From the Listening Room: The Beatles 1962-1966 'Red' Album- Digesting the Most Delicious Audio Meal
What delights did the gods of the audio world bestow upon us this holiday season? Triple vinyl sets of the Beatles iconic ‘Red and Blue’ album!
Continuing with the process of updating the Beatles catalog to the best sonics available in the 21st century (so far), we get a little reimagining and a taste of things to come with the release of the Beatles gold standard ‘Greatest Hits’ or rather best overview of the band. Not to mention the gateway albums into the peerless world of the Beatles catalog.
Yes. Like many of you, my introduction to the Beatles were the ‘Red’ 1962-1966 and the ‘Blue’ 1966-1970 double album sets. Originally released in 1973 and oddly enough, compiled by the notorious, Allen Klein. Say what you will about the man, but he did have an ear for compilation albums. He was also responsible for the Rolling Stones, ‘Hot Rocks’ album, which is another stellar piece of song selection and sequencing burned into my brain from an early age.
A few weeks ago, we were offered a new version of the ‘Red and Blue’ albums to celebrate their 50th anniversary, to serve as a landing pad for the Beatles track, “Now and Then”, to correct and expand some omissions, and to introduce to world some new Giles Martin remixes. The latter is what most interested me.
Upon the release date, I spent most of the evening listening to the entire ‘Red’ album front to back. This is the album that has all new mixes, none previously heard, as the remix project has currently ended with ‘Revolver’. I am a big fan of the remixed albums thus far so I was excited to hear a teaser of what I can only assume is going to be released.
Quick note: As I mentioned in our previous post, it is through Peter Jacksons technology that Giles was able to do these remixes properly. The Beatles were using 4 tracks at the time, and they were bouncing tracks constantly, saving things like vocals for separate tracks, so to be able to make a modern mix whereby each component is on its own track, Peter Jacksons MAL Tech was invaluable. Just like the separation on the ‘Now and Then’ demo, now Giles could get all the drums, bass, harmonies, etc on individual faders to make a full true stereo mix.
I know many purest Beatles aficionados are not fans of this remixing business, but I have to say I absolutely love it. Some more than others, but the vast majority are technicolor magic to my ears. But onto the albums…
For me, the earliest tracks the Beatles recorded, do benefit from the remix treatment, but they also lose a bit of the patina of era they came from. ‘Love Me Do’ sounds amazing, but it is a different feeling to have it sound so expansive. Perhaps it’s just not that type of song to my ears. It’s a live song by a new group just trying to do the best they can. You can hear the nerves in Paul’s vocal. It is the first protozoa Beatles recording crawling out of your speakers. The sonically bigger version of Giles Martin robs it of this purity. So, I’m going to jump into Side B album 1 and beyond, starting with ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. This side really gets it all going. The sonics, the power of the Beatles, and the love of guitars is all fully on display. I could go track by track (because I’m a bit obsessive) but just put on ‘Ticket to Ride’ or ‘I Feel Fine’, or even better, ‘Day Tripper’. The drumming at the coda of Day Tripper is all you need to hear. Ringo’s fills smeared across the stereo field sound incredibly dynamic as you’ve never heard them before.
But the Beatles were not just about rock; ‘And, I Love Her’, ‘Yesterday ‘, ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ and my favorite, “Norwegian Wood’, sound absolutely all encapsulating in their ‘more’ acoustic setting. The tracks burst with autumnal colors and make you feel like you’re in the room with the band. (I can’t wait to hear ‘I’ve just Seen a Face’).
Giles Martin has done a wonderful job modernizing these timeless songs and still retaining the spirit of the original mixes that we are all familiar with. I do think it should be noted that the additional album that now comes with the anniversary release is a very valuable addition to the trajectory of the Beatles history. Now we have some George Harrison songs and the essential, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, which must have seemed like an alien track to listeners in 1966. One of my favorite songs of all time and a crucial song to include in any overview of the Beatles career.
I can only assume that the full remixed version of Rubber Soul is coming, along with the rest of the catalog, but for now I am more than happy to have this tasting menu to blast through my Tannoy speakers. I can only hope that the next generation and beyond will find these compilations as perfect as I did as an entry into the world of the Beatles.