on September 9, 2009
Who could have ever thought it would have been possible? 09/09/09 has become a red-letter date in the history of Beatle-dom. It could be the repetitive nature of the phrase "Number Nine, Number Nine" featured in the track "Revolution 9" from "The White Album". Or, even the bit of dialogue "dial 9-9-9" from the 1965 motion picture "Help!" However, 09/09/09 has become important for a far better reason.
After more than 22 years of having The Beatles' albums on CD, we are finally treated to the definitive box set of Beatles music. This time, the folks at EMI and Apple finally got things right for a change. While having Beatles CDs is a thrill, it is now even more-so with this brilliant audio collection. For the very first time, their entire recorded output has been remastered for the 21st century, complete with unique liner notes and special digipak-packaging to boot. With the exception of the "Past Masters" set, each disc also contains a brief mini-documentary about that album. These short bits can only be utilised with the assistance of a computer's disc drive. However, the box set does include a bonus DVD disc featuring all of these short sequences together so you can enjoy it on your very own DVD player. What you have here are the original British Beatles albums just like what had been released before; only now, the listener can enjoy the first 4 albums - "Please Please Me". "With The Beatles", "A Hard Day's Night", "Beatles For Sale" - available in true stereo for the very first time. Combined with the remaining 9 albums recorded by the group between 1965 and 1970, this is a masterpiece set, and a special treasure trove of timeless, classic songs that changed the entire structure of popular music as we know it today.
Each CD is carefully and painstakingly put together in a very special 3-border fold-out, which allows the CD to be housed in a slot on the far right-hand side (except for the double discs, which have their CDs fitted inside the packaging). Each title also comes with a special CD booklet containg many unreleased photographs that represent the time when each album was originally released, plus well-written liner notes (including the original notes from the first 4 albums). The "Yellow Submarine" booklet contains both the original UK and US back cover notes together for the very first time. And, what a thrill it is to finally be able to have the photo/comic-strip booklet from "Magical Mystery Tour", that was initially issued in the American LP in 1967, in an official CD release for the very first time. The "White Album" packaging includes the original poster, in a CD sized reproduction, that features the photo collage on one side, and the album's song-lyrics on the other side. This marks the second time that this poster was made available in a "White Album" CD release, following the 30th anniversary reissue from 1998.
The sound quality of the songs are, without a doubt, the very best that I have ever heard before. For the first time, the audio quality of each track is sharp, crisp, crystal clear and truly an audiophile's dream come true. It should also be noted that the songs "Love Me Do" (both versions), "P.S. I Love You", "Only A Northern Song", "She Loves You", "I'll Get You" and "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" are all presented in their original monaural mixes, whereas the remaining songs are all in true stereo. Even "I Am The Walrus" still has its orignal mix of half-stereo/half-duophonic, just like the first time around. All in all, this box set far surpasses all other box sets that have come before.
And, the bonus DVD of the mini documentaries is also well-produced. Each segment features audio comments from The Beatles themselves along with George Martin. This DVD gives a fascinating insight into why these classic albums have stood the test of time so well, and continue to be so popular, even into the 21st century.
Many current and legendary artists have called The Beatles a major influence. One listen to this music and you too will see why. Beatlemania will live on forever!
on October 31, 2009
Fact: The stunning reaction to the mono set took nearly everyone by surprise.
Fiction: You made the wrong choice by buying the stereo set.
Fact: The vocals/instruments separation in some of the stereo albums is wider than the actual crosswalk shown on the Abbey Road cover.
Fiction: You made the wrong choice by buying the stereo set.
Fact: The mono set's enthusiasts' reviews have a lot of merit and are based on more than mere nostalgia.
Fiction: You made the wrong choice by buying the stereo set.
Being a 57-year-old Beatles fan has its advantages, not the least of which is having some perspective on the two current remastered sets from EMI. (By the way, I bought from Amazon the individual stereo CDs -- except for the YS soundtrack -- at low prices and applied the money I saved toward the mono box set, which I had intended to get all along.)
I don't consider myself a Beatles completist. Still, at one time or another over the years I have had and embraced the original Vee-Jay, Swan, and Capitol mono 45s; nearly all the mono and stereo albums from Capitol (the stereo versions of which I had rebought at least twice by 1980); various British, German, and other European imports (mono and/or stereo, depending on the album); reissued British (mono) EPs on vinyl; all the 1987 EMI compact discs; the three "Anthology" sets; the "YS Songtrack," "1", and "Let It Be...Naked"; the Capitol box sets from a few years ago (which I really like); and now these terrific EMI remasters. And while I have never bought any Beatles bootleg CDs, over the years I have listened to other fans' exhaustive box sets of the "Let It Be" sessions and the BBC sessions, all kinds of live shows from around the world, and other entries in the band's unofficial output.
I mention this not in an attempt to impress anyone. There are many of you out there who have heard and own far more Beatles music than I ever have or ever will. But it underscores (1) the substantial amount of music the boys created in a short span of time; (2) the seemingly countless formats and mix variations -- some subtle, some striking -- of specific songs and of the albums themselves despite there being just "a" mono mix and just "a" stereo mix; and (3) the soul connection I have to this body of music. I wish I had experienced one of their live concerts during Beatlemania. But in early December of 1963 I did whip my head around at the dinner table to catch the CBS Evening News report on the growing Beatles phenomenon in Great Britain. That was my first clue. A month later, my mom and I watched a segment on the Beatles that the wry Jack Paar aired on his Friday night TV show in January 1964. And my folks, my kid brother, my grandparents, and I watched the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. I was hooked.
