Once upon a time, there were these four lads from Liverpool… and, well, you know the rest. Pretty much, they conquered the world, and music hasn’t been the same since. It’s quite a testament that 40+ years later, people are still going nuts over them. (Could the same be said for one of today’s contemporary artists in 2050?) This past week, Beatlemania swept the USA (and possibly the rest of the world) again.
While I only got heavily into them about 3 years ago albums-wise, I was immediately taken in by their depth and songwriting from songs I hadn’t heard on the radio growing up. So my listening experience has been limited to the 1987 discs. Until the remastered albums came out this week, I had no idea how muddy the ’87 discs were.
Tuesday night, I received a sampler in the mail featuring 32 of the songs (2 songs from each of the stereo discs) from the remastering project . Now I’m no hardcore audiophile, but it doesn’t take one to hear how crisp the snares and hi-hats sound. Additionally, the bass and low-end is greatly enhanced. Did you know they had a bass player in the band?
Wednesday I was able to score a Stereo box set (even after a mix-up from the store I had pre-ordered from) and even more fortunately was able to get a hold of the Mono box set from a Best Buy on another side of town (a HUGE thank you to Stacey for holding it for me!). Aside from the Past Masters releases, I’ve made it through the rest of the stereo releases. So far I’ve only spot-checked a few of the mono mixes, but what I’ve heard so far – “Helter Skelter,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “I Am The Walrus,” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face” to name a few – have sounded fantastic. While longtime collectors and listeners are still arguing the merits of the original vinyl releases versus the remasters, according to Allan Rouse, the leader of the project, these are the most true-to-form representation of the master tapes.
Aside from the music, the packaging is fantastic. The Mono set faithfully recreates the album covers and packaging even to the most minute detail such as a replica of the paper sleeve in each release (you even get the Sgt. Pepper cut-outs!). The Stereo set has never-before-seen photos as well as excellent liner notes on high-gloss paper in each release. Hands down it’s the best packaging I’ve ever seen for a CD release, beating out Bear Family’s “Blowin’ The Fuse” series – my previous vote for best packaging of a set.
Barring an all-out remix to these tracks, these are the definitive versions of The Beatles. Unless you’re a collector of all things Beatles, you can trade the ’87 discs in for store credit toward the purchase of the new releases (or put them on your Christmas list) and not feel one bit bad about it. For those of you like me who have never gotten to hear the mono versions, we can hear The Beatles in a “new” way. Now is the most affordable time to hear them, but act fast as the Mono set is limited (although another small run is being manufactured due to the high demand) and was already on backorder from most retailers even before release day.