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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Pop > Soul > The Beatles 1962-1966 (The 'Red' Album) + 1967-1970 (The 'Blue' Album/Universal/Apple Records CD Hits Set)

The Beatles 1962-1966 (The 'Red' Album) + 1967-1970 (The 'Blue' Album/Universal/Apple Records CD Hits Set)

Sound: B Extras: C+ Music: A-

The Beatles, the music act that changed music in the 20th Century and for all time more than any other in the last century, the group that transformed music and helped build the music business into the massive, priceless entity it is today, the one everyone wants to be like and have the success that is the platinum standard of art and commerce. The one whose charting and sales records are sometimes broken, but with many left to go down and more than a few still out of reach of the most successful artists in the industry since.

But it is not about charting records, but music that continues to grow in value and endure. When these new upgrades arrived, some said the remixes should have had slightly altered covers to not look exactly like the original album releases, but the differences might not be that dramatic and even between older edition, Beatles and vinyl fans will even debate how some of those sets then might have sounded better than others, which means you could do an entire book on the differences in the thousands of different editions worldwide of every single Beatles release to date. No doubt some such books exist, but a definitive one ought to be in the works.

In the meantime, we'l get to the track here in this CD expansion of The Beatles 1962-1966 (The 'Red' Album) + 1967-1970 (The 'Blue' Album) collections. Though new songs have been added including the new U.K. #1 hit Now And Then (#7 in the U.S.,) most are the same from the original early 1970s first release of both sets. This time, the tracklist is:

Disc 1

1. Love Me Do
2. Please Please Me
3. I Saw Her Standing There
4. Twist And Shout
5. From Me To You
6. She Loves You
7. I Want To Hold Your Hand
8. This Boy
9. All My Loving
10. Roll Over Beethoven
11. You Really Got A Hold On Me
12. Can't Buy Me Love
13. You Can't Do That
14. A Hard Day's Night
15. And I Love Her
16. Eight Days A Week
17. I Feel Fine
18. Ticket To Ride
19. Yesterday

Disc 2
1. Help!
2. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
3. We Can Work It Out
4. Day Tripper
5. Drive My Car
6. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
7. Nowhere Man
8. Michelle
9. In My Life
10. If I Needed Someone
11. Girl
12. Paperback Writer
13. Eleanor Rigby
14. Yellow Submarine
15. Taxman
16. Got To Get You Into My Life
17. I'm Only Sleeping
18. Here, There And Everywhere
19. Tomorrow Never Knows

Disc 3
1. Strawberry Fields Forever
2. Penny Lane
3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
4. With A Little Help From My Friends
5. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
6. Within You Without You
7. A Day In The Life
8. All You Need Is Love
9. I Am The Walrus
10. Hello, Goodbye
11. The Fool On The Hill
12. Magical Mystery Tour
13. Lady Madonna
14. Hey Jude
15. Revolution

Disc 4
1. Back In The U.S.S.R.
2. Dear Prudence
3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
5. Glass Onion
6. Blackbird
7. Hey Bulldog
8. Get Back
9. Don't Let Me Down
10. The Ballad of John and Yoko
11. Old Brown Shoe
12. Here Comes The Sun
13. Come Together
14. Something
15. Octopus' Garden
16. Oh! Darling
17. I Want You (She's So Heavy)
18. Let It Be
19. Across The Universe
20. I Me Mine
21. The Long And Winding Road
22. Now And Then

So it is an amazing list of 75 classics and to address Now And Then, the song John Lennon recorded as a demo on an old audio cassette that somehow survived to this day and the rest of the band then played on, including an instrumental track George Harrison played on when they could not make it work as a group record at the time before his death. I like the record going back to hearing Lennon sing it solo, yet another priceless vocal of a man who had many things to say and was silenced in a murder that could have been prevented, especially as he was still being watched by political forces who did not want him to live into the 1980s. That's another story.

