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Yet again, a new release of the Beatles catalog

On the auspicious date of 09/09/09, the Lads from Liverpool, or rather the two that are left, along with their producer George Martin released another set of the Beatles catalog to CD. This set, though, is remastered at their hands, and contains plentiful additional content. Of course, each time such a release becomes available, it begs the question – is it worth the purchase? This can be a vexing question for a group that has had so many iterations of their music become available that there is quite possibly not a CD collection in the Western World without at least one of their albums.

Today, I took the plunge, and purchased what for me is my favorite, The Beatles album, commonly referred to as the White album ( it is playing on my headphones as as I type this). I confess that this album, which arrived in my house during my junior high years fueled adolescent love and lust, along with a healthy dose of escape from reality (I will leave you to imagine the means of that escape). Because of this, it is almost ingrained in my psyche, and thus, is an excellent test of whether they “got it right.” I should also point out one other item for those that know me, personally. I am an avid vinyl collector. I have every other record the Beatles ever made in both the US Capitol and UK Parlophone original pressings (and starting with this album, US and UK Apple labels), but with this album, I only have my well played copy from my youth – hardly pristine. In CD format, I have the 1998 release, which contained packaging mimicking the original record album.

On to my impressions.

The packaging is nice, and somewhat eco-friendly, as there is no plastic jewel case. Instead of being bi-fold like the original album or the 1998 CD release, it is quad fold. the inner two folds contain the CDs and the outer two sleeaves contain a faithful but smaller reproduction of the original poster, and a booklet, containing lyrics, small images of the original headshots that accompanied the original release, as well as additional photos from 1968, “Historical Notes,” and “Recording Notes,” related to the production of the album. Overall, it’s well put together, and in my view, properly reflects the direction the Beatles were trying to take with this album.

Now it is time to answer the question. Yes, overall, they got it right. I caveat this by saying that I haven’t yet played it on my high-end system (I will do so over the coming weekend). However, I’ve noted several remarkable things during listening – among them are, how much more distinct the voicing of the guitars are in songs like Yer Blues, and Helter Skelter; how much better the mix seems to be with regard to horn sections on several songs, and an overall tonal balance from low bass to high treble. I should note that this album in the stereo mix has always had plenty of hard right/left channel mixing, as was the Beatles custom. That does not disappear here, so if that disturbs you, go for the mono release (it’s nice to have choices!). In fact, many say that the mono mix is definitive, but for me, having grown up with the stereo mix, it is what I prefer.

So for me, this was clearly worth the price, and will put the album back in heavy rotation for me. It will be interesting, though, to hear what is done with the mixes on the early albums that had somewhat of an “AM radio” mix quality – many pop albums had diminished highs and low end as the expected delivery mechanism was an AM radio. Perhaps I’ll have to go back and buy the entire box set in order to find out!

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Blessings to you!

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