Old wine in new bottles often still sells very well. The Beatles’ early records were in mono and almost everyone was okay with that. And for those who didn’t have that, there were stereo versions with the vocals on the left and the accompaniment on the right. The announcement that the reissue of 1962-1966 (aka the red double) would contain new stereo mixes completely snowballed upon the release of the very, very, very last new Beatles track Now And Then.
Fans who experienced the early seventies also carry with them the memory of the electronically stereo-created songs from the 1960s that appeared on compilations at the time. But the new red and blue doubles definitely exceed that level. Every track sounds balanced and convincing in stereo.
The technique developed by Peter Jackson to deconstruct and reassemble the music yields tasty results. In the new mix you hear things that you had not noticed before. Such as the subtle interplay between bass and harmonica From Me To Youthe bass and the bass drum I Want To Hold Your Hand and the beautiful polyphonic vocals This Boy. And what the original version of She Loves You was audibly the result of cutting and pasting work, it is rock solid.
However, remixing does not work completely flawlessly. That’s how it seems Please Please Me and I Saw Her Standing There sometimes some holes appear. And technically better is not always better. The mixes sometimes sound a bit poorer and less expressive than the original mono versions. John Lennon’s lead vocals in the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover You Really Got A Hold On Me are now kept neat and in check and no longer jump out of the speakers. On the other hand Can’t Buy Me Love and A Hard Day’s Night sound much more transparent and have more power than the well-known versions.
In some cases, remix producer Giles Martin has made different choices than his father George. This is what the tracks sound like Rubber Soul considerably rounder than the somewhat shrill version of the time and that can be called progress. The same applies to the later tracks of which no new mix had appeared on the box sets, Hey Bulldog and the single version Revolution. Sounds the other way around Magical Mystery Tour less balanced and quite messy. Win some, lose some So.
To promote the new collectors, record company Universal organized a listening session for the media and record dealers earlier this week in Dolby Atmos, a new system in which the listener is surrounded by dozens of speakers. Because separate tracks of all Beatles songs are now available for each instrument, they can be played in Atmos.
For example, on the early tracks you sit in the studio between John, Paul, George and Ringo. An experience that you can experience in any practice center with a little imagination. But once the music becomes more orchestral, the listening experience becomes more special. Songs like Strawberry Fields Forever and I Am The Walrus sound downright spectacular and make you curious about symphonic pop classics such as Dark Side Of The Moon, Close To The Edge and A Night At The Opera.
A nice extra income for cinemas and sound studios, because for the optimal effect you need a professional Atmos installation with between 30 and 60 speakers. It is striking that so many years later, The Beatles are still leading the way.
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