It is an honest song and after liking a few circulating versions, to hear it finished as a group version is more satisfying on this CD than the several versions I heard before. Remarkable that we could have just one last final word a half-century after ''The End'' and especially with what has been happening in and to the world as we post. It is no surprise most people were happy with its release. Fortunately, all the songs continue to be played all the time, somewhere in the world.

Listening to the set reminded me of the now out-of-print Rolling Stones anniversary hits set Grrrr! that featured 50 of their greatest hits remastered. In that case, the early tracks (best heard on the now-expensive Blu-ray Audio disc, though vinyl fans would disagree) from their ABKCO Records days had already been preserved, restored and remastered for the remarkable Super Audio CD series of all their albums in full stereo, though mono was also issued and we reviewed some of them elsewhere on this site.

The early songs and their restorations held up very well, while the later songs from their own Rolling Stones Records label were the big treat and surprise, evidence that in real life when you get past the spoofs, satires, jokes and fun that Mick Jagger is a remarkable singer and even more than many realize. These Beatles tracks work the opposite way, with the later tracks already impressing from the box sets with remastered sound we have covered the last few years, so what would the early tracks that had not received Giles Martin and company's hard work from the original master tapes sound like?

The PCM 2.0 16bit/44.1 kHz Stereo is mostly very impressive for the older songs, from their first singles to Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour that have yet to get their own box sets. Of course, even the earliest songs might have some sonic limits despite the time and money that has been rightly lavished on every single one the band's master tapes. Love Me Do opens up the first CD and though it sounds decent, it has more echo than I though it ought to have. The sound holds steady, then the quality really starts to jump up and kick in on From Me To You, I Want To Hold Your Hand and All My Loving. She Loves You, the track where they lost the original stereo master (someone threw it out!!?) is not included, but sounds fine on the 4K Blu-ray of A Hard Day's Night.

Though some people have used the term 'colorized' to describe the remasters, versus what colorization really is (plastering always-phony, false color on black and white images and failing 100% of the time) it goes too far in describing any differences between the new versions here versus the many previous releases of the songs. Plenty of remastering is going on in music these days and for the most part, results have pleased fans and critics alike, but remastering older monophonic or even simple stereo songs like this is something new. Steve Wilson has been the only man out there doing more than Giles Martin, creating new stereo and multi-channel (anywhere from 5.1 to 12-track Dolby Atmos mixes) for legendary bands like Gentle Giant, Yes, Tears For Fears and King Crimson. However, they are recognized as new mixes and not replacements for the older mixes, which applies here as well.

Because of the limits of the CD format itself, Eleanor Rigby had sonic limits on its strings not an issue on the DTS tracks on the DVD version of the animated Yellow Submarine movie, but the track that everyone has had issues with is I Am The Walrus.

It sounds fine on the Blu-ray version of The Magical Mystery Tour film, both sound versions, so why this got a mix that sounds like a bunch of compression and distortion has been added is bizarre and an extremely rare misstep in this reissue campaign of what easily is some of the most important recorded music of all time. It even sounds better on the Love CD and especially DVD-Audio 5.1 mix of that classic, so what went wrong here makes no sense. You'll just have to hear that one for yourself.

What Giles Martin and his great team have been doing have been what his father George Martin and company did when the songs and albums were originally being released, building up stereo from the original mono masters, which lasted almost towards the entire end of the band's run. Giles Martin has been also building them up for multi-channel sound and especially Dolby Atmos, which (like the DTS: X and Auro3D formats) offer roughly 12 speakers of sound with directional capacities that can really open up the sound. This all happened after the passing of his brilliant father. It can offer up to 12 tracks of sound or even a few more, but it gives the owners of the catalog a new chance to further release, restore, copy and preserve the master recordings for generations to come.

Though these songs are here in the older CD format, you can still hear the benefits of going back to the masters for the most part as we have already heard even better where DVD and blu-ray was offered in various box sets (see below) so you get a new choice on how to hear these classics and the result is you'll hear things differently or even things you never heard before. With this, that brings us to one other thing to think about. Outside of Jazz or Classical titles going back to the foundling of the record industry, Pop music, Country music, Blues and Showtunes did not always get the same high quality recording treatment as those genres. How does early Beatles hold up to similar music in its field?

