The Beatles’ Red And Blue Albums – My Review
This month has started off quite nicely for Beatles fans! Last week we got to hear the premiere of “Now And Then,” a simply gorgeous track. Now our attention gets turned to the reissue of 1973’s “red and blue” albums, out this Friday (11/10/23). Known officially as The Beatles 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970, the set is getting a complete makeover for 2023. There are more songs, and every track on the set is a remix done by Giles Martin. Many mixes in the set are brand new for 2023. The entire first disc of 1962-1966 has been remixed, as have 11 of disc two’s 19 tracks. On the 1967-1970 set, six songs have been given the Giles Martin treatment. Since I was lucky enough to grab a copy a bit early, I thought you’d like to read my review of the new set.
Before I begin, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am generally not a fan of remixing Beatles songs. Or any songs, for that matter. I’ve always felt that the original mixes speak for themselves and needn’t be altered.
My Review Of The Set
Peter Jackson’s MAL audio technology was used on this set, making it possible to separate two sounds playing at once on a single track. This really opens up the individual instrumentation on the set and allows for a nice, balanced stereo picture. I think it is particularly effective on the first disc of the red album. I was happy Giles didn’t exploit this “mono to stereo” technology too far. His “stereo” mixes of “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You”, two songs whose master tapes have long been lost, are tastefully done. The stereo separation totally works in these cases.
Where I think the technology falls a bit short, at least in this case, is with Ringo Starr’s drums. Either that or Giles Martin became infatuated with Ringo’s playing while remixing. I tell you, my friends, Ringo’s drums never sounded more crisp than on these songs. But they’re mixed TOO LOUD in many of the 2023 remixes on the red album! In some cases (including “Roll Over Beethoven”, “This Boy” “A Hard Day’s Night” and even “Michelle”), they’re downright distracting. Yes, it’s cool to hear the bass drum so well now, but not at the expense of hearing the song the way we’ve heard it for the last half-century.
A Few Red Album Highlights
- it’s wild to hear the ching-a-ching of guitars so clearly in “She Loves You!”
- the edits in songs like “She Loves You,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “This Boy” have been cleaned up very nicely and have never sounded better.
- WAIT A MINUTE! Is that a DIFFERENT Paul McCartney vocal on the opening lines of “Can’t Buy Me Love?” Before the first verse? In the originals, he lilts his voice on the word “love” when he sings “can’t buy me love” yet on this version he sings the notes straight. Where did this come from? Is it shipped in from another part of the song or is it another vocal take found somewhere? This puzzles me to no end, and I hope my fellow Beatles geeks can get to the bottom of it!
On the blue set, there are six newly mixed songs and even more on the Dolby Atmos mixes. This is where my disdain for remixes hits me square in the face. To say that the 2023 remix of “I Am the Walrus” is a train wreck would be an insult to train wrecks. The end part, with the King Lear BBC broadcast, is completely botched. Parts are missing, and new elements are added that were not present in any earlier mix. Who approved this mix? Yikes.
Some Blue Album High(and low)lights
– sadly, Giles has done a disservice to “Old Brown Shoe,” totally forgetting to bring up a fader on a guitar line after the words “from worse and tried to drag me down,” 0:41 into the song. I cannot believe no one caught that.
– a rhythm guitar has magically appeared in the right channel of “Magical Mystery Tour.” It stands out because it had been previously buried in the mix. Since The Beatles were quite involved in the mixing process by 1967, one must deduce there was a reason the guitar was not so prominently featured. This is why I am not a remix fan. there are too many liberties/decisions being made without all the participants’ input.
– the inclusion of “Now And Then” on this set is odd. First of all, it undermines the title of the set, since it was recorded between 1979 and 2022. It would have been nice to release it as a standalone single like they did back in the day.
– one hilarious part of this remixed blue set is on “Hey Bulldog.” Again, a few changes were made to the chatter John and Paul do at the end of the song, and I SWEAR I can hear someone (John?) say “sod off” at 2:34 into the song. See what you think! **UPDATE 11/9: I listened again and it’s “what’s up, boy?”
Sonically, the sets do suffer from some heavy-handed limiting in the mastering. Of course, that’s how almost all songs are mastered these days…loud! In closing, I can say that there is something for everyone in this 2.0 version of the red and blue album. You will definitely hear these songs in a whole new way, but is that really a good thing? Granted I have not heard the Dolby Atmos surround mixes, but the remixing errors and decisions made here have left me more disappointed than excited.
My rating: 4 Ringo Starrs out of 5, and only because the songs are so damn good.