Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Beatles – Love

In spring of 2006, I think it was, I was reading an article about how poorly The Beatles music has been served in terms of digital remastering.  The article mentioned that a high-definition surround mix was being done in conjunction with a Cirque du Soleil production featuring The Beatles’ music.  That Cirque du Soleil was involved sounded like a bad idea to me at the time because these are the people who regularly produce over-the-top extravaganzas for the Las Vegas crowd.  Think Wayne Newton on steroids.  Ugh.  Neither was the info that what C du S wanted was a Beatles mash-up.  What was of great interest were second hand reports from people who had been involved with the project that the original masters of The Beatles music were so fine that the high-definition mix sounded brilliant with details in the music that people had never heard before even though they’d listened to these songs thousands of times.  I thought “please, please, please, make it available to the general public”. 

Well, they have.  The Beatles “Love” is a two disc set that contains the C du S mash-up in a PCM stereo mix, a 5.1 DTS surround mix, and a 5.1 high-resolution DVD-Audio mix.  The only version I’ve listened to is the high resolution DVD-Audio mix and so all comments refer to this mix alone.  The album was put together by George Martin, the original producer on The Beatles’ albums, and his son Giles.  With the exception of a short string composition George Martin wrote to accompany “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, everything else on the disc is taken from music recorded by The Beatles. 

I had thought a Beatles mash-up was likely to do more harm than good and so I was both surprised and delighted to find that the Martins did a terrific job.  The amalgamation of songs, the dense layering of bits and snippets from this song and that, and the flow achieved by playing segments of the original music backwards, forwards, slowed down and sped up are simply brilliant.   Some of the layered passages are so dense that at first listen it comes across almost as noise.  However with repeated listening you start to recognize passages from different songs in the mix.  It’s as if every time you hear it you discover something new – very enjoyable and very cool.  At times the combination of songs is so seamless and so good it’s almost unbelievable.  Check out the Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing combo.  “Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!” indeed.

Although the sheer enjoyment one gets from hearing this very familiar music in a very new way is likely no matter which version of the production you listen to, the superb quality of both the sound and the 5.1 surround mix in the DVD-audio version are what make this a must-buy for me.  Although not all of the music was equally well recorded and you can hear the differences in the high resolution mix, for the most part it sounds very, very good.  The separation of the instruments and especially of the vocals from the instruments is astonishing and with this separation comes a clarity that really does allow you to hear things you may not have heard before no matter how familiar you are with this music.  The vocal harmonies are breathtaking at times and McCartney’s melodic and often complex basslines are clarified and brought out in the mix.  The surround mix is very well done and, assuming you have a system with properly positioned and balanced speakers, it places you right in the midst of the band. 

Apple Corps. Ltd. is notorious for being extremely conservative with The Beatles music.  I desperately hope the resounding success of “Love” serves as a kick in the ass to get them going on producing a high-resolution 5.1 surround mix of all of The Beatles albums.  From the evidence of what we’ve heard with “Love” the original recordings were so well done (kudos to the engineers) that we can expect hearing a modern surround remix will be a revelation.  And more in Apple’s interest, will lead us to buy these albums all over again.

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01/14/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music

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