what's wrong with the remasters: a fundamental problem.


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Initial post: Jun 11, 2012 9:03:51 PM PDT
Okay. The Beatles and their albums have been talked to death. Their and Brian Wilson's mature work continue to be among my most beloved music. A year or two goes by when I might not listen to them as much, but less so in recent years. Not that they're alone, and not that I haven't got a thousand favorite musical tracks from hundreds of artists, but they certainly always hold a special place in my heart.
The Beatles from Rubber Soul to Abbey Road and the Beach Boys from Pet Sounds and Smile through Holland are I think their most durable and remarkable works. I've listened to them from their original vinyl pressings (except Smile which I heard on bootlegs) to repressings to Mobile Fidelity virgin vinyl half-speed remasters to CD's to the CD remasters. I think that considering that the sonic work done with each new release of Beach Boys material has been revelatory, coming to an astounding peak when Pet Sounds was accorded a DVD AUDIO release. It fills the room with clarity and presence. (Don't miss Elton's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in DVD-A, it's even more of a sonic wonder, coming from a newer source)
Now for The Beatles. Constantly trotting out the unvarnished original mixes is pretty much a waste of time. Even when George Martin went back to the tapes for the boy's ROCK N ROLL album, he centered the vocal mixes rather than stay with some old phony ping-pong stereo and opened up the mixes. When others tried their hands (The Yellow Submarine Songbook - rather than the original soundtrack, and The Beatles #1 - the original CD), they cleaned up, sharpened, and sometimes repaired mistakes (like Eleanor Rigby on Submarine), opening up the tracks beautifully. Listen to Yellow Submarine - the movie - on DVD or Blu-Ray. The songs are breathtakingly new. What do we NOT have on the "remastered" CDs? That.
Will SOMEONE with some imagination go back to those tapes and hear them with new ears? We'll always have the original mixes. Especially from Help! onwards, and those primitive first two, we need to open up those mixes to sound fresh and alive. Now even #1 sounds like an old release. The original vinyls sound better. Let's give the Beatles the sonic enema they gave Pet Sounds and release them on DVD-A or SACD (which I don't have so I don't push it). Many of us have DVD players, and some of us have them hooked up to home theatre sound devices. The format should be accessible, I agree. But at the VERY least give them the goose that Beach Boy lovers have been able to track through the songs' many incarnations, each better than the last on basic CDs, not muddy the sound as was done with #1 (the remaster). Somebody send this out to Paul, who may show some interest in this approach.
I'm not complaining about George Martin's extraordinary work with the Beatles, but even he saw the possibilities of freshening the sound with Rock N Roll and others, not forgetting the shattering mixes on Cirque du Soleil's LOVE. We're not talking radical song mixes and medleys and sound effects that weren't there. Just, as I said, the clarity and presence of sound. Making the buried vocal of the stereo "Rain" a little clearer and maybe a trifle more up front, for example, or centering the band's vocals on the early material. Martin has done that himself. It's not blasphemy, it's understanding the possibilities of stereo sound in a way that was fairly foreign when they recorded. The Beatles weren't even there for the stereo mix of Pepper, and you can hear many differences in mixing and even in takes and speed (She's Leaving Home, the galvanizing mono version of the Pepper Reprise) that Martin and his assistants mixed into stereo in a short time. (See THE BEATLES RECORDING SESSIONS by Mark Lewissohn) Go back to those tracks and fix them (he reintegrated the louder laughs that were supposed to be apparent at the end of Within You Without You, why not treat their other sonic decisions with as much respect?)
When The Hollies hits were collected in a 3-CD set, almost all of the songs were remixed from ping-pong stereo to soundstage stereo. It was wonderful. And when a song or two wasn't allowed a remix, you could hear it's age. Ever since Submarine and #1, I hoped for something similar for the Beatles.
Even the mono mixes, though accurate in balance, have a muddy sound. Listen to The Beach Boys mono mixes on their various CDs. They're as clear and distinct as their stereo releases. (Mono was how Brian heard them) And their stereo reimaginings on later releases have been sterling. Pet Sounds was missing several independent tracks, so you need the original mono to really hear how some tracks were envisioned.
I bought a few of The Beatles albums in mono first, and found them wonderful and clear. Now all the high ends are dull.
All the Beatles CDs should shine. Hey, just an opinion. Now the recordings and releases have been talked to death. Best wishes all, and cry out for real, imaginative craftsmanship.

Posted on Nov 22, 2012 7:52:43 PM PST
Sure, i'd LOVE to hear some of this stuff remixed. BUT sgt pepper CANT be remixed, cos of the way it was recorded. Listen to the individual tracks from the Sgt pepper album. Cos it was recorded on 4 track, everything is on one or two tracks. Drums, guitars, rhythm instruments, then another track for bass, which got bounced down, then a track for the sound effects they would swirl between channels...something that should not be lost, cos its the CHARM of the LP. ANd the vocals, one one or two tracks. They dont have a stereo soundscape like we do now, cos there are too few tracks. BEATLES ONE were not changed you know, just remastered. If ANYTHING were remixed like you say, it MIGHT be the white album, and ABBEY road. They have enough tracks, to allow it. If you want a good listen without the wierdness of the stereo balance, just listen to the MONO editions. they are so wierd, cos the effects are often turned UP, cos they couldnt swirl they between channels. In that sense, they sound more modern. The oldest beatles recordings are only 3 track, practically recorded live. I'd LOVE to hear some of this stuff remixed for DVD 5.1 sound. AND, l do love the way they remixed for the YELLOW SUB album, but even more I love the remixes for the YELLOW SUBMARINE DVD. Cos they ARE as close to real 5.1 mixes, as they can get. SO, that leaves me to tell you ONE HOPE you have... BUY the new DVD offical release of the MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR film. It should have those songs in some kind of 5.1 mix.
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Initial post:  Jun 11, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 22, 2012

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles (Vinyl - 1995)
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