Note: Of course, since I wrote this post, the excellent Beatles stereo and mono masters have been released. I have added the original press release announcing those two box sets at the end of this post.
It’s become a standard method of irritating all the members on your average music forums and a way of getting April Fools’ Day in early: Mentioning, announcing or just bringing up new Beatles remasters in a subclause is guaranteed to illicit a reaction, be it mild or venomous.
The problem is simple. Aside from a compilation of #1 hits and a bunch of single remasters and the odd boxed set, the Beatles back catalog has been lying dormant far too long. What is completely missing is a concerted effort of remastering some of the best music of the 20th century (actually, any century).
Your mileage may vary considerably, but for music collectors, the Beatles’ recordings would be a cornerstone of their collection, were they available. I’m not even going to get into the (old/new) rumors that Michael Jackson is going to sell the rights to the Beatles catalogue to Sony (I guess he must really be broke) or that, actually, the whole catalog has already been remastered (yeah, right), awaiting release in 2006. I’ll leave that discussion to others.
What is sad though, and what is unfortunately not an infrequent occurence when having a closer look at other major artists, the avid fans have been left out in the cold too long to really take anything anybody says or announces seriously anymore. It seems to be another addition to the endless tale of corporate business idiocy, music mismanagement and musician’s infighting, to not give the audience what it would like most. The fans are simply ignored and the myriad of pleading posts on forums and websites are merely shrugged off.
I’m really tired of being made to feel like an idiot by the music industry, by the lawyers and sometimes by the musicians themselves. It cannot be that difficult to get some decent-sounding reissues of all the Beatles albums out, no matter what the legal difficulties are. It’s enough to become paranoid, thinking that the reissue trickles the fans are offered here and there are just thrown on the market to keep them happy, to keep the memory of what they can’t have alive.
Making the fans scurry all across the globe, hunting for those elusive single reissues that might sound a tad better than what was released at the dawn of the CD age, having them hunt around for second-hand vinyl with prices beyond the reach of mere mortals and terrorizing them with ever more (in)frequent rumors as to a product which might possibly be available in their lifetime, is just another way of telling them to take a flying leap at the moon.
And we’re supposed to stay legal, paying for every half-assed remaster which might then be bettered by another one down the line? I’m done doing the rabbit dance, thank you. With all the trouble one has nowadays in regard to non-standard non-CDs, irritating copy protection mechanisms, insulting campaigns calling us thieves, criminals and terrorists, this is just another brick in the wall, cementing a clear dividing line between the people supplying a product and those supposed to buy it. Let’s see who needs to do the leaping down the line.
[Update April 7th, 2009]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2009
The Beatles’ Entire Original Recorded Catalogue Remastered By Apple Corps Ltd. And EMI Music For Worldwide Release On September 9, 2009
Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music are delighted to announce the release of the original Beatles catalogue, which has been digitally re-mastered for the first time, for worldwide CD release on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 (9-9-09), the same date as the release of the widely anticipated “The Beatles: Rock Band” video game. Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. On the same date, two new Beatles boxed CD collections will also be released.
The albums have been re-mastered by a dedicated team of engineers at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London over a four year period utilising state of the art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment, carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings. The result of this painstaking process is the highest fidelity the catalogue has seen since its original release.
The collection comprises all 12 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork as originally released in the UK, and ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ which became part of The Beatles’ core catalogue when the CDs were first released in 1987. In addition, the collections ‘Past Masters Vol. I and II’ are now combined as one title, for a total of 14 titles over 16 discs. This will mark the first time that the first four Beatles albums will be available in stereo in their entirety on compact disc. These 14 albums, along with a DVD collection of the documentaries, will also be available for purchase together in a stereo boxed set.
Within each CD’s new packaging, booklets include detailed historical notes along with informative recording notes. With the exception of the ‘Past Masters’ set, newly produced mini-documentaries on the making of each album, directed by Bob Smeaton, are included as QuickTime files on each album. The documentaries contain archival footage, rare photographs and never-before-heard studio chat from The Beatles, offering a unique and very personal insight into the studio atmosphere.
A second boxed set has been created with the collector in mind. ‘The Beatles in Mono’ gathers together, in one place, all of the Beatles recordings that were mixed for a mono release. It will contain 10 of the albums with their original mono mixes, plus two further discs of mono masters (covering similar ground to the stereo tracks on ‘Past Masters’). As an added bonus, the mono “Help!” and “Rubber Soul” discs also include the original 1965 stereo mixes, which have not been previously released on CD. These albums will be packaged in mini-vinyl CD replicas of the original sleeves with all original inserts and label designs retained.
Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalogue will continue. There is no further information available at this time.
