AS A LIFELONG FAB FOUR FA N , I WAS thrilled to receive a complete set of the newly reissued Beatles recordings—from 1963’s Please Please Me through to 1988’s Past Masters collection (both volumes now packaged together). Digitally remastered by an entire team of engineers at Abbey Road, and sporting expanded recreations of the original British artwork, the 14 stereo albums look and sound magnificent—and the initial limited run of discs also contains “mini documentaries” featuring bits of Beatle dialogue, period photos, and television and film footage. The three-year mastering process involved transferring 532 total minutes of music from the original analog tapes to Pro Tools at 24-bit/196kHz via Prism A/D converters, with editing and processing kept to a minimum to maintain the authenticity of the original records.
Nonetheless, the difference between the remastered tracks and the originals should be apparent to even the most casual listener—and in many cases it is dramatic, particularly on the later albums. For example, on the earlier releases the totally groovy guitar sounds cut through with a presence that was previously obscured, once-buried backing vocals stand out clearly, and the reverb from the legendary Abbey Road acoustic echo chamber billows forth in fine detail. By the time you get to Abbey Road, the contrast with the original CD releases is so pronounced it is like listening to an entirely different record. Guitar tones leap from the speakers with startling definition (you can almost feel the air coming from the Leslie on Harrison’s acoustics and electrics), McCartney’s voice on “You Never Give Me Your Money” sounds as if he’s in the room with you, the strings on “Something” and “Golden Slumbers” are wonderfully rich and vibrant, Ringo’s drums are tight and punchy, and the Moog synthesizer parts, particularly on “Here Comes the Sun” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” are amazingly distinct and nuanced. Of course, some may feel that all this clarity deviates too much from the versions they are emotionally attached to—but that’s like the audio equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome. The stereo albums are also available as a boxed set, as are mono versions of most of the albums.
For those who bonded with the original LP versions of these recordings, the album artwork may have been a significant part of the enjoyment. Beatles album jackets typically featured cool cover art, and some included extensive liner notes and even booklets and posters. The Beatles Box of Vision[$89 retail] not only provides a great way to store your reissue CDs, it features a beautiful 200-page hardbound book containing reprints of all of the artwork, liner notes, and booklets for every Beatles album—all of the U.K. and U.S. releases including the notorious “butcher” cover of Yesterday and Today, along with all the post-1970 albums—and super psychedelic photos of Cirque du Soleil’s Love show. Also included is a complete Catalography, which lists and details the history of the band’s various British and American albums, EPs, and singles, all in a 13" x 13" linen-covered box with Robert Freeman’s photo of the Beatles that graced the cover of With the Beatlesand faux LP spines to give the impression that records are inside.