Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
By David Chiu
For a group that has bee revolutionary for nearly 50 years, the Beatles frankly have been kind of behind when it comes to the audio quality of their CDs (We’re not even going to touch on digital downloads). The sound on those original 1987 versions of their British albums is adequate but don’t reflect the improvements or upgrades in remastering that are so common these days.
But coming on Wednesday, Sept. 9, that’s all going to change when the Beatles entire studio catalog, including the Yellow Submarine soundtrack and Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2, is being reissued. And the results are damn good. The clarity on the remasters is remarkable, containing that extra sonic boost missing from the original CD issues—but nothing dramatic or completely revisionist that would offend purists who know every note on every album. Beatles fans and audio freaks can finally have something to celebrate.
In addition to much better sound, each album has a thick booklet of artwork, photographs and liner notes rather than the paper-thin sleeves of the original CDs. There’s also a QuickTime mini-documentary featuring footage and interviews from the Fab Four about the songs and album—they’re nicely produced but one wishes they were a little bit longer in length to add more historical perspective.
As for the albums—well they speak for themselves and don’t need much reiteration. Certainly the Beatles’mid- to late-period releases—in which they used the studio as an instrument in itself—benefits from the new sonic upgrade. And typical of each new Beatles release, it’s chance to revisit the great albums again. For example, the new edition of Rubber Soul could be considered a reflective Beatles albums deviating from its poppy predecessors and the start of their experimentations such as the use of sitar on “Norwegian Wood.” And a majority of that album contains many beloved tracks from “Drive My Car,” the lovely “In My Life,” and “Nowhere Man.”
If there is one Beatles album that definitely deserves a remastering is the masterpiece Sgt.Pepper, where the Beatles and producer really took recording to a whole new level. It is still remarkable how that album, with all its nooks, crannies and nuances, was made using the technology at the time. it’s a glorious trip to hear classics such as the title track, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and the grand finale “A Day in the Life” now with this fresh sonic treatment.
The same could be said for the whimsical Magical Mystery Tour, which follows in the same musical spirit of Pepper (“I Am The Walrus,” “The Fool on the Hill,” and especially the innovative “Strawberry Fields Forever”). And Yellow Submarine, while it contains only six band songs, including two that has already been released, has some wonderful movie-inspired artwork and packaging.
Abbey Road, the last Beatles album to be recorded, still retains its popularity and brilliance 40 years after its original release, containing George Harrison’s most popular songs in “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something” along with Paul McCartney’s brilliant medley “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” and John Lennon’s “Come Together.”