Bing Crosby found a way to sing around the limited technology of the time, making him a huge success, while Louis Armstrong was way ahead of his time considering sonic fidelity all the way to his final recordings. Slider did not start replacing nobs in music recording until Tom Dowd started introducing them in the 1960s, including telling George Martin about them. By the 1950s, magnetic recordings were in full swing post-WWII, a format Crosby was one of the first to really advocate for and systems using tubes that gave a warmer sound and feeling arrived in the 1950s just in time for that decades entertainment boom.

In the pop/soul/rock field, which we can pinpoint to around the mid-1950s, Elvis sounded great right off of his Sun Records, but when he moved to RCA, the label was smart enough to make sure he got Grade-A recording treatment. Other artists keeping up included Nat 'King' Cole, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Johnny Mathis, Frankie Avalon, Buddy Holly, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and even Pat Boone. The individuals who would become The Beatles were listening to all of it.

The ladies were not far behind, including Patti Page, Brenda Lee and Connie Francis into the 1960s, as the majors took advantage of new recording advances, though leaving some quality technology behind. Berry Gordy took advantage of this when his Motown Records nailed their own sound and the majors could not recreate it because they eliminated the means of creating it and 'Smokie' Robinson still understood that the songs still had to sound good coming out of small speakers in cars and portable radios, the kind the individuals who would become The Beatles were often using at the time.

Yet, like the technology now being used to bring out more of the priceless Beatles catalog, Smokie, Gordy and everyone else in the music business knew there was more in their master recordings than the public was hearing and only in recent years are many of us finally hearing how great these studio recordings actually are. In general, stereo sound as we know it today was starting to get really good and relatively more naturalistic by the mid-1960s, if not widely so yet. Movies tried something like stereo (Disney and Fantasound) in 1940, then multi-track stereo began with This Is Cinerama in 1952 and The Robe (the first Eastmancolor and Cinemascope film) in 1953. Vinyl records and tapes from the major record labels and hundreds of independents followed.

So I was trying to find recording just before or during the early Beatles days and hits that were as vivid, effective and memorable. The results are only three releases, mostly hits sets and all in the ultra high resolution Super Audio CD format: The Dave Brubeck Quartet's legendary album Time Out (the only disc here in 5.1,) Connie Francis: 26 Greatest Hits and Nat King Cole: The King Of Sound. We have not covered enough music from that period and to be blunt, not enough audiophile quality material has been issued from the era, but that also speaks to the quality of The Beatles recordings and how they suddenly made most such music sound more dated and older, even if they did not have the most state of the art facilities to start out with. Talent in front of the microphone and in George Martin's case, behind the soundboard, makes a huge difference, a lesson more important than ever in this over-digitized recording era we live in. That what Giles Martin and company have driven home once again with this set.

It is too bad this did not get a Blu-ray Audio or Super Audio CD edition, but maybe later.

Extras include two nicely illustrated booklets for each set, the first half of the booklets offering smart new essays by journalist, music scholar and author John Harris. They are to the point and well thought out. You also get some pictures of the band over the years and full technical details on all the songs, including all the lyrics. The latter is a welcome surprise I was not expecting, as this is not a feature of most CD or album releases these days. Then again, it is The Beatles.

For more on The Beatles, try our coverage of the following classic albums and films, starting with the 4K Criterion edition of A Hard Day's Night:


Help! DVD


Magical Mystery Tour Blu-ray


Yellow Submarine DVD


Revolver CD box set (with links to the box sets of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band w/DVD, The White Album (aka The Beatles, w/Blu-ray,) Let It Be w/Blu-ray and Abbey Road w/Blu-ray)


Let hope we get more great remasters soon. Until then, this set will satisfy most fans and there are vinyl versions for vinyl Beatles fans as well.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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