Beatles – 1+ (CD/DVD review)

Beatles – 1+ (CD/DVD) (Apple/Universal) review

The videos will entice you, but the remixed music is the real thrill

The Fab Four’s offering for the 2015 holiday season is Beatles 1+, a repackaging of their best-selling hits collection featuring all 27 of the Beatles #1 hits, accompanied by a DVD of those same songs in video form. A deluxe edition adds a second disc containing 23 more videos. Both sets are also available in Blu Ray, featuring surround sound audio mixes.

The Beatles pretty much single-handedly invented the music video, and it was out of necessity. As their popularity grew, it became impossible to fulfill all the offers to play live all around the world. So, sending out these little films was the next best thing.

These videos come from a variety of sources – TV appearances, concerts, and Beatle films. Most of these clips feature the guys miming to their records and not playing live. Although, there are some exceptions – like their Palais des Sports in Paris performance of “A Hard Day’s Night,” or “Don’t Let Me Down” from their famed, final “rooftop concert.” Other songs never had clips recorded, so in those cases, new ones have been crafted.

An oddity is “Eight Days a Week,” which features footage from their historic Shea Stadium concert (where they played to 55,000 screaming fans), yet that song was not one that was performed that evening. “Come Together” is another strange choice – they’ve included the “video” from the Beatles’ “Rock Band” video game.

You wonder how much thought really went into some of these. Take “I Feel Fine.” In one version, Ringo doesn’t have his drums set up. In it’s place, he’s riding an exercise bike, while George sings into a punching bag! Another clip of the same song finds the band eating fish and chips while half-heartedly mimicking the words.

But then, there are stunning moments, like the artsy, if somewhat disjointed, “Strawberry Fields Forever, or majestic “Penny Lane,” which finds the band members uncomfortably riding horses, or the recording session for “Hey Bulldog,” where Paul & John are hamming it up in the studio.

The videos aren’t the only selling point here. Giles Martin (son of George – the Beatles original producer) has gone back and remixed the majority of the tracks on both the audio and video discs – and the results are incredible. Many of the original Beatles’ stereo versions of their songs are lousy. It was common practice to put the voice in one channel and music in the other – which makes for a really strange listening experience. In almost every instance, the producers have put the music more front and center, and improved the fidelity at every turn.

“Paperback Writer” is a staggering improvement – spreading the vocals out, while bringing the rhythm track to the center – the song jumps out of the speakers. “Eleanor Rigby” features the string quartet more prominently, while the trumpet on “Penny Lane” is crisp like never before. The remixed “A Day in the Life” sounds as grand as the song intended. The two “new” Beatles’ songs also get a facelift: on “Free as a Bird,” John sounds less like he’s underwater, and “Real Love” features more guitars, and John sounds less like a Chipmunk.

The package comes housed in a hardback book featuring in-depth information about each video (and we mean IN depth).

Because of their conciseness, and a “Jukebox” feature, which allows you to choose only your favorite songs, the videos are something that can be enjoyed again and again. Even so, the improved music is the real reason to pick up this set. I have bought the Beatles catalog several times over (mono, stereo, US versions), but I’d buy it again if everything sounded as good as the tracks on Beatles 1+. —Tony Peters