I should also point out that I'm not an audiophile; my whole sound system didn't cost me more than $3,000. That won't buy speaker wire in some high-end systems. But an actual audiophile (a guy half my age whose expertise and opinions I truly respect) helped me configure my listening room so that my 4-speaker system helps deliver warmth, clarity, presence, and punch whether the music is presented in mono or stereo and regardless of what kind of music it is.
I have listened to these 2009 remasters a lot in the past couple of months. Oh, I mixed in some Byrds and Beach Boys, some blues and jazz, and some country and folk here and there. But I have focused on these remasters.
Overall, I prefer the stereo mixes. And I'm not a stereo-only proponent anymore than I am a mono-is-best proponent. But I like the way the electric guitars ring and chime (especially George's Ric 12-string, which inspired another of my R&R heroes, Roger McGuinn) and the way the acoustic guitars hum. I like how Ringo -- one of my all-time favorite rock drummers -- cracks and thumps his drums. I like how Paul's bass lines, too often buried in the mix in previous vinyl and CD incarnations, prove once and for all just how good the guy was all along. I like how John's rhythm guitar sounds and how his vocal inflections emerge. Most of all, I like how those tight harmonies, whether they're based on the Everly Brothers' vocal arrangements or something the boys and George Martin created from scratch, fill this room. These stereo remasters make this very familiar music sound so fresh and vibrant and clear that I want to buy a round of drinks for the team of engineering professionals who spent four years of their lives to give us this Digital Age treasure-trove.
That said, I do like several of the mono mixes nearly as much and maybe more. Sgt. Pepper is thrilling to hear in its mono presentation. It really is. It's different enough from the stereo mix to draw my wife in from another room to exclaim, "I don't remember THAT being on there!" Another mono mix which arguably tops its stereo counterpart is Please Please Me. This seminal Beatles long-player has never sounded so good. Plus, like its 1987 EMI precursor, the title track -- my favorite of the band's early rockers along with "Twist And Shout" and "I Saw Her Standing There" -- is the version that's free of the fluffed vocals on the last verse. That alone was going to ensure I'd be buying the mono box set in addition to the stereo remasters. "Anna," "There's A Place," "Love Me Do" -- these and other tracks also sound great in mono. (I'm not sure any degree of remastering will spur me to like "Ask Me Why," with its "woo-woo-woo-woo" and "I-I-I-I" refrains, but that's just me.)
The mono remasters of With The Beatles and Beatles For Sale are also top-notch. (Though, again, new and improved sound still won't compel me to listen to "Mr. Moonlight" on a regular basis.) And, The Beatles (the "White Album") in mono is different enough from its stereo counterpart (and so rock-solid) that it too warrants a favorable comparison.
Still, the stereo mixes overall will remain the versions I most often pop into my CD player. They are exhilarating to listen to. So, if you bought the stereo set but have been mentally kicking yourself after having read all the rave reviews of the mono mixes, please know that you chose wisely. You really did. If your curiosity about the mono set hasn't subsided and you can afford to get it, do so. There are enough differences between the two mixes -- beyond their obvious channel separation -- that you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the talent and energy that went into creating each mix back in the day. But -- and this is my one big caution to you -- if you're unaccustomed to listening to classic rock and pop music in mono, you may find it a bit of a jolt to your senses. To your ears, mono Beatles music may indeed sound "muddy," "flat," and "dead" as termed by some fans who've posted reviews in one or both of the two box set forums. Personally I enjoy both mixes being offered in these 2009 remasters. That's because regardless of the artist or the genre of music we're talking about, mono and stereo mixes have both been part of my listening experience since I was a little kid back in the late 1950s. But that may not be true for you; your experience may be based more on one or the other. And so, as much as I dig the mono PPM and mono Sgt. Pepper, as much of a kick as I get from hearing both the subtle and dramatic differences between all the songs and albums presented in both mixes, these great-sounding stereo discs have now formed the core of my Beatles collection.
Ultimately, YOUR tastes and YOUR preferences are all that matter. Not my take on "mono vs. stereo" and not anyone else's. The fact that you are passionate about the music the boys and Sir George created all those years ago is reason enough to rejoice that you and I and millions of other Beatle people the world over finally have these dynamic remasters.
on September 8, 2009
I was disappointed with the 1987 CDs, so I put my Mobile Fidelity albums (state of the art record albums back then, from the master tapes) onto CD around 1992 and have been listening to those since. I long since sold my 1987 CDs. Now I can get rid of those Mobile Fidelity CDs because the sound quality of these remastered CDs exceeds even them.
For those 1987 CDs the first four albums were in mono. I can sort of understand that for the first two, with their distinct, wide 2-track separation. But the second two had four-track and sounded great in stereo. At any rate, I preferred all four in stereo. So went to extreme measures to get it, in quality. Now those are all here in glorious stereo in this set.
I was afraid that they would narrow the separation on the first two albums. Fortunately they did not. If you want to listen to those two with headphones, you may be disappointed with the sound -- get the mono, but listening to them through speakers, several feet away, the stereo adds an outstanding dimension to the sound.
