On the Beatles Remasters and Compilations

Long rumored, it appears that the Beatles back catalogue is finally being released in a remastered form. The next issue of MOJO says sometime in 2009.

I’ve long been a proponent of a remastered Beatles catalog. The original albums — from Please Please Me to Let It Be — on CD were done in 1987, and sonic technology has vastly improved since then. The tracks on the original Beatles CDs sound okay, but they could sound so much better. The Yellow Submarine Songtrack, released in 1999, featured remastered tracks, and the music sounds vastly richer than the original 1987 CD masters.

Something I, personally, would find intriguing would be a release of the themed compilations that were released by EMI in the 1970s using the remastered tracks. Release them at a budget price point — say, ten dollars or less — and introduce a new generation to the magic of the Beatles, much as 2000’s 1 did.

What themed compilations are these?

The first was Rock ‘n’ Roll Music in 1976, a collection of the Beatles’ rock’n’roll numbers. One addition I’d make? Add “Paperback Writer.” Or “Day Tripper.”

Then, in 1977, was Love Songs.

The came 1980’s The Beatles’ Ballads. An interesting collection — and interesting cover artwork.

Finally, in 1982 EMI released Reel Music, a collection of songs taken from the Beatles’ films.

Reel Music was supposed to be followed by another compilation album in 1985, Sessions, but for a variety of reasons it was never issued, and in the wake of the Anthology releases it was no longer necessary.

None of these compilations were released on CD when the Beatles catalogue was released in that format in 1987. The Beatles hadn’t authorized these albums, and at the time they were released on LP they didn’t have the veto to block them. The CD releases standardized the releases of the Beatles’ music worldwide; the different American track listings disappeared until the recent release of The Capitol Albums boxsets.

I have all of these, including Sessions, set up as playlists on my computer. Doubtless other Beatles fans do as well. And there’s no reason why, when the remastered Beatles catalogue is released, that an industrious fan couldn’t create their own playlists.

Yet, simply for an introduction to the styles and themes the Beatles returned to, time and again, in the course of their career, releasing the compliations as budget-priced introductions seem a good idea. So often I’ve heard, “I don’t know where to start,” and while I might push Revolver or Abbey Road on someone, another person might suggest a different introduction. Themes work well, especially when the cover the breadth of their career.

Is this dream of mine likely to happen? In all likelihood, probably not. The Beatles themselves didn’t pick the track line-ups, and especially in the case of Rock ‘n’ Roll Music some of the songs choices are suspect. Yet, besides the introduction these albums could provide to a new generation, for an older generation these albums would have a nostalgic lure. (I should note, for the record, that until I put the playlists together, I had never heard the songs in this format, so there’s no actual nostalgic lure for myself.)

Still, I’d like to see it happen. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “On the Beatles Remasters and Compilations

  1. RE: Beatles Remasters…

    I don’t know if you’re not aware, or if you’re just looking forward to the official releases (which is years overdue…) but Purple Chick has some excellent “bootleg” Deluxe Editions of each of the Beatles albums, singles, etc, in both Mono and Stereo editions all fully remastered by Dr Ebbetts. The sound is miles above the current official CDs. In addition to the albums and singles, there’s also tons of outtakes, alternate mixes, etc… Most of the albums consist of multiple discs (for example, Sgt Pepper has 6 discs, one for mono, one for stereo, and 4 for sessions, outtakes and alternate mixes… The White Album is ten discs long…) It’s a Beatles fan’s cream dream… And they’re not for sale anywhere, only available via torrents, etc…


  2. I keep reading of these so-called bootleg ‘remasters’ that are available on torrents and share sites.
    But this is a misuse of the term ‘remaster’. You can only ‘remaster’ if you have the original pre-master stereo mix. Just like you can only ‘remix’ if you have the original reel-to-reel multitrack recording.
    So, anyone without access to the original tapes who claims to have made a ‘remaster’ is lying. The only sources they have are CDs and vinyl, and whilst you can re-EQ these and process them with digital denoisers and other tools, the result will always only be technically a ‘copy’, rather than a ‘master’ (or ‘remaster’).
    Just some insight from one who works in the business so knows how these things work!

  3. I disagree. I understand the terminology perfectly well. Although I agree that in most cases it is obviously best to remaster from the original pre-master stereo reel-to-reel tapes, it’s not a pre-condition.

    From wikipedia:

    Remastering is the process of making a new master for an album, movie, or any other creation. It tends to refer to the process of porting a recording from one analogue medium to another digital one, but this is not always the case.

    For example, a vinyl LP originally pressed from a worn-out pressing master many tape generations removed from the “original” master recording could be remastered and re-pressed from a better condition tape. All CDs created from analogue sources are technically digitally remastered.

    The process of creating a digital transfer of an analogue tape re-masters the material in the digital domain, even if no equalization, compression, or other processing–is done to the material. Ideally, because of their high resolution, a CD or DVD (or other) release should come from the best source possible, with the most care taken during its transfer; this does not always happen.[citation needed]

    Additionally, the earliest days of the CD era found digital technology in its infancy, which sometimes resulted in poor sounding digital transfers. The earliest days of the DVD era were not much different, with early DVD copies of movies frequently being produced from worn prints, with low bitrates and muffled audio.[citation needed] When the first CD remasters turned out to be bestsellers, companies soon realized that new editions of back catalogue items could compete with new releases as a source of revenue. Back catalogue values skyrocketed, and today it is not unusual to see expanded and remastered editions of fairly modern albums.

    Original master tapes, or something close to them, can be used to make CD releases. Better processing choices can be used. Better prints can be utilized, with sound elements remixed to 5.1 and obvious print flaws digitally corrected. The modern era gives publishers almost unlimited ways to touch up, doctor, and “improve” their media, and as each release promises improved sound, video, extras and others, producers hope these upgrades will entice people into making a purchase.

    And regardless, if you don’t want to call these remasters for whatever reasons you have, they still sound miles above the current official remastering job.

  4. Making a playlist from the official CD releases to ‘recreate’ Rock n Roll Music never made sense to me. What’s so wonderful about that collection is that all the songs were remixed for the compilation (many songs sound way better than the original releases, particularly the older numbers). I tried to download Rock n Roll Music a number of times, but all it was was people who made a playlist from the official Beatles albums. I finally digitized it from a cassette.

  5. I feel that one album, if any, would be Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The others you have said, Rock and Roll, Love Songs, Ballads, and Reel Music are lame compilations put together by money hungery people. Hollywood Bowl would be the only real contribution to the collection. It could feature both shows on a double disc with maybe a DVD as a bonus. They don’t have any “live” albums out to speak for.

  6. You need to listen to Dr. Ebbets cd’s too. Hollywood Bowl and Rock and Roll Music collections involved George Martin. And “Love Songs” to a cerain extent. There are remixes of some songs used. Live at Hollywood Bowl is a good start, but it would be real chic to release THE BEATLES LIVE AT SHEA as an official release in all formats. Ballads had a cool cover, it was the unissued white album cover when it was called “A DOLL’S HOUSE”. The best thing about Reel Music was good sound,especially A HARD DAY’S NIGHT! The original ‘A HARD DAY’S NIGHT’ should be reissued only using the right Beatles mixes. The last Capital reissue on LP after it was taken from U.A. was horrible sound. I do not recommend the mini-lp Japanese cd of Rock and Roll Music-it sounds like a tin box.

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