The Beatles 1+
Deluxe Edition, Limited Edition
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The Beatles '1' was originally released in 2000 and quickly became the fastest selling album of all time. Featuring 27 of the band's most significant singles, all of which reached #1 in the US or UK charts, this brand new 2BluRay/CD set represents the ultimate collector's edition of The Beatles '1', featuring all 27 tracks on CD, all 27 promo videos on Disc 1, and an additional 23 videos on Disc 2, including alternate versions, as well as rarely seen and newly restored films and videos. All the videos have been beautifully restored up to 4K resolution by a team of film and video technicians and restoration artists who have undertaken painstaking frame-by-frame cleaning, colour-grading, digital enhancement and new edits that took months of dedicated, 'round-the-clock work to accomplish. This stunning 2BluRay/CD set boasts an expanded 124-page illustrated hardcover book, and also includes exclusive audio commentary and filmed introductions by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr respectively. 1+ also features fantastic new stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS HD surround audio mixes by Giles Martin and Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios. CD/Disc 1 songs and videos include: Love Me Do, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can t Buy Me Love, I Feel Fine, Ticket To Ride, Yesterday, Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out, Paperback Writer, Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, Hey Jude, Something, Come Together, and more! Disc 2 videos include: Twist & Shout, Please Please Me, Rain, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day In The Life, Hey Bulldog, and Free As A Bird.
Region code 0 (all territories).
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I bought the "Deluxe" version with two DVDs. The videos are uniformly excellent, with stunning remastered picture quality. Since I don't have a surround sound system, however, my review will be restricted to the CD and devoted mostly to comparisons with earlier versions of Beatles songs.
In a remix (for those not acquainted with this notion), songs are improved in terms of different parts (tracks) in relation to each other. So, for example, a vocal that was on the left or right side might be brought into the "middle" (equally loud on both channels): which is now standard practice. Many have been critical of too many "unbalanced" ; uncomfortably "left-right" Beatles songs in stereo, and I'm one of them. I was especially looking and hoping for more drums in the middle (which I highly favor, as giving a rock song more power and drive: as many mono mixes do) and rectification of some of these balance flaws, and was happily satisfied to see significant improvements along these lines.
There haven't been many remixes of Beatles songs. The main complete remixed album up till now was the 1999 "Yellow Submarine Songtrack". In my opinion, every song on that release was sonically superior (often vastly so) to any other versions: including the 2009 remasters.
Today I listened to the CD through speakers and then later with headphones, making a track-by-track comparison to what I considered the existing best-sounding tracks. I think that 19 of the 27 tracks on the revised "1" are now the best versions available. It's quite significant for Beatles fans to have (if one follows my opinion) 19 of their best songs improved to a level beyond anything heard previously.
I didn't include "Let it Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" in my analysis of this album (compared to earlier product), strictly because of my personal musical taste. I've always greatly preferred the album version of "Let it Be": with it's alternate superb George Harrison guitar solo: overdubbed in early 1970: one of the last tracks (if not *the* last track) recorded for the original Beatles corpus. And I like the "de-Spectorized" version of "The Long and Winding Road" because the schmaltzy embellishment was detested by Paul McCartney (though not by John Lennon: which violates the exaggerated stereotypes of the two musicians). The superior version is available on "Let it Be ... Naked" (2003). Since the songs on "1" were all singles versions, it could hardly have included these other versions.
That said, only six of the remaining 25 songs are superior in earlier versions: "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (I always write it that way!), "Day Tripper", and "We Can Work it Out" are better in the 2009 mono versions (mainly because of lack of drums in the middle in the stereo versions). "Yellow Submarine", "Eleanor Rigby", and "All You Need is Love" are better on the "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" (though not by much). I noticed that "Yellow Submarine" in the 1999 album had (uniquely) ocean sounds that appropriately go from right to left and back. In no case was a 2009 stereo version better than these new remixes.
