Artist Update: The Beatles

posted by Tom Moon on September 07, 2009 at 8:14 pm
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This Wednesday, in conjunction with the release of The Beatles: Rock Band, Apple/EMI will issue newly remastered CD versions of the entire Beatles catalog.


You can work up a pretty good head of steam thinking about the crimes against music propagated by businessmen. There’s the colossal and collective lack of vision regarding the rise of digital delivery – the entire recording industry somehow missed that one. There’s the fact that record executives are no longer in the business of building careers.

Not to forget an older (but still lingering) crime of negligence: The terrible, awful, no-good, careless, woefully inadequate, done-on-the-fly analog to digital transfers of old music. Every fan has suffered with this on some level – the first CD iterations of classic albums were done super-fast, with little regard for nuances of sound. The inadequacies have become painfully apparent as technology has improved, and the labels have rolled out “upgraded” reissues that force diehards to re-purchase the same works for a second or third time.

This Wednesday, the Beatles catalog returns in upgraded form. It’s a significant step up that will likely re-ignite anger at those deeply flawed 1987 CD versions: Wow, where have those gingerly plucked acoustic guitars been all these years? How come we never quite appreciated that backing vocal before? It’s as though we’ve been listening to the most influential rock band of all time with a thick coating of Marshmallow Fluff covering the speakers.

Finally, the 12 albums that comprise the Beatles core catalog have been treated with the appropriate love and care. For the most part, the audio is spectacular, the soundscape much broader and richer than on any previous version. The individual voices aren’t quite so crowded together, and likewise, the instruments aren’t compressed into a generic blur. Listening to that long sweeping sigh on “Girl” from Rubber Soul – fyi, the new versions offer the track listings and artwork from the original UK releases – I began to think about how the quality of sound has a larger and perhaps more pervasive effect than I’d realized. The earlier CDs didn’t just muck up the notes and obscure the musical details – they also blotted out some of the sheer delight that defines the Beatles. That’s been restored, too. Hearing this music in such detail sent me to a place of pure thrill. In this place, it’s not enough to gape at the inventive nuts-and-bolts craftsmanship of the songs – there’s also wonderment at the love they express and the atmosphere of love they create, and plain old awe at the uncountable ways these songs changed the world.

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#1 from Sam - 09/15/2009 7:20

Did any one buy these? Where they worth it?

#2 from Ted, Durham, North Carolina - 09/18/2009 7:00

I am still wondering, though, if they are so emphatic about these being such awesome remasters, why they did not do so using a high-resolution format such as DVD-A or SACD? Are we expected to buy all of these albums yet again when they get their heads out of their behinds and do so?

A second question that befuddles me is, if they are so concerned with recreating the sound as perfectly as possible, why did they use compression at all? Why sacrifice dynamics simply for a louder CD when everyone has a volume control on their equipment?

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