on Earth has been salivating over the impending release of the Beatles Rock Band, it's easy to overlook that there's an even bigger Beatles release on this 9-9-09 that shouldn't be overlooked because it's finally remastered perfectly. But first, a little back story.

The Beatles go back to my upbringing as when I was only a young lad my uncle would have a garage full of old records and I would hang out there learning about computers while he played record after record of Beatles albums. The influence was there from the get going and really, I haven't looked back since enjoying the sounds of the music in the original Mono as well as various Stereo quality releases, but it has never been this good before.

Back in April, on my birthday, the news was released that there was going to be a remastered edition of The Beatles catalogue.
We are delighted to announce the release of the original Beatles catalogue, which has been digitally re-mastered for the first time, for worldwide CD release on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 (09-09-09), the same date as the release of the widely anticipated "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game.

Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. On the same date, two new Beatles boxed CD collections will also be released.

The albums have been re-mastered by a dedicated team of engineers at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London over a four year period utilising state of the art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment, carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings. The result of this painstaking process is the highest fidelity the catalogue has seen since its original release.

Can anyone believe that the Beatles CDs that you can buy in the stores now are the exact same ones that people were buying in 1987? Seriously, If anyone deserved the remastered treatment the most, it was the Beatles.

I think this is what everyone was waiting for after the release of "Love", high quality remasters without any of the song Mash Up stuff, that was involved in the Vegas show. I loved the LOVE album because it sounded so good for that very reason. Then you have the remastered mono versions... Wow, can you get me anymore excited?

Christ almighty, just how high were these guys? To answer that, they were so stoned they let Ringo sing!

The mono versions of the albums are the ones that the band was involved with the mixing of, and are quite different sounding than the stereo versions. I may sound like a snob here but if you listen to the mono version of Sgt. Pepper, it'll be so much better than the Stereo version.

Since we live in 2009, It's assumed that stereo is always the way to go. I mean, you have at least two car speakers while driving, right? But in this case you really should get over it and realize that "Drums in the left speaker" thing, is in fact, a separation that is very uncomfortable to listen to as well as ruins a lot of the mixing involved in the song resulting in a lot of lost sound.

This is going to sound like a nerd debate, but stay with me here. When talking about mono vs stereo, let's put it this way. When The Beatles recorded most of these, the popularity of stereo recordings was almost entirely a US phenomenon til about the late 60s. In most parts of the world, having big two-speaker stereo rigs was a rare indulgence, not a common sight. As a result, most non-US recordings tended to be mono first, stereo second, meaning that the bands and engineers would carefully mix a mono recording that they knew would be played on record players, radio stations, etc, to sound as good as possible. Then, as an afterthought, they made a nice, clean little stereo mix for audiophiles and record nerds.

In the US, the reverse was true by the early 60's a stereo mix was prepared that was then combined and remixed to work in mono. The only exceptions to this were pop singles, which had to stand out on tinny radio speakers to move product, and cheaper, fly-by-night teen sensation recordings meant to hit the market, make money, then get out (ie, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Surfaris, Bobby Vee, etc).

The biggest tale tell sign of this was shown in the mixing for Sgt. Pepper. The mixing for the mono session for the album ran over about three full days. The stereo mix was done in an afternoon. You can hear the difference. Plus, some of the effects Martin and the band were using didn't translate well to stereo - Lucy in the Sky suffers from this the most as it benefits in mono from thick psychedelic effects that are totally lost in the stereo version. You can also tell byt the fucked up stereo panning of "Eleanor Rigby," or the "Two guys n one speaker, the other two in the other" stuff that shows up in Rubber Soul. The stereo mixes were an afterthought right up until the White Album.

For a while I was enjoying the Mono and Stereo remastered editions from Bootlegger Dr.Ebbetts that were floating around. These were really amazing in the quality and from what I hear and to give you an idea on how great in quality these are, Dr Ebbetts has decided to hang up his needle and cease doing anymore work on The Beatles calaogue. He sent out an email saying he's heard the new masters and they're far superior to what he put out. That to me was the best thing to ever hear as his were damn great.

The best way to describe all this with regards to what works and what doesn't in stereo release is Balance. You don't have anything getting drowned out with the remasteres, and you start to hear things you didn't notice before. Some things jump out at you, others don't. I think the album that benefits the least from this remastering is The White Album. Then again, it sounded pretty good to begin with. Others that really pop to mind after listening to them are:

Please Please Me - is absolutely perfect in mono. You could barely even hear Paul in the old mixes or the stereo remaster but on the mono disc it's like you're standing directly between John and Paul competing for the lead.
Revolver in mono is delicious I want to eat it up for seconds and then have some more of it. If you're on the fence for the mono stuff, it's so worth it for the Revolver-era stuff. Sending the drums entirely to one channel was probably mind-blowing in its day, but it sure didn't stand the test of time, so I'm glad that they finally fixed that.

Though if you think they're done taking your money, just you wait. Apparently they're waiting until the 50th anniversary in 2012 to do the Deluxe Editions with the remixes, bonus tracks and high-def 5.1 stuff. Especially the tracks that were remixed for The Beatles Anthology and the 5.1 remixes of Help! and Yellow Submarine.

I'm still amazed by how well they could write and construct these great songs on such a consistent basis. Honestly, I can't wrap my head around it. Yesterday on a fucking napkin
and all in 7 years! Insane. Don't think it's because they weren't touring as often. Back then they would pack in more gigs and The Beatles were working seven nights a week in clubs doing twenty minute solos. So it's utterly amazing that nowadays two albums in a year is unheard of, let alone twelve in seven years.

Especially when you factor in that these guys were making films and TV appearances all the time. They were real busy and could still churn brilliant songs out so regularly. I gues Let It Be was when it all boiled over for them, although even that album has some pretty amazing songs on it. Then they cap off their career with Abbey Road. An album that I consider to be up there... then again, I consider all their albums to be pretty damn special.

The Beatles are awesome, stereo or mono, just go out and buy the god damn thing because it's utterly an amazing collection of work by four very talented men.

1 comment:

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I realize that the times we live in are just too damned weird to focus any degree of attention on a rock 'n' roll band that released its final recording forty-years-ago last month - two of whose members are gone from our midst. Think about it. In 1969, at the height of all that was going on then, any columnist who would have devoted a entire page to the greatness of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra would have been laughed out of the business. But this isn't just any band we're talking about here. With the exception of the President's address to a joint session of Congress last night, I didn't spend much time yesterday focusing on affairs of state. September 9, 2009 belonged to the Beatles.

Yesterday marked the long-awaited release of a box set containing all fourteen albums recorded by the Fab Four between the years 1962 and 1970. What makes this package different from what has previously been available is the fact that the engineers at EMI (the studio in London where they did most of their work) have digitally remastered the recordings from the original multi-track tapes. It was like listening to them for the first time all over again. The Beatles have never sounded better - I didn't even think that was possible!

Let me attempt the impossible and sum up the Beatles' message in one sentence: We are the makers of our own dreams. That works for me.

Dream. Dream away.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY