It’s all too much

10 09 2009

white_album_monoAs much as I write about the Beatles, sometimes it feels like an insurmountable task to really break down their music, even just one album or song at a time, in any sort of interesting, meaningful way.  Anything that could possibly be said about them has probably been said.  Professional music critics tackle the hard task of reviewing their music.  Not being anything approaching an “audiophile” or formally trained musician — I’m just a fan — I sometimes feel highly unqualified to review music.

Even so, I feel driven to say something about the brand new Beatles remastered CD’s, in particular the stuff in the Beatles in Mono box set.  In short, I love it.   The music sounds so fresh and alive, even in mono, a format most of us are no longer accustomed to hearing.  Here are some random thoughts.  Maybe this will pique your interest and you’ll fight and claw to get your hands on a copy of the BIM set.

  • I’ve heard most of the set which includes 12 CDs (Please Please Me through the “White Album” and two Mono Masters discs) and there’s not a single song that is not improved over the 1987 issued catalog.  Every song I’ve heard is appreciably crisper, clearer, louder and otherwise better sounding, even to the untrained  ear.
  • Since 1977, I’ve had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in some format or another: 8 Track, cassette, CD and even vinyl.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are sounds on the remastered mono (and presumably the stereo, too) that I’ve never before heard.  Pay attention to the end of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise).”
  • The vocals, in particular, are cleaner.  You can almost hear the boys breathing in spots.  “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” hardly Lennon’s best vocal performance, sounds gorgeous.
  • “Helter Skelter” is a monster!  That song has always been a behemoth, but it’s even bigger, grittier and more powerful now.  Pay attention to the pause and re-start at the end of the song.  What you’ll hear there you’ve never heard in forty something years.
  • Help! and Rubber Soul come in both remastered mono and the original “1965 stereo” mixes.  You get those albums in both formats (same disc.)  The differences in the mixes are clear.  I’m a big fan of mono, but the 1965 stereo remix of “Hide Your Love Away,” for example, is fantastic.
  • Instruments that have been audible but muddy all these years are now crystal clear.   Listen for the organ in “Baby You’re a Rich Man.”  Taste every harp note in “She’s Leaving Home.”  Hear and feel the bass in “Helter Skelter.”
  • Hey what’s that sound?  Nothing!  There’s no tape hiss.
  • As much as the recent Capitol Years Vols. 1 and 2 were improvements (in spots) over the EMI CD’s, the new BIM mixes are better song-for-song than those sets.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the stereo set, which has already been shipped to me.  Only 10,000 Beatles in Mono sets have been manufactured.  At least that’s the official word.  I’ve heard that more will be made to meet the unexpectedly high demand.  If you can get your hands on this set, do it, and not just for completeness sake.  The listening experience is worth the money (at least at list price.)

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