'The Beatles Remastered.' Getting better all the time?
With improved sonics and sparkling-clean tracks, the 14 albums offer a chance to experience the fab four's recorded legacy.
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The packaging is, in a word, fab. Each album features the original British song sequencing and cover artwork and there are, thankfully, no plastic jewel boxes. Instead, each CD is housed in a trifold cardboard sleeve along with a booklet containing recording notes by producer Martin, an essay placing each album in historical context, along with a generous sprinkling of rare photos of the boys. Each CD also boasts a delightful four-minute QuickTime movie that illuminates the making of that particular album. Photos and audio interviews with all four Beatles are cleverly assembled and animated to put you right there at the sessions. You'd think they are all still around, having a cup of Earl Grey, chatting and dropping amusing anecdotes. These fascinating little mini-docs alone are worth the price of the box forany Beatlemaniac.Skip to next paragraph
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If you're just a casual fan, you might find the Remastered Beatles more than you need, especially if you've already got the albums you enjoy. Perhaps you'll just want to pick up a few of your absolute favorites for the vastly improved sound and extras. I fall into the small camp of critics who think the original CDs released in 1987 sounded pretty darn good. I still think they sound good, even after listening to all of the new ones. Of course, I still play the scratchy old vinyl versions at home on my 1954 Magnavox hifi, so what do I know...
One recommendation, though: A surprising number of people I've encountered, rabid fans all, do not own one of the very best Beatles' albums, "Past Masters 1 & 2." Since most of the Beatles' various singles weren't on their albums, their record company assembled 32 singles, B-sides, and a few novelties like the German versions of "She Loves You" ("Sie Liebt Dich") and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" ("Komm, Gig Mir Deine Hand") on a two-disc set in the late 1980s. This material has now been remastered as a double disc set, and no (even casual) collection should be without the cool rocker "Day Tripper," Paul's incendiary "Paperback Writer," "I Feel Fine," John and Paul's charming duet on "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Lady Madonna," the underrated "She's a Woman," or the irresistible "Hey Jude."
Listening to 14 Beatles albums in chronological order was a total gas, reconfirming not only the greatness and appeal of their music, but its unflagging vitality. The spark was struck from the very first seconds of their first album, with Paul's urgent "One, two, three, foh!" kicking off "I Saw Her Standing There." Is there a better rock song, even now? Or a better rock singer than McCartney or Lennon at their best?
A fresh listen to their career output revealed that everything we loved about them was already there on that first LP "Please Please Me" – John's acerbic edge and rock 'n' roll soul, Paul's sweet optimism and pop melodicism, George's old-school guitar chops, and Ringo's swinging drumming and charmingly off-key vocals. The only thing not yet in evidence was their ability to reinvent themselves continuously and carry us along on their fascinating, fun-filled, and fabulous seven-year ride. The Beatles Remastered offers us a chance to reexperience those heady years, those wonderful songs, and those four charismatic and talented young men. For the price of a fine meal with friends or a speeding ticket, you, too, could own all 14 discs. Do you need them? Probably not. Should you get them? Oh yes.
• Check online retailers for cut prices on the boxed set.