This one is pure joy. One of the landmark events of 2009 is this digitally re-mastered (in stereo for the first time in 22 years), a complete catalogue of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in history. The first time the catalogue was available was in 1987 with the advent of the compact disc, those being merely digitised versions of the original analogue recordings, especially the first four albums.
Today, with the progress of technology, those recordings have been taken apart piece by piece, refurbished and put back together in a way that has never been heard before. The only person to do that was the man who himself heard it the way the Beatles played it, the legendary Sir George Martin.
With all the seriousness of translating the Dead Sea scrolls, this is the result that you will hold in your hands soon. Although limited space does not allow me to give you an album-by-album review as much as I’d like to, I will try and give you as close an analysis as possible.
Let’s first look at the first four albums, starting with Please Please Me, which I call the Beatles dance album, as almost every single song on the album has a dance-y rock ‘n’ roll backbeat to it, a sound which would make them a sensation from the word go. Even the balladesque ‘Anna’ and ‘Baby it’s you’ retains a swing that gets your fingers snapping. This album along with With the Beatles, A Hard Days Night, and Beatles For Sale reflect the happy-go-lucky heydays that the first half of the ’60s represented.
The stereo mixes bring out the drums and the bass effectively, and on listening to these first four albums, it’s amazing to see what a great drummer Ringo actually was. The clarity of each stroke and snare hit, is pristine. It is bliss to hear those vocal harmonies with each voice so perfectly balanced. Every song is a standout.
On to the next three, which are Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles’ decision to stop touring and become a studio band was probably ‘the’ turning point in music. If you really listen to Help, you’ll see the individual Beatles beginning to show. John’s ‘Help’ and ‘You’ve got to hide your love away’, George’s ‘I need you’ and ‘You like me too much’ and Paul’s magnificent ‘Yesterday’ are no more Beatles songs than their own self-thoughts.
Period of experimentation
Rubber Soul and Revolver saw the experimentation slip in. The punch of ‘Drive my car’, the funky ‘The word’, the crystal clear sitar in ‘Norwegian wood’, the sigh of ‘Girl’ and Paul singing ‘Michelle’ like he was in the room with you, the lush strings of ‘Eleanor rigby’, the progression of ‘Here, there and everywhere’ and the pioneering drum and bass of ‘Tomorrow never knows’ are astounding!
We then come to the piece de resistance of the Beatles’ career, the Sgt Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album. It took over 400 hours to re-master these two albums. Particularly, the Sgt Peppers’ album, for it is a concept album that was never intended to be so but became so, making it a first!
You have not lived till you have heard ‘A day in the life’. The White Album, with its searing ‘Helter skelter’ and the ‘sampled’ ‘Revolution 9’ (hence the release date, 9/09/09, geddit?) amongst other amazing songs remains the alternative fan favourite for its sheer eccentricity and musically avant-garde construction.
Legacy of the band
The oddities, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine get a superb sonic brush up as well. Listen to one of Sir George Martins’ favourite Beatles song, ‘Strawberry fields forever’ and you will know.
Abbey Road and Let It Be remain a legacy to the greatest band that ever was, with strong songs pouring out right till the end, this was a dream that goes on till this day.
The box set also contains two volumes of Past Masters, which include German versions of ‘I wanna hold your hand’ and ‘She loves you’ and non-album singles like, ‘The ballad of John and Yoko’ and ‘Old brown shoe’, among others. A separate DVD of all mini-documentaries on the making of all 13 albums is also included. The mini-docus are each contained on individual stereo re-mastered CD’s as well, complete with original artwork, liner notes, rare pictures and new essays.
This box set is a thing of absolute beauty and joy for all ages, a perfect gift to give everyone and anyone, especially yourself.