U.S. Media Contacts UK Media Contact
For Apple Corps Ltd.: For Apple Corps Ltd.:
Shore Fire Media MBC PR
Matt Hanks Moira Bellas
(718) 522-7171 / firstname.lastname@example.org 0 20 7483 9205 / email@example.com
(718) 522-7171 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Ballantyne – EMI Music North America
(323) 871-5494 / email@example.com
The Stereo Albums (available individually and collected in a stereo boxed set)
The stereo albums have been remastered by Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee
All CD packages contain original vinyl artwork and liner notes
Extensive archival photos
Additional historical notes by Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley
Additional recording notes by Allan Rouse and Kevin Howlett
* = CD includes QuickTime mini-doc about the album
Please Please Me* (CD debut in stereo)
With The Beatles* (CD debut in stereo)
A Hard Day’s Night* (CD debut in stereo)
Beatles For Sale* (CD debut in stereo)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band* (also includes 1987 notes, updated, and new intro by Paul McCartney)
Magical Mystery Tour*
Yellow Submarine* (also includes original US liner notes)
Let It Be*
Past Masters (contains new liner notes written by Kevin Howlett)
‘The Beatles in Mono’ (boxed set only)
The mono albums have been remastered by Paul Hicks, Sean Magee with Guy Massey and Steve Rooke
Presented together in box with an essay written by Kevin Howlett
+ = mono mix CD debut
Please Please Me
With The Beatles
A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles For Sale
Help! (CD also includes original 1965 stereo mix)+
Rubber Soul (CD also include original 1965 stereo mix)+
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band+
Magical Mystery Tour+
Re-mastering the Beatles catalogue
The re-mastering process commenced with an extensive period conducting tests before finally copying the analogue master tapes into the digital medium. When this was completed, the transfer was achieved using a Pro Tools workstation operating at 24 bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter. Transferring was a lengthy procedure done a track at a time. Although EMI tape does not suffer the oxide loss associated with some later analogue tapes, there was nevertheless a slight build up of dust, which was removed from the tape machine heads between each title.
From the onset, considerable thought was given to what audio restorative processes were going to be allowed. It was agreed that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be improved where possible, so long as it didn’t impact on the original integrity of the songs.
In addition, de-noising technology, which is often associated with re-mastering, was to be used, but subtly and sparingly. Eventually, less than five of the 525 minutes of Beatles music was subjected to this process. Finally, as is common with today’s music, overall limiting – to increase the volume level of the CD – has been used, but on the stereo versions only. However, it was unanimously agreed that because of the importance of The Beatles’ music, limiting would be used moderately, so as to retain the original dynamics of the recordings.
When all of the albums had been transferred, each song was then listened to several times to locate any of the agreed imperfections. These were then addressed by Guy Massey, working with Audio Restoration engineer Simon Gibson.
Mastering could now take place, once the earliest vinyl pressings, along with the existing CDs, were loaded into Pro Tools, thus allowing comparisons to be made with the original master tapes during the equalization process. When an album had been completed, it was auditioned the next day in studio three – a room familiar to the engineers, as all of the recent Beatles mixing projects had taken place in there – and any further alteration of EQ could be addressed back in the mastering room. Following the initial satisfaction of Guy and Steve, Allan Rouse and Mike Heatley then checked each new re-master in yet another location and offered any further suggestions. This continued until all 13 albums were completed to the team’s satisfaction.
New Notes/Documentaries Team
Kevin Howlett (Historical and Recording Notes)
Kevin Howlett’s career as an award-winning radio producer spans three decades. His music programmes for the BBC have included many documentaries about The Beatles, including ‘The Beeb’s Lost Beatles Tapes.’ He received a Grammy nomination for his involvement with The Beatles’ album ‘Live At The BBC’ and, in 2003, produced the ‘Fly On The Wall’ bonus disc for ‘Let It Be… Naked.’
Mike Heatley (Historical Notes)
Mike entered the music business via HMV Record Stores in 1970, transferring to EMI Records’ International Division three years later. He eventually headed up that division in the early Eighties before joining the company’s newly created Strategic Marketing Division in 1984. In 1988, he returned to International, where he undertook a number of catalogue marketing roles until he retired in December 2008.
During his career he worked with many of EMI’s major artists, including Pink Floyd, Queen, Kate Bush and Iron Maiden. However, during the last 30 years he has formed a particularly strong relationship with Apple, and has been closely involved in the origination and promotion of the Beatles catalogue, besides solo releases from John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Bob Smeaton (Director, Mini-Documentaries)
Bob Smeaton was series director and writer on the Grammy award winning ‘Beatles Anthology’ TV series which aired in the UK and the USA in 1995. In 1998 he received his second Grammy for his ‘Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys’ documentary. In 2004 he gained his first feature film credit, as director on the feature documentary ‘Festival Express.’ He subsequently went on to direct documentaries on many of the world’s biggest music acts including The Who, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Elton John, Nirvana and the Spice Girls.