Throughout this set, the bass is more evident, the drums are sharper - the quality just jumps out at you throughout -- a testament to the much more sophisticated digitization techniques they have today than in 1987. A job well done!!
on September 10, 2009
Introduction: The following is pretty much a full review of both the mono and stereo reissues largely written in real time as a series of e-mails to an old friend who once owned a legendary record store here in Chicago. The story of the reissues really comes down to the technical limitations of two-track, four-track, eight-track, etc. recordings and the relative complexity of the music of the Beatles. Listening occurred on what would be considered an audiophile system with Quad 988's as the speakers. If following reading this review, you wish to read an expanded essay by me on the box sets, please visit The Beatles Wiki site by Hyperarts.
Please Please Me: The sound on the mono is just amazing. You can hear the echo in the room as John sings Anna. The vocals just soar. Ringo was just so good, even at this early stage and so was Paul. They supported and framed the songs so perfectly. And just think, in twenty-one minutes, or so, Twist And Shout! Stereo can't hold a candle to this, if for no other reason than the left/right "stereo" found later in With The Beatles, Rubber Soul and Revolver.
With The Beatles: As with Please Please Me, the mono sounds so, so, nice. As the stereo has that annoying left/right "stereo," no contest: mono hands down.
A Hard Day's Night: Seems better and more enjoyable in stereo. I think the reason is that they now had four tracks so George Martin could do proper stereo mixes and still have a mostly fresh first generationish sound. Remember, there were only two track available for Please Please Me. However, when they got to Rubber Soul and Revolver, four tracks weren't enough, which required, in some instances, numerous dubs of the four tracks to another four track tape, merging the four tracks to one track, thereby opening up three new tracks. While this degraded the sound somewhat it also made it difficult to back-track and do the after-thought stereo mixes, which is why we have the atrocious "stereo" of Rubber Soul and Revolver. Consequently, the reason the monos of these albums rule has mostly to do with technical limitations. While the mixes on A Hard Day's Night are true stereo mixes, they carry George Martin's idiosyncratic, but really right, decision to put the vocals in the center, the rhythm section to the left and the other instruments to the right. I always have loved how Martin took care to isolate the brilliant work of Ringo and Paul so many times instead of just following the convention of placing the drums in the center. This is why one of Martin's memoirs is entitled: "All You Need Is Ears."
The Beatles For Sale: Comments, preference and reasons for preference similar to A Hard Day's Night.
Help: Well, thank God we have three different versions to compare to make life ever so easy. First, mono is the definitive mix, that's a plus. As a minus, while it sounds richer, it is also a bit muddy compared to the stereo mixes. As for the stereo mixes, the remaster of George Martin's '87 remix does show some limiting in this new incarnation. A bit a hard to dial in the right volume. Sounds fuller, but that's the limiting. Not sure I care for this version too much. As for the `65 stereo version, that comes on the same disc as the mono version, as this album is somewhat acoustic, the absence of the limiting that was done to the new stereo remix/remaster is a plus. The delicacy is there in I Need You. Overall, the "old" stereo is prettier than the "new" stereo. One can argue over whether the "new" stereo or the ""old" stereo is better, I come down on the side of the "old" stereo, I like pretty. But as you get both the mono and the "old" stereo on the single mono disc, the cheapskate in me screams if you had a pistol to your head and only had to purchase one version of Help, it would be the "mono" disc.
Rubber Soul: Mono over stereo, if for no other reason than the left/rt channel mix that plagued Please, Please Me, With The Beatles and Revlover.
Revolver: There is a section of I Want To Tell You where Ringo is just so muscular and explosive in the mono that is missing in stereo and this is before we get to the issue of the left/right "stereo" of the stereo mix. Plus, there is just this overall richness of sound to the mono that is missing in the stereo. That said, it is a bit cooler to hear Tomorrow Never Knows in stereo. But, overall, mono.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The things you have heard are correct about the mono mix, the clarity and control over the notes, instruments and vocals is all there. Overall, it just sounds better, fuller and richer than the stereo, plus it is what the boys intended. Oddly, the thing that was most breathtaking was She's Leaving Home; just a full, gorgeous, sound. In stereo, it just sounds relatively wrong; thin compared to the mono. That said, because Day In The Life is such a mind-f the stereo is the definitive version of this song.
Magical Mystery Tour: While Pepper's sounded better in Mono, MMT sounds better in stereo.
The Beatles (The White Album): Both versions have their merits, you need both. If you can only go for one, it's the stereo.
Abbey Road: The defining moment of these reissues, and why it took four years, may be found on AR's I Want You (She's So Heavy). Because they couldn't take the tape hiss out without compromising the sound, they didn't. But when it came to John's final "yeah" which was over saturated and clipped previously, they were able to take the clipping out, and for the first time, you can hear all of John's vocal. Second side now, Here Comes the Sun and now Because. Wonderful sound throughout. Can't wait for Ringo at the end.
