Beatles – Stereo Remasters (CD review)

Beatles – Stereo remasters (Apple) – CD review

Over the last 20 years, the Beatles’ camp has done a great job of getting us to buy things that we really don’t need.  Take for example the Anthology series; a total of six CD’s were released over three volumes, when the best material could’ve easily fit on a single disc.  Or, how about the Yellow Submarine Songtrack?  Or Let It Be…Naked? – all released with great fanfare, and now collecting dust on CD shelves worldwide.

Now comes the remastered individual Beatles albums, something fans have been clamoring for for years.

Once again, the publicity machine lauded these as being “revolutionary, like hearing Beatles music for the first time.”  Truth is, after a great deal of side by side comparison, I can’t tell a significant difference between these and their 1987 originals.  And, I dare anyone with an audio system under $2,000 to do the same.  The reason these “sound so good,” as many reviewers have noted, is that they didn’t sound bad in the first place! Unlike discs by the Rolling Stones, the Doors and the Who, whose albums were rushed out on CD to meet public demand, and therefore sounded terrible, the Beatles catalog was one of the last to come out on compact disc because great care was taken in the mastering process.

In defense of the studio guys, there’s really not much that could be done with these, except for maybe using noise reduction and hiss elimination.  They were using the original album masters. To explain here, when a band is done adding all the instruments to a song, they “blend” them into a master tape.  The reason it’s called a master, is that this is what the song will sound like from now on.  All records, tapes, CDs, and mp3s will be made from it.  Imagine that you and three of your buddies sang into your Iphone.  You can’t bring up or lower one of your voices after you’ve recorded it, right? Same goes for this, which means you can’t bring up the vocals or lower the drums and guitars; that sort of thing requires the session tapes, which were not used in this series.  So, you basically get what you get here.

So, if the discs don’t sound any better, is there a reason to buy these?  Well, for one, each disc comes with a nice booklet filled with unreleased photos and an essay about the recording history of each LP.  Every album also contains a short mini documentary on the making of that record, something you’ll probably watch once and put away.  Each disc is housed in a paper sleeve that faithfully replicates the front and back of each original album.  While that might be a nice touch, they are done with paper material, which means you’ve got to be ultra-careful not to get these wet or dirty.  Also, the paper cases are poorly designed and sometimes scratch the discs while taking them in and out of the cases.

Another complaint with this series is that many of the discs, especially the early ones, barely clock in at 30 minutes, yet you pay the full price for every album.  There was plenty of room to put the complete stereo AND mono versions of each album, especially in the early ones.  Instead, for those interested in hearing the mono mixes, you’ll have to buy “The Mono Masters” box set, a pricey collection, that’s nonetheless worth every penny (see separate review).

In conclusion, it’s great that these Beatles albums are back in the public eye again.  With this remastering series, the entire Beatles catalog is again plentiful in every place that sells music around the country.  That’s indeed a good thing.  However, I do not enjoy being duped into buying something that is no better than what I already currently own. –Tony Peters