Fair warning: If you are not already among the billions who adore the Beatles, the newly remastered CD editions of their work will not necessarily convert you. These are, after all, the same songs that have been out there soundtracking lives for decades now.
Yet in a certain sense, they really aren’t. Beatlemaniacs of all degrees who re-purchase these beloved albums are in for a listening experience that is nothing short of revelatory. No knowledge of the technical remastering process is required to notice the difference between these and the iffy first wave of Beatles CDs that was issued in 1987. All it takes is one listen to a song you thought you’d memorized down to the last grace note to realize how much you?ve been missing.
So pick up a favorite album or two individually, or spring for the reasonably-priced complete stereo box set and dive in. (The mono mixes, while arguably preferable for the earliest albums, are available only as a beautiful but costly limited-edition box set — a treasure for a true Beatles obsessive.) Perhaps you?ll start with the band’s 1963 debut, Please Please Me: ”I Saw Her Standing There” screams out of the speakers as if the young rock’n’roll heart-throbs are performing right in front of you at Liverpool’s crammed Cavern Club. By 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night, every George Harrison guitar lick, every Ringo Starr drumbeat or tambourine shake is hitting with a crisply audible force. And those voices! The remasters let you not only hear but practically see how John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Harrison’s vocals stack up in giddy harmony. That sense of physical presence grows ever more thrilling as you work your way through the catalog. Never before have the studio explorations of 1966’s Revolver, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and beyond felt quite so wondrously otherworldly.
To say the remasters sound perfect would be to miss the point, though. It’s the minute human flaws and unpredictable variations heard so clearly here that make even tunes as overplayed as 1968’s ”Hey Jude” (Past Masters) or 1969’s ”Something” (Abbey Road) sound improbably fresh, alive, real. Those born too late to be there the first time around have often wondered what it must have been like to tear off the packaging and hear each Beatles album as a brand-new release, undimmed by the passage of years. Until time travel is invented, this might be the closest we?ll get. A