Let It Be: Now that I have had the time to compare three versions of LIB, an original 1970 EMI vinyl, this remastered CD and LIB Naked, it turns out that LIB is one of the more interesting remaster releases. First, LIB Naked has it all. It is true to the original vision of the Beatles for this music. It has clarity, correct dynamics and musicality. One of the places you can hear this best is in the title track and the differences between the Martin and Spector mixes. Martin got the church-like nature of the song. Consequently, you get more organ and the choir-boy harmonies of John and George, which Spector dubbed over with horns, strings and over the top solos by George. And I'm with Sir Paul concerning the damage done by Phil to The Long And Winding Road. As for the 1970 LIB vinyl, it has its problems from a sonic standpoint, particularly as it is a Phil Spector production. This brings us to this remastered CD. It trumps the 1970 standard vinyl in clarity but not LIB Naked. The real surprise is that the compression added to this remaster actually makes this a more Phil Spectoresque production than the original. And surprisingly, I like it, at least compared with the 1970 vinyl. Still, Naked is what you want.
Mono Past Masters: Right now, listening to the The Inner Light, which I hate, but it sounds so, so, so good in mono that I may actually like it. And, look out, Paul's bass piano notes in Hey Jude are right there as is Ringo's tambourine. Can't wait for Revolution plus the mono songs from Yellow Submarine. The mono Past Masters would have been perfection if they had added a stereo Let It Be and The Ballad Of John and Yoko. After all, the "stereo" Past Masters is actually a mixture of stereo and mono.
So kids, here's where we end. Your core, oddly enough, should be the mono box set. Augment this with the stereo Hard Day's Night, The Beatles For Sale, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles, Abbey Road, Let It Be and stereo Past Masters.
Addendum: As I live in Chicago, and have access to one of the country's remaining great stereo stores, that also boast three incredibly knowledgeable owners and an original Sgt. Peppers British Stereo pressing, following posting this review I went over there to compare the original vinyl with the two new CD reissues. We listened to the reference system, Naim Audio electronic and Quad speakers. There was total agreement on what we heard. First, Pepper's mono CD had better tonal balance than Peppers stereo CD. Pepper's stereo CD had better coloration than the mono, but this was defeated by the harshness of the sound (more on harshness shortly). Thus, overall, between the two CD's we preferred the mono CD. All that said, the stereo original British vinyl pressing crushed both. It had both tonal correctness and coloration.
Now as to the harshness issue, please be mindful that I have listened to these discs on two audiophile systems. Something like harshness is likely to be more prevalent the higher up you get in the stereo food chain. Thus, someone who doesn't have an audiophile system may not experience the harshness at all, but it really is there. This may render some of the stereo CDs more listenable for these people than they were for me, at least when it comes to Pepper's.
9/12/09 THANKS TO ALL: The past few days, following the posting of my review, have been a lot of fun. So many people have taken the time to write me, quite a number saying the review was flat-out the best review of any sort they have read. Others shared memories and feelings about how important this music is to them. Amazingly, two brother, one in Boston one in Paris, found they were reading the same thread and were kind of amazed by the co-incidence. All in all, it has been a very rewarding experience. I thank Amazon for providing this opportunity, and those of you present and future who have/will take(n) the time to play.
on September 9, 2009
As many of you, I am a huge Beatles fan. To me they are simply the best thing that ever happened to 20th century music. Their songs echo everywhere we go in the works of countless bands they influenced. And they are still beautiful after all these years.
So it was with a lot of anticipation that I bought this stereo set. And as I opened it, I must say I was overwhelmed with all the care, love and effort put by EMI in making this set the Beatles celebration they deserve.
ABOUT THE BOX ITSELF
The whole package comes in a beautifully crafted box with the Beatles logo. Opening it, I found the most beautiful set of CDs. Each one in a digipack reproducing the original artwork. Those digipack editions are very fragile because basically it is all paper. So I do recommend the purchase of this stereo box - so the CDs are kept safe.
The digipacks come with photos and the artwork of each disc is simply gorgeous.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Wow... I sounds beautiful.
Not only the stereo sounds great, the whole sound looks sharper, clearer and brighter. It look like it was all recorded yesterday (ha!).
Listening to ELEANOR RIGBY, MICHELLE, YESTERDAY, FOR NO ONE, AND I LOVE HER, I FEEL FINE and CAN'T BUY ME LOVE (for example) was a wonderful experience. The recording simply comes to life with a beautiful stereo sound like nothing I ever heard. Those old editions from 1987 really sound awful when compared. For No One is a great example: the french horn part is is much more dynamic and warm.
The later recordings like ABBEY ROAD and GET BACK sound simply amazing. GET BACK (the song) is so clearer I felt I was listening to all instruments live in my room. It sounds like all instruments are really there together without the muffled sound of the old edition (funny I say "muffled" now since I was used to think those old editions were great). It is like listening to it all for the first time.
On ABBEY ROAD, for example, the great string of non stop songs in the middle of the album is so rich I had to play certain segments again (because I was amazed). POLYTHENE PAM and SHE CAME THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW are amazing! - And they left me feeling that The Beatles' lesser known songs must all be rediscovered because they sound so good! George Harrison's SOMETHING almost made me cry.
Finally we have The Beatles we can blast through our speakers and completely obliterate any Justin Timberlake or Jonas Brothers our neighbors are playing. (laughs) Just put GLASS ONION, I AM THE WALRUS or CARRY THAT WEIGHT and look at the neighbors' kids' eyes as they put Kanye West's CD back in its case. (laughs)
I was afraid the stereo separation would feel plastic and artificial - I don't know why - but no, I did not have that feeling while listening to this set. It seems it was all recorded and handled with lots of care, love and cutting edge technology.