One thing I noticed was that vocals often sounded significantly better: going from a slightly "tinny" sound in some cases, to sounding as if the singer is literally in the room, heard without going through any recording process at all. Some remarkable new technology was evidently utilized in this regard. As another general observation: the drumming sounds sharper, clearer, and with more punch (as it should be). Ringo's wonderfully distinctive snare drum sound has never been better. Again, it seems like he's right in the room and heard equally with all the other tracks of the songs, rather than (as too often) relatively buried in the mix: adding a new excitement to several of the tracks. A third general improvement is Paul's bass, which has less of the annoying "booming" quality that it sometimes takes on in Beatles recordings. "Natural" is the descriptive word for all three of these factors. The guitars aren't left out in the improvements, either. They are clearer, and can be heard more precisely as separate parts (lead and rhythm).
I think that seven songs in particular (out of the 19 new "gold standard" ones) are "very notably improved" from previous versions. "Can't Buy Me Love", "Paperback Writer", and "Hello Goodbye" have moved the drums to the middle: thus maintaining the rock drive of the mono versions while retaining the more "interesting and ear-catching" stereo touches, too, and a brighter, more appealing sound. They're much better than the mono versions (my previous favorites) and also the stereo 2009 remasters.
"Penny Lane" was one of the songs that I immediately was struck by, listening through speakers. In this instance, I liked the 2009 stereo the best prior to this album: which gives the song a more charming, catchy ambiance, similar to the three songs above, but also, perfectly in line with its fundamental character as a "bright" or "sunny" song. The famous high trumpet part also moves to the center. The drums are about half-again raised in volume and sharp as a bell. This is a fairly major change (in the "remix" sense), yet it doesn't sound *innovative*; rather, one feels that the song should have *always* been this way. That observation is generally true of the entire album. The improvements are more striking and noteworthy than the 2009 remasters (great, overall) were, compared to the good ol' 1987 remasters, without altering what we might call the sonic nature or essence of any song.
"Get Back" is incredibly catchy in the new remix: again, in line with the nature of the song as one of the most immediately appealing, irresistible rock riffs and grooves of all time. I recall that I first obtained this song in a cereal box (!): a flimsy plastic little record. But it played fine on our old mono record player! Here we find, most notably, a clearer (thus, all the more striking) John Lennon guitar track (true also of "Come Together").
Lastly, I'd like to give special mention to two songs that are arguably most improved of all: "Lady Madonna" and "The Ballad of John and Yoko". Ironically (apart from the boring, mediocre "Love Me Do"), these are my two least favorite cuts on the album. But (subjective tastes aside), they receive such a "fine-tuning" in the remix that my prior basic impression or perception of them was almost entirely changed: from fairly mundane, conventional, not very original pieces (I dare say!), to almost "thunderous" rockers. That's how good these new mixes are. "Lady Madonna" in particular had a very muddy bass line in the 2009 stereo version. Now it sounds great, and takes on a sort of (for lack of a better description) "swamp rock" character heard also in "Come Together". "The Ballad of John and Yoko" also receives quite a power boost: especially in the vigorous McCartney drumming (only he and John played on this track).
It's a wonderful experience to be so struck by songs heard hundreds of times (and some of the least favorites of one's favorite band), due to such significant sonic "facelifts." As I have noted, this was true of many of the tracks: leading to a most remarkable listening "adventure".
I think this album delivers all it possibly could (far beyond expectations: at least mine, anyway), and will be regarded as a model of the "remix genre." It has made *this* devoted Beatles fan very happy, and I'm sure that will be the case with many thousands, if not millions more of our large tribe.
Until now, other than the 'Anthology' series, everyone has been able to watch a lot of what's here on line but not necessarily in its entirety and, for the most part, it's usually been a painful viewing experience; but no more. Not only have the films been fastidiously restored to 4K standard, each has a 5.1 surround audio mix too. And that's one reason why it's taken this long to come to fruition. When it comes to anything Fab Four related, it has to be perfect. Unfortunately for me, I don't have a 5.1 system so cannot comment on the sound regarding that. On top of the 50 videos, this deluxe package also includes a lavish 124 page book on each track, and an essay from Mark Ellen.
The first 27 are related to the songs on the '1' CD and some have had videos especially prepared for this, whilst the 23 on the second disc are a decent selection of tracks. However, though some songs might be duplicated on the first disc, the videos are completely different, and again, some have been made exclusively for this release editing in previously unused film. All the same, it's this second disc that will probably be the most interesting of the two. As if you needed any, both discs have 'extras' of Paul giving audio commentaries on 'Penny Lane', 'Hello Goodbye' and 'Hey Jude', whilst Ringo filmed introductions to those same three songs plus 'Get Back'. Disc 2 has a commentary by Paul on 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and a Ringo intro.
