Friday, July 13, 2012

The Beatles Remastered: Revolver

Music has been so integral a part of my personality that there are a large number of performers and performances that I feel extremely challenged to write about. I feel that no amount of effort that I put into writing about them can ever do justice to how important they are to me. Over the years, I have gathered courage to write about some of them in the best manner I could, but they still come across as inadequate to me. The Beatles is one such musical phenomenon. Though I have attempted reviewing works by Paul and written about John and the 70s, I cannot bring myself to write about the music of The Beatles.

While browsing, I found that I had replied to a question on an audio forum a long time back, and I thought it merited a place here, since I doubt I will ever be able to reproduce the cocky clarity with which I answered. The questioner had asked whether the 2009 remaster of The Beatles' Revolver was worth buying for a fan who already has the original vinyl...

Surely one of the greatest album covers of all time, and among the top three Beatles album covers for me.

Here is my reply.

Revolver is a landmark album for The Beatles in many senses. It is a point of departure from their earlier albums and contains all original tracks and no covers. It also sees them experimenting with electronically altered sounds, and unusual instruments. It also marks the beginning of their foray into psychedelia.

For the average Beatles fans, there is a great deal of romance attached to the George Martin mixes, in spite of their wooly and harsh sounds. The stark left/right divisions of instruments and vocal tracks have come to be identified with the classic Beatles presentation. What makes the remasters significant is the clarity given to the instruments, as well as the way the left/right mix has been tweaked to place the band in a spatially more real context.

The remasters were done by Allan Rouse of EMI and released in 2009. The crux of these remasters is that they give greater depth and clarity to the individual tracks, eliminate the technical shortcomings that were part of the original analog tapes, such as sibilance and tape drop-outs.

Are the remasters a better buy for a fan who already has Revolver on vinyl? The answer would be a resounding yes, since it opens up aspects of the album that are lost in the analog version. Though much of the tape loop effects and Harrison's experiments with guitar outputs sound the same, the remasters add life and presence to the tracks in a way that the original mixes are unable to. For the purists, however, there is little in the remasters to be excited about.

If you are a Beatles completionist like me and fuss over versions and recordings, I would love to hear what you thought of this in the comments.

Source:  AudioVideoClan
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12 comments:

  1. You are the expert...good insight. thank you.

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    1. Cousin, I posted this more out of fun, as I revere the analog sound of Beatles and in many senses feel uncomfortable with it being tampered with. The Beatles sound just as good in their original analog as they do with the forward placement that the Allan Rouse mix does.

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  2. ..a great work Subho! I love Beatles but am not fussy about versions, hence would only say thank you!

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    1. I quite agree about the not being fussy bit, Amit. For most people who listen to these different recordings on a rudimentary media center or on a system with basic 2.1 output, there is not a great deal of difference to be made out. But there are a few nutcases (like me) who need to have the mono masters and the stereo remasters of the same songs in order to feel complete.

      I can, however, invite you to listen to their 2006 remastered compile - Love - to get an idea about how different they sound when engineered with modern sensibilities.

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  3. I would love to hear both the versions you mentioned and hear the differences. No matter, this album absolutely rocks. From the album cover to songwriting to the production it is all stunning. For all intents and purpose John, Paul, George and Ringo are the apostles of modern pop music. This along with Abbey Road is the peak of Beatles music for me. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Sandeep. We must get together and listen to them back to back and drive the folks crazy. I would list Sgt. Peppers and White Album also along with Revolver and Abbey Road as their peak.

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  4. Hi Subhorup

    My association with music is limited to the numbers popular from Indian films, Hindi and Tamil and a few pop numbers in English no-one would refrain from tapping along like Michael Jackson.

    So you must be wondering why on earth I stopped to comment? Eh? :)

    Well, the contents of this post were crisp and to the point and I liked the style of narration. Just wanted to mention that :)

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    1. Jayashree, that is a real big compliment. I have been waiting to hear "crisp and to the point" for a long time, and I know the reason why I don't. So, thanks!!

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  5. not aware of this 2009 remaster. i think, i heard only the original soundtracks and i am happy with that.

    it all depends on how it's done. anyway, i am not the right person to talk about it.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Like I said, this would matter only to completionists and Beatles obsessives. Trust me, there are a good number of them out there, and I am one of them.

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  6. Excellent post. Being an ardent Beatles fan myself for years, I must admit I never like re-mixes and re-masters. The original Revolver is a classic in itself and I like it as it is.

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    1. i found it difficult to resist liking love, though i am aversive to remixes too. if you have not heard it, you must, sudipto.

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