Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beatles Remasters, or "You Like Me Too Much"

Or maybe "I Should Have Known Better". Golly, the whole damn world is falling over themselves going on and on about how great these new Beatles remasters sound - the clarity, the punch, the sparkle, instruments that they'd never heard before (!)...

I'll agree that they are a bit better. But not necessarily ALL THAT.

I do think that President Obama missed out on a great opportunity for a stimulus package on this, however. Can you imagine if he'd given a $50 voucher toward the purchase of this box set? Turn in your old "clunker" Beatles cd's for a new and improved batch! Help support the economy, your country, and Michael Jackson's long line of lien holders!

Try this for grits and shins - take one of your new remasters, and play it while following along in this site of Beatles Anomolies. This site lists a bunch of audio oddities and mixing mistakes that ended up in the final Beatles recordings. Now, granted, this stuff is bound to be considered minutia by most casual listeners, but they're actually in there, for anyone to hear.

Of course, many of these mistakes have become integral part of the songs, themselves, but many more have not. Most are generally transparent, until you know that they are there. You all knew that someone says "Oh, f*cking 'ell!" in "Hey Jude", right? Plain as day. Right there at 2:58, along with the line "Then you begin". Listen here, if you don't have it handy. NOW you hear you'll ALWAYS hear it. And if it were missing, the song would be incomplete...we all hear it as part of the song.

But I was amazed/appalled at how much non-critical stuff was NOT FIXED! These are the 21st century remasters of the Beatles, for Pete's sake! Are they worried that listeners are going to miss that "fwip" on the cowbell at :47 on "Taxman"?!? No.

These are the same guys who turned 12 albums worth of great music into (gasp!) 19 albums here in the states. And a whopping 34 albums of compilations! It's all about q u a n t i t y of product. Heck, they even have a MONO box set, which in my opinion, ought to cost about HALF as much as the stereo set, but for some reason costs even MORE. Besides the fact that once the U.S. Limited Edition run of 10,000 copies ran out, they promptly MADE MORE...doesn't sound so limited or exclusive any more, does it?!?

Some fans may think that the $12 per cd price tag isn't that bad...but, come on! These are 35-minute albums! What about the other 45 minutes available on the cd? Howbout two-fers maybe? Both the stereo and mono versions on the same disc? Bonus tracks? Nope. Just crappy 5-minute Quicktime movies that you'll watch one time. Meh.

Leaving a bunch of mistakes in the remasters allows them to re-re-re-re-release the same material yet AGAIN, once sales of these remasters has leveled off. "Newly Repaired Remasters - Sounds Better Than Ever Before!"...then the Remixes...then the 5.1 Surrounds...then the separate which time the true Beatlefans who have every available released version could have bought themselves a car, and listened to the Beatles on the car radio instead. Beep-beep 'm' beep-beep yeah!

The 1999 "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" cd of remixes was impeccable. My only hangup about the Songtrack album was that the tracklist was brand new: I'm unaccustomed to listening to these songs in this order. But THIS is the way to have our Beatles music: clean, polished, fixed...these songs on this disc actually were revelatory. The new remasters, I'm afraid, are not.

When I think back to how impressive some other remix/remasters have been (Alan Parsons Project 1976 1987 "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination", Beach Boys 1966 1997 "Pet Sounds Sessions", among others), these remasters almost pale in comparison.

I bought most of the Beatles lp's, some tapes, sheet music, all of the cd's, scores of bootlegs, Anthology...I just don't happen to have the spare $400 right now.

And I won't, until these are fully remixed. And re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-remastered...

NOTE: Even though the above rant may have seemed a bit cynical, we can rest assured that the REMIXED remasters will probably be coming out - look at the most recent Beatles bootleg/leaks: a year ago, sixteen multitracks from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band were making the rounds on the internet, and in February of this year, take 20 of "Revolution 1" (which showed the evolution from the slow version to the Revolution 9 version, along with some odd "Mama, Dada" vocals from Paul and George)...not to mention those 2006 "Love" album's mashup/remixes.

Now, referring to this CNN report, Allan Rouse says that the remaster project took four and a half years, that the team spent an average of two weeks on each album...let's do some should certainly have taken less than a year to remaster the entire catalog, then! Just what was being done the other three and a half years?!?

Transferring all of those multitracks, is my guess. So I'm saving now to buy the remixed remasters in a few years. THOSE will be worth the wait. And I don't doubt that they're coming - just wait for the current sales to taper off, and be ready for the announcement.

I'll start by buying a "Piggies"-bank.