Albeit in black and white, when I watched the restored 'AHDN' film it looked as if it was made the previous week; much on here has a similar feel in that the restoration has removed all traces of scratching, jumping and the detritus that accumulates on film over time and each one is now very watchable. No wonder it's taken years to finish. What you see is the group's progression from nicely turned out boys (appearance did matter) to doing things their way, foibles and all. Strangely, only five of the 50 are live, on stage performances and it's good to hear 'From Me To You' without screaming – the Royal Variety Show wasn't the place for that.
'Twist And Shout' is unusual in that their positions on stage are reversed, whilst 'She Loves You' from Sweden grinds into the dirt with a well heeled Cuban boot the oft held view of some that the group weren't much live. The version of 'A Hard Day's Night' is the best on stage rendition of that song, 'Can't Buy Me Love' utilises a slightly different vocal, and the second 'I Feel Fine' is the one that had the Beatles making no attempt to mime to the music, which is why it was never originally shown. The BBC version of 'Words Of Love' combines footage of the boys with some clever animation. The non UK single of 'Eight Days A Week' (a strange choice for a single) was never performed either on stage or for television, so it's an amalgamation of footage from the '65 Shea Stadium show. On the other hand, 'Eleanor Rigby' is taken directly from the Yellow Submarine film.
Though not shown until a fortnight later, 'Please Please Me' was the second song performed on their first filmed appearance for the Ed Sullivan show. 'Rain' is seen in both colour and a newly created black and white edit performed straight to camera that hasn't been seen for 50 years, and try miming to backwards singing, whilst their most celebrated videos of both 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields' are full of colour and no longer look 'washed out' (the tree in the latter is no longer there). To get some idea of what they might have looked like had they carried on touring into 1968, 'Revolution' is the teaser (the film itself bitch slaps any other performance - mimed or live - by anyone else since back in its place), and 'Hey Jude' is an edit of two other performances to the one usually shown (it also has a different introduction). Look out for John's knowing look when the hula girl dances in front of him on 'Hello Goodbye'. By far the worst thing here, and one that probably unknown by many (including me), is a rather silly animation of 'Come Together', commissioned for the launch of thebeatles.com, but it is the first time it's been seen properly. The other side of that single, 'Something' is ironic in that though this was the final time all four collaborated on film, no two Beatles are shown together. It's the simplest of films and, watched retrospectively, shows how far apart they had now grown. Two videos many might not be familiar with are 'Get Back' and 'Don't Let Me Down', both collected to promote 'Let It Be...Naked' in 2003. 'Free As A Bird' and 'Real Love' are the videos from '94 and '95 but this time with improved quality. Not only that, the former has a different George vocal whilst the latter has a different guitar.
As good as each one is, there is one, albeit minor, negative to this. Having three videos of 'Day Tripper' and 'Hello Goodbye' does seem a bit excessive. I'm sure another couple of live performances could have been found, as we know they exist. (Maybe Apple are planning a live release, or didn't want to impinge on the up and coming film cinema documentary.) But it is what it is and Apple obviously had their reasons for including what they have. Included here is a Jukebox 1 and Jukebox 2 option that allows you to programme what you want to watch in any order. Grainy some of them might be, but that's how it was back then.
Has the wait for those elusive promo films (and more) been worth it? Whilst there a few bits and pieces we haven't seen before, enough of it has been, let's say, difficult to come by and certainly never commercially released before. That this package includes so many previously hard to see films makes it worth the admission price. If you have a Blu ray player that upscales to 4K (most do) and an appropriate television, with this most sumptuous collection of music videos, you're in for a visual (and audio) delight.
Buy it. It's the Beatles!
In 1995, the night the video "Free As a Bird" premiered on national television (the first "new" Beatles song in over a quarter of a century), I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again - Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away - was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, "Oh, Tom! What's the big deal"? I told her that no one who didn't live through that turbulent era, could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation.
I haven't seen this DVD package, but I have seen all of these films and videos in other, less technically enhanced formats. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. I promise you that.
The Beatles still matter. You'd better believe it.