Julian Caiden (Editor, Mini-Documentaries)
Julian has worked with Bob Smeaton on numerous music documentaries including ‘Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys’ and the ‘Classic Albums’ series, featuring The Who, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Elton John and Nirvana among others. He has worked on documentary profiles from Richard Pryor to Dr. John to Sir Ian McKellen, Herbie Hancock and Damien Hirst and on live music shows including the New York Dolls and Club Tropicana.
The Abbey Road Team
Allan Rouse (Project Coordinator)
Allan joined EMI straight from school in 1971 at their Manchester Square head office, working as an assistant engineer in the demo studio. During this time he frequently worked with Norman (Hurricane) Smith, The Beatles’ first recording engineer.
In 1991, he had his first involvement with The Beatles, copy¬ing all of their master tapes (mono, stereo, 4-track and 8-track) to digital tape as a safety backup. This was followed by four years working with Sir George Martin as assistant and project coordinator on the TV documentary ‘The Making of Sgt. Pepper’s’ and the CDs ‘Live at the BBC’ and ‘The Anthol¬ogy.’
In 1997, MGM/UA were preparing to reissue the film ‘Yellow Submarine’ and, with the permission of Apple, asked that all of The Beatles’ music be mixed for the film in 5.1 surround and stereo. Allan requested the services of Abbey Road’s senior engineer Peter Cobbin and assistant Guy Massey and, along with them, produced the new mixes.
Two years later, he proposed an experimental stereo and surround mix of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ engineered by Peter Cobbin. Following lengthy consultations with Yoko Ono, the album ‘Imagine’ was re-mixed in stereo and the Grammy award-winning film ‘Gimme Some Truth’ in surround and new stereo. This led to a further five of John’s albums being re-mastered with new stereo mixes and the DVD release of ‘Lennon Legend’ being re-mixed in 5.1 surround and new stereo.
Further projects followed, including The Beatles ‘Anthol¬ogy’, ‘The First US Visit’ and ‘Help’ DVD and the albums ‘Let It Be…Naked’ and ‘Love’ along with George Harrison’s ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ DVD and album.
For a number of years now, Allan has worked exclusively on Beatles and related projects.
Guy Massey (Recording Engineer)
Guy joined Abbey Road in 1994, and five years later assisted on the surround remix for The Beatles film ‘Yellow Submarine.’ This led to The Beatles’ ‘Anthology’ DVD and later, along with Paul Hicks and Allan Rouse, they mixed and produced ‘Let It Be… Naked.’ In 2004 he left the studios to become freelance and has engineered The Divine Comedy: ‘Victory for the Comic Muse,’ Air Traffic: ‘Fractured Life,’ James Dean Bradfield: ‘The Great Western’ and Stephen Fretwell’s ‘Magpie,’ co-producing the last two. Since leaving, Guy is still a vital member of the team, and has been the senior engineer for the re-mastering project and was responsible for surround and new stereo mixes for the DVD release of ‘Help!’
Steve Rooke (Mastering Engineer)
Steve joined Abbey Road in 1983 and is now the studio’s senior mastering engineer. He has been involved on all The Beatles’ projects since 1999. He has also been responsible for mastering releases by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Paul Hicks (Recording Engineer)
Paul started at Abbey Road in 1994, and his first involvement with The Beatles was assisting engineer Geoff Emerick on the Anthology albums. This was followed by ‘Yellow Submarine Songtrack,’ ‘Anthology’ DVD and ‘Let It Be… Naked.’ Like Guy Massey, he has also become a freelance engineer and since leaving the studios he has been responsible for the surround mixing of Paul McCartney’s DVD ‘The McCartney Years’ and The Beatles’ ‘Love.’ Paul has been in charge of the mono re-masters.
Sean Magee (Mastering Engineer)
Sean began working at Abbey Road in 1995 with a diploma in sound engineering. With a wealth of knowledge in analog and digital mastering, he has worked alongside Paul Hicks on the mono re-masters.
Sam Okell (Recording Engineer)
Sam’s first job as a member of the team was in 2006, assisting Paul Hicks on Paul McCartney’s DVD ‘The McCartney Years,’ and during that same year he was responsible for the re-mastering of George Harrison’s ‘Living In The Material World’ CD along with Steve Rooke. This led to him restoring the soundtrack to the Beatles film ‘Help!’ in surround and stereo, in addition to assisting Guy Massey with the song remixes.
Sam has re-mastered ‘With The Beatles’ and ‘Let It Be.’
Simon Gibson (Audio Restoration Engineer)
Simon joined Abbey Road in 1990. He has progressed from mastering mostly classical recordings to include a much wider range of music, including pop and rock, with his specialized role as an audio restoration engineer. Apart from the re-mastering project, his other work includes George Harrison’s ‘Living In The Material World,’ John Lennon’s ‘Lennon Legend,’ The Beatles’ ‘Love’ and the ‘Help!’ DVD so