21st Century Beatles. I’m a Fan! [part 2]
Part 2 — Reissues: The film coincided with the latest re-release in deluxe form of Let It Be, a child of the same sessions. One can’t deny that the nostalgia machine revved up yet again, a desperate monster feeding off Baby Boomers like me who fork over gobs of money. Desperate because they want our cash before we die off or before they stop making CDs.
And folks, CDs are the best medium for this kind of documentation. They have permanence, liner notes and comment that’s less available through streaming services, ease of exploration, quality sound, and they’re fun to look at. Even though typical formats for a number of bands, dead and alive, include souvenir garbage (like an array of logo’ed guitar picks in Steve Miller’s otherwise excellent set); or come in formats sure to frustrate some (You have to get the vinyl AND the CD in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Déjà Vu deluxe reissue); or outtakes, 90% of which are worthless (though there are always at least a couple of hidden gems). All that said, the package that allows for multiple CDs, a blu-ray with a surround mix, and a book that can have archival pictures, essays and thorough accounts, lends itself to authoritative and enduring documentation. Physical media endures. So take that, streamers!
Other iconic artists who have taken control and executed well-curated and thoughtful rerelease, remaster and remix programs include Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and David Bowie. Keeping your name alive and enriching your contribution as an artist and a consciousness-changer is the best part of all this legacy-building. And one of the final pieces of The Beatles puzzle will eventually be a rerelease of what many consider to be their best album, Revolver.
So pricy price tags aside, The Beatles have done, ahem, a spectacular job rereleasing Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road, and now Let It Be. George Martin’s son Giles and his collaborators have produced exquisite and nuanced remixes that show The Beatles’ artistry in full bloom and high fidelity. I’m quite partial to The White Album rerelease (2018). Already my favorite Beatles album, it’s now even more so. While the signature of the three songwriters is most obvious here, it’s still The Beatles venturing as far as their imaginations will take them. We’re drinking directly from the firehose of their creativity. Whether or not it’s yours, I highly recommend its exploration, brother and sister, The Beatles (it’s official title) may serve you well.
And The Beatles always represent in other media, Yellow Submarine an example from their first existence, and in the 21stcentury, Love, a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil.
So what more can we expect? I do not have an inside track, but I’m confident that Revolver will be among the next couple of albums to get the full treatment. It’s in many ways their most adventurous, vulnerable and radical album. Stereo or mono, it needs remastering and remixing. I played both versions recently, the most recent editions available, and the genius was striking, but the mixes—smeary in mono and overly separated in stereo—left me wanting. The “sound” of the album gets better as it moves through its second half, but there should be a lot for Giles Martin to play with, nurture and tease out of the master tapes.