This is a great day to celebrate the biggest band ever!
And congratulations to the EMI team who made this possible and put this all together.
I'm very happy.
on November 13, 2012
Ok. I'm sure that this box set is going to be a highly conversed topic. My guess is that the previous reviewers have not listened to the records so their opinion is based on assumption. No it isn't sourced from the master tapes, but a similar source to the 2009 remastered CDs. From what I have read however this set isn't just a transfer from cd to lp. There was some tweaking to make this set unique from its cd counterpart. Either way what it comes down to, is "how does it sound"? Well I'm listening to it right now, and I think it sounds pretty darn good. I have only gotten as far as "A Hard Day's Night" and the early albums sound bright, clear and most of all scratch free. There are Beatles fans out there that might not own many Beatles records, which would make this set perfect for them. In my opinion to get an original Beatles set in near mint condition is not only expensive but very difficult.
You also have to consider the system that you would be listening to them through. If your system consists of a Crosley vintage stereo from Target you might not want to spend the money on this set. I'm not saying that my setup is anything amazing, it's probably the minimum you would want to listen to "audiophile" quality records. I think that these records were mastered with more modern audiophile setups in mind. Mine varies from late 70's to mid 80's.
Everyone's stereos and ears are different so when you read people praising/complaining about this set it's very subjective. Make sure reviews you read are from people who have actually listened to the set.
If you're on the fence about buying this set consider what kind of system you have, and wether you will listen to them enough to make it worth it. I know I will.
Also my set did receive some minor damage during shipping so when you are considering wether to have it shipped or not, you might want to transport it yourself.
I initiated a return through Amazon. They were very accommodating and another one is already on its way. I will update the review once I receive it.
I received my replacement today. It was shipped in the factory box and an outer Amazon box. It was in fine shape. My suggestion is to only include this set in an order. Don't have anything shipped along with the box set.
on September 9, 2009
I picked up my copy this morning (Oceanic time) and I have spent the day goofing off work and listening to the remastered albums.
This set is basically a no brainer for anyone who likes the Beatles. Playing these discs alongside the old versions they replace is somewhat of a revelation. I had not realized quite how bad the 1987 CD releases were until today. Listening to this set is a continuous process of noticing things you hadn't heard before and experiencing moments where the additional clarity and presence of the remastered recording conveys the sheer intensity that the Beatles were capable of producing. In particular, Ringo's drums sound much better and McCartney's bass has much more presence and punch. The guitars sound much more natural than they do on the old versions. In general the effect of the remasters is to properly reveal the musicianship of the band, which the old versions did not do justice to.
The box is sturdy and the discs come in individual replica sleeves. The albums are all the British releases (Parlophone and Apple), plus Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol), which I believe was a US release first (I may be mistaken). There is also a set of short documentaries. One caveat is that the discs are slide out, which I don't like as it may mark the discs, but if you are careful it should present no problem. Overall it is a nice package with an appealing design that no-one should be ashamed at having on their shelf.
Due to limitations of the early recordings, these have instruments coming out of one speaker and vocals out of the other. Nothing can be done about this, and it sounds fine over normal speakers, but it may bother people who prefer to listen through headphones. If you are truly hardcore, purchasing the mono remasters will solve this problem, but at a steep additional cost. The stereo versions, IMHO, will suffice for most people.
When I heard that this set was coming out, I banned myself from listening to Beatles music until it was in my possession. This turned out to be a good move, since I anticipate spending the next few weeks playing these discs over and over again.
To sum up, I am extremely happy with this set. It has made the Beatles new again for me.
on November 14, 2012
I was perhaps more excited for this box set than anything I've purchased music-related in decades. Unfortunately my excitement left me when I saw the condition of both the shipping box, the product box, and the albums and materials inside. The shipping box was badly damaged when it arrived and some of that damage translated to the product box corners (dinged in a bit). The packing material was a paltry few plastic air bubbles around the sides of the product box, nothing on top or bottom. With the shipping box being way oversized that led to a lot of bouncing around. Once i opened the actual box set other problems appeared pretty quickly. Several album jackets had bent/creased corners, and a few had inner sleeves that look like someone at the factory crumpled them up before inserting the vinyl. A real shame considering the sleeves are otherwise decent and poly-lined. The additional 'psychedelic' red/white paper sleeve in Peppers was also creased badly. I examined each piece of vinyl and found a few with obvious scratches that did produce noise when played.
The book included was in perfect condition and is stunning.
None of the damage described here was major, but it's the summation of all of it that makes it obvious there was a total lack of QC during the manufacturing of this product.
Not happy at all about this, but considering returning it for a replacement rather than a refund. Maybe I'll get lucky next time.
Quick Update 11/15/2012 - I received my 2nd box set yesterday (I ordered one to play, 1 for the archive to remain sealed and maybe give to my son 20 years from now). Anyways, the second set arrived in much better shape, but it again was not packaged in the original foam wrapped shipping containers that others are raving about online. This time it arrived in a smaller outer box, but was packed around it with crumpled up packing paper. not much better than the first set. I think i just got lucky that nothing happened during shipment.
My main concern tonight is with the quality of sound on this vinyl. Both of my copies of Abbey Road and The White Album (i opened both box sets due to all of these problems) have an incredible amount of noise on them. i'm not a vinyl expert by any means, but i know a noisy record when i hear it. i know others are raving about the sound quality, but my sets sound like garbage...Returning both for refunds.
Update #2 - 11/17/2012 !!
Have any of you found the major misprint on side two of the label of Magical Mystery Tour? Go look!
If this doesn't just ice the cake of complete failure on this box set, nothing will. ABSOLUTELY NO QUALITY CONTROL WHATSOEVER!
Update #3 - 11/24/2012!
Ordered box set #3, this time from Amazon UK. The box arrived quickly (even with the holiday in there), and was packaged as hoped, inside the official EMI 'outer' box with the cool 'Handle With Care' labeling, foam inserts etc. Unfortunately someone thought handle with care meant drop the box on the floor and crush one corner in so badly that even the foam inserts weren't enough to prevent the box set from a small but noticeable corner ding. oh well, i could live with that i guess, seeing as this thing just traveled thousands of miles. Several differences noted between the EU box set and the U.S. box:
- overall EU box was manufactured with significantly higher overall quality.
- EU box is about .5 inches smaller in both height and width, due to thinner black foam pads inside the box. EU box also came with silica gel packets resting in top portion of box set. There was no shrink wrapping on the EU box set, only on individual records and the book.
- EU record jackets are much higher in quality, seemingly slightly stronger card stock, and noticeably glossier. Absolutely no record jacket, inner sleeve, or 'extras' damage in the EU box. Notably, gatefolds had more precise 'hinge side' squaring than my U.S. box versions. The EU gatefolds also seem to be sized a bit better to hold all of the extras without having that strange jacket warp the U.S. versions have.
- EU vinyl labels were all perfectly centered, and appear to be printed with better quality that the U.S. set.
- EU vinyl had no signs of no-fill, with only two minor surface defects, one on Sgt. Peppers and one on MMT.
And now for the bad news. 6 of the EU discs were significantly warped. I haven't had a chance to play all of them yet, but the two I did were warped enough to affect playability.
My plan is to talk to Amazon UK about getting a replacement box, or individual records to replace my warped copies. At this time Amazon UK is not selling the box set due to 'reported customer problems'. I assume this could mean the warping issue is fairly prevalent in the EU pressings. Hoping this may also mean they are waiting on a second pressing before they resume selling. Why Amazon U.S. isn't putting a similar halt on sales is beyond me...
on September 14, 2009
Well whatdaya know? My first review ever for a Beatles album or ALBUMS in this case. Why have I never written a review for a Beatles album? Because like most of you, I've known these records so well during the course of my lifetime, what am I going to say that hasn't been said a million times before? I mean it's pointless really. However, this new remastered box set provides me with a fresh start and has marked the first time in my Beatle loving life that I was able to buy their actual albums on the day of release! Now THAT was a fun experience! When The Beatles were first issued on CD in 1987, I was 10 years old and barely knew what a CD was, much less how they worked. But I did know my Beatles! I had fallen in love with them at the ripe ole age of 3 and by age 10 could sing every song forward and backward plus rattle off any bit of Beatle trivia you cared to know. Quite a privilege to have an original '64 Beatlemaniac for a mom, eh? Not that it took any prodding from her. The magic of The Beatles' music took hold of me at first listen and I was immediately hooked for life.
For anyone who says these new remasters don't sound better than the original '87 releases, may I suggest an ear wax removal kit available at your nearest supermarket (or perhaps some EMITEX). The packaging is awesome, the black box is gorgeous, and I love the way you can remove the albums with the pull of a black ribbon. Just don't pull them out onto the floor! I've read some complaints about the cardboard digi-paks that the new CD's come in. Before this set was released I read that the CD's would come in limited edition "eco-friendly" packaging, so I'm guessing that these CD's will eventually be issued in standard jewel cases down the line. I have no problem with digi-paks, as long as I remove the CD gently! It would be too long to review every CD individually so I'm going to review their catalog by year, that should be quicker. Here we go!
1963: PLEASE PLEASE ME & WITH THE BEATLES - So crisp, so clear, so SEPARATED! Now I don't have a problem with the stereo mixing of "With The Beatles" because I grew up on the stereo versions of the American Capitol albums which were "Meet The Beatles" and "The Beatles' Second Album." However, there is no doubt that "Please Please Me" sounds better in mono. The stereo mix is really good though and works better if you're listening to it on a big stereo system.
1964: A HARD DAYS NIGHT & BEATLES FOR SALE - The Beatles' were using four track tape machines by the time of their third album so there was a lot more room for a proper stereo mix. I've always known both of these albums in stereo and these remasters sound fantastic! They sound so good that I've finally been able to accept the British formats of both these records!
1965: HELP! & RUBBER SOUL - The turning point for The Beatles. Why? Marijuana. Thank you Bob Dylan. I'll admit while both of these CD's sound better than ever, there is something a little "off" to my ears concerning their remastering. I think it has something to do with the fact the 1986 digital mixes, prepared by George Martin, were used for these remasters. I've listened to the original 1965 stereo mixes that are included on the mono CD's and I think they sound better personally.
1966: REVOLVER - The next turning point for The Beatles. Why? L.S.D. Thank you Beatles' Dentist. You are supposed to be immersed in this album when you play it and this remaster makes that easy. "Love You Too" comes on like a stampede from the far east and "Tomorrow Never Knows" swirls around you in technicolor.
1967: SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND & MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR - What a year for The Beatles and what a couple of amazing albums! Like "Revolver," both of these will submerge you in their new remastered state. The "Henry The Horse" break in "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite" sounds out of this world. The stereo panned coach sounds in "Magical Mystery Tour" will make you feel like you're getting ready to be run over by it!
1968: THE BEATLES (THE WHITE ALBUM) - Not much can be said other than that the details are now clearer than ever and the entire double album now packs the wallop you've always wanted it to have! Still can't get rid of that tape hiss on "Martha My Dear" though. If I had to find any downside to the remaster, I guess it would be that there seems to be a little too much low end on the acoustic songs. "Blackbird" seems to "boom" too much when it needs to "lilt." That might just be the fault of my old stereo system though.
1969: YELLOW SUBMARINE & ABBEY ROAD - "Only A Northern Song" is presented fully in mono for the first time, no more of that fake stereo! And George Martin's orchestral score has never sounded more breathtaking....because that's the side of the record everyone played to death, right? For the original experience, listen to "Yellow Submarine." For the remixed experience, listen to "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" from 1999. "Abbey Road" is everything other reviews have said it is. Simply amazing. The looped coda to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" sounds like a hurricane is coming straight for your house. The medley sounds absolutely majestic.
1970: LET IT BE - And so they did. Recorded in Jan. of 1969, with bits recorded in April of '69, Jan. of 1970, and a holdover all the way back from Feb. of 1968 ("Across The Universe"), it's far from a final, unified statement from the band. That would be "Abbey Road." However, I did not think the remastering of THIS album was going to be a highlight of the box set for me, but it was, in a way I did not expect nor would have expected. This remaster brought back the feeling that I felt when I listened to this album as a young child. The amazing thing is I did not know how long I'd been away from this feeling until I played this remaster. I broke down in tears on three different occasions. In reality, the Spector-ized "Let It Be" is actually kind of like "The White Album" really, with individual moments scattered throughout.
1962-1970: PAST MASTERS - EVERYTHING sounding great on this combined set! The "Long Tall Sally" E.P. has never rocked harder. But my ears are STILL to used to the American mixes of "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman" with all that reverb! And "Sie Lieb Dich" may prove to be better than the English "She Loves You" of all things! Disc two sounds amazing.
THE MIN-DOCUMENTARY DVD: In short, A WASTE! If you own "Anthology" these "mini-docs" don't add anything new to the story. In some cases, they get a few things WRONG! Like using photos from the "Revolver" sessions for the "Rubber Soul" documentary. Why couldn't they have included a DVD of all The Beatles' promo films for their singles? THAT would have been a good idea.
There you have it. The Beatles' Stereo Box Set. One of the best music purchases I've ever made plain and simple. I may have to share my favorite four uncles with billions of others around the world, but they're my four uncles and they're YOUR four uncles as well. And the music they made for US will be a part of our lives until the day we leave here. Thank you Uncle John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
on September 18, 2009
There is an unfortunate tendency for dozens of folks to just put five stars on anything with the Beatles name on it. I am that much of a Beatle fan, but to be realistic I think it would be more helpful for potential buyers if the review compared the various incarnations of Beatle material out there so that buyers can make an informed decision about what is right for them. There really is not a definitive package of Beatle recordings. Each has it's own magic and benefits and you just need to figure out what you are after.
As for me, so you know, my background is a musician and recording studio owner with 32 years of experience. As for my perspective in comparing Beatle recordings, I've owned the entire Beatles catalog, both American and British versions, in multiple and various pressings on vinyl LP, as well as many unique foreign pressings, cassette and some 8-tracks. I currently have the 1980's box, the Capitol box sets, the Apple remastered stereo box and the Apple remastered mono box and I've been listening to them all side-by-side for this review.
I think buyers of these discs may fall into a few key categories:
1. Long-time Beatle fans who had the original LPs
2. Audiophiles who are looking for the most pristine audible version
3. Young/new fans who just want a nice copy of everything
In short, I'd recommend the following for the respective categories:
1. Apple remastered mono box or Capitol box set, rounded out with individual missing discs
2. Apple remastered stereo box
3. The previously-available 1980's box set
For category 1, the remastered mono box set (or the Capitol box sets, which are stereo and mono) may be the way to go, then just round it out with the individual copies of the missing discs. The mono box has much better sound reminiscent of the original LPs and far superior packaging. The mono remasters mimick the original LP packaging even down to spine text and the paper inner sleeves! Each disc in the mono set has a resealable outer plastic sleeve (Japanese style) and a plastic inner sleeve to protect the actual disc. The box itself affords direct access to any CD without disturbing the others and the overall box is the size of CDs, so it fits nicely on your CD shelf.
The remastered stereo box is a terrible package. It's 12" high and vertical, doesn't fit on the shelf with other CDs. You can't access any CD individually. Instead you have to lift this cloth strap to pull an entire stack of CDs out to get to the one you want, frequently spilling the others everywhere like a deck of cards. You are forced to grab the disc surface to get it out of the cardboard sleeve it's in. Only the front cover reproduces the original artwork. Everything else, back, inside and booklet, while it's nice that there are new, never-before seen photos, makes it hard to reminisce if you remember the original LPs. But for audiophiles and new fans, this packaging might be fine, or even preferred.
The benefit of the remastered stereo CD packaging is that the original liner notes are printed in a booklet for each disc, so they are easy to read. The remastered mono CDs only have the original liner notes on the back cover, as they were on the LPs, but this is difficult if not impossible to read. The mono set also lacks the album recording notes that the stereo box has. Only notes for the past masters discs seems to be included in the mono set.
The stereo CDs themselves have significantly different sound from the original LPs. Whether you consider it better is subjective depending on your listening goals. For example, Please Please Me (and all other discs that Paul Hicks remastered) seem to be bass-heavy compared to the original LPs and CD sets. While it's quite an improvement that you can now hear the bass lines clearly and the balance seems more up to date with modern recordings, it just won't be as familiar to those who owned all the original albums. Additionally, the beautiful reverb tails that were on the original Please Please Me album seem to decay quicker on the remaster. (Possibly due to various limiting/compression/eq artifacts?)
The real benefit of the remastered stereo box sound is that you can now clearly hear many of the little things that were previously buried in the mix. For example, all details of the moog parts on Something and Maxwell's Silver Hammer are completely and clearly audible. It's beautiful and incredible sounding. Layers of overdubbed parts across the box set are clearly audible, which is a treat to hear clearly for the first time.
There are a very few cases, however, where this isn't true. One very small example is on Don't Bother Me. Early in the song George can be heard saying "Fast" on the backing track, but only on the Capitol box set is this completely and clearly audible with the level of detail other tracks in the Apple stereo box have. This gets back to my point that there really isn't one definitive set. Details come out differently in different versions. There are also some strange artifacts of this latest stereo remaster. For example, on Maxwell's Silver Hammer, the lead vocal occasionally seems to shift between being perfectly centered to splitting into a duophonic kind of sound from both the left and right. None of my other copies exhibit this characteristic. I believe this may be caused by phase artifacts introduced in the remastering from the heavy processing required to being out all the details. I also noticed that on some songs the lead vocals actually were quieter than on other available CD editions, possibly caused by the same.
The short movies included on the CDs and the DVD are sometimes interesting, but not great. There are a few comments buried in there that I had never heard before, but there are also strange inaccuracies; like seeing stills from Paperback Writer/Rain promo films during the Rubber Soul segment. In general, the movies are only a bonus for Beatle completists, due to a couple details that are revealed. They aren't terribly enlightening otherwise.
While the mono set lacks the videos, the bonus of the mono set is the complete original cover art (front, back and inside, where applicable) as well as all the original inserts, e.g. the 4 individual photos from the white album and the original green cut-out card in Sgt. Pepper, not to mention the groovy rose-to-pink paper inner sleeve, etc.
These sets are a bit overpriced. If the stereo set had the mono packaging, then it would be worth the price. The mono box really should be reduced to the price of the stereo set or less, particularly since it's no longer a limited edition (or at least the edition has been expanded such that it's not as much of a rarity now) and it doesn't have all the music or extras (no booklet for each album, no movies).
The terrible packaging, the overpriced price tag and significant deviation from the original sound (in general) knocks the remastered stereo box down to 3 stars for me. (Yes hearing all the little details is great for me as a fan, but the tonal balance was compromised notably to get that, and that is not how these albums were originally mastered nor intended to sound by George Martin and the band themselves. I think these details could have been brought out reasonably without changing the sound as much as they have.) Because of the cost and significant differences from the original cover art and sound, I can't consider the stereo remaster a 'definitive' set, but rather a supplement to the others sets that are available.
The mono remaster box however, I give 5 stars for having pristine sound without sacrificing the original tonality of these legendary recordings, having the original LP packaging and inserts, much better protection of the discs and sleeves, as well as sized to fit on a CD/DVD shelf.
If you are a long-time fan who wants to reminisce and re-experience the original LPs, I would suggest either the new Apple remastered mono box set or Capitol box sets, then round it out with any individual discs missing.
For the new fan who wants a copy of everything but isn't nit picking over whether they can hear John say, "Cranberry Sauce" on Strawberry Fields or whether everything is in mono or stereo, the previous 1980's box set would be just fine. You might even find it used/cheap on an auction site, now that these remastered boxes are available. For what it's worth, the previous 1980's box set actually does sound like the original LPs. It's just that people are listening to them on modern equipment. Those mixes were originally created for equipment with tube amplifiers and real wood speaker cabinets, which impart a great deal of bass and warmth to the sound. Putting the same mix through printed circuit board stereos with modern plastic little speakers doesn't quite work with the music to produce the intended result.
For the audiophile who must hear the creaking chair on the final chord of Sgt. Pepper in stereo, the newly-remastered stereo box would be the way to go. The remastered stereo set is also good for anyone who wants to read the original liner notes from the albums and learn more about how the albums were originally recorded.
For the Beatle-completist who must have a every version of a Beatle recording, I'm assuming you already own the 1980's box, the Capitol boxes, the Apple-remastered stereo and the mono box sets prior to reading this review, and there is no review that would help you, since a Beatle purchase is compulsory. (^_^)v