Thursday, 15 October 2009

"Past Masters" by THE BEATLES (September 2009 EMI/Apple 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

2009 EMI/Apple 2CD Reissue and Remasters



ORIGINAL 1988 SINGLE CD ISSUES



"...Arrive Without Travelling...See All Without Looking..."


After the 13 official British albums by The Beatles were first reissued on CD (February to October of 1987), all the non-album tracks on UK 7" singles, the exclusive 4-songs on the "Long Tall Sally" EP and any other stragglers were then gathered up onto two separate CD compilations called "Past Masters" (Vol. 1 & 2) and issued globally on 8 March 1988 to compliment the main catalogue.

This UK released 9 September 2009 reissue of "Past Masters" by THE BEATLES on EMI 50999 2 43807 2 0 (Barcode is the same number) combines both of those 1988 Volumes into one 2CD set. 

They've been taken out of their clunky jewel cases and given a tri-gatefold card sleeve (black in colour) - new 2009 remastering and a vastly upgraded booklet. 

Of the 33 tracks - 29 are in STEREO with 4 being in MONO - "Love Me Do", "She Loves You", "I'll Get You" on Disc 1 - and "You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)" on Disc 2.

However - there are differences between the old and new issues. The 1988 version of Disc 1 had 7 MONO tracks and not 3 (Disc 2 has remained the same) - the 4 now replaced with STEREO versions are "From Me To You", "Thank You Girl", and the two singles sung in German. But therein lies a further anomaly...

Beatles chroniclers will know that prior to the issue of "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" in May 1969 - ALL of their UK 7" singles were issued in MONO-ONLY ("The Ballad Of John & Yoko" was their first STEREO single in the UK, while their first STEREO 7" in the US was as late as "Get Back"). So while the vastly improved liner notes talk knowledgably about each British single - this set is in STEREO when they were only ever issued in MONO! Some would therefore say that this whole compilation only compounds the mistake of the 1988 issues and is a further historical travesty. But I'd argue that accuracy's loss is the listener's gain - because these NEW STEREO REMASTERS are simply astonishing soundwise - they really are.

GUY MASSEY, STEVE ROOKE, PAUL HICKS and SEAN MAGEE remastered the original masters tapes with the whole project overseen by ALLAN ROUSE - and they've all done a stunning job. Here are the intimate track-by-track details...

Disc 1 (42:31 minutes):
1. Love Me Do
5 October 1962 debut UK 7" single on Parlophone R 4949
1 is the A-side - the mix has Ringo on the drums - the album version has sessionman Andy White - it's sometimes referred to as the "Original Single Version"

2. From Me To You
3. Thank You Girl
11 April 1963 3rd UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5015
2 and 3 are the A & B - both tracks were non-album

4. She Loves You
5. I'll Get You
23 August 1963 4th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5055
4 and 5 are the A & B - both tracks were non-album

6. I Want To Hold Your Hand
7. This Boy
23 November 1963 5th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5084
6 and 7 are the A & B - both tracks were non-album

8. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
9. Sie Liebt Dich
March 1964 German 7" single on Odeon 0 22 671
8 and 9 are German sung versions of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" [A & B]. "I Want To..." is the UK backing track with German vocals simply overdubbed on top, but the "She Loves You" version is an entirely different take. It was recorded in EMI's Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris in late January 1964 - both tracks were then issued in a picture sleeve in March 1964 in Germany on Odeon credited as Die Beatles. "Komm..." later turned up as an album track on the US and German Stereo versions of the "Something New" LP in August and September of 1964 (Capitol ST-2108 and Odeon STO/SMO 83756). "Sie Liebt Dich" was later issued on the October 1979 UK compilation LP "Rarities" on Parlophone PSLP 261.

10. Long Tall Sally
11. I Call Your Name
12. Slow Down
13. Matchbox
10 to 13 are the 4-track British EP "Long Tall Sally" issued 19 June 1964 on Parlophone GEP 8913. "Long Tall Sally: is a Little Richard cover, "I Call Your Name" a Lennon/McCartney original while "Slow Down" and "Matchbox" are Larry Williams and Carl Perkins cover versions. All tracks were non-album at the time.

14. I Feel Fine
15. She's A Woman
27 November 1964 8th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5200
14 and 15 are the A & B - both tracks were non-album

16. Bad Boy
16 is another Larry Williams cover version; this stereo version first appeared in the USA on "Beatles VI" in May 1965 on Capitol ST-2358; it's UK debut was on the December 1966 compilation LP "A Collection Of Beatles Oldies" on Parlophone PCS 7016.

17. Yes It Is
9 April 1965 9th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5265
17 is the non-album B-side to the UK single "Ticket To Ride"

18. I'm Down
23 July 1965 10th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5305
18 is the non-album B-side to the UK single "Help!"

Disc 2 (51:00 minutes):
1. Day Tripper
2. We Can Work It Out
2 December 1965 11th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5389
1 and 2 were a Double A-side; both tracks were non-album

3. Paperback Writer
4. Rain
10 June 1966 12th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5452
3 and 4 are the A&B - both tracks were non-album

5. Lady Madonna
6. The Inner Light
15 March 1968 17th UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5675
5 and 6 are the A&B - both tracks were non-album

7. Hey Jude
8. Revolution
30 August 1968 18th UK 7" single on Apple R 5722 (1st on Apple)
7 and 8 are the A & B - both were non-album
(The tracks "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9" on "The Beatles" double-album (The White Album) are different versions)

9. Get Back [with Billy Preston]
10. Don't Let Me Down [with Billy Preston]
11 April 1969 19th UK single on Apple R 5777
9 and 10 are the A&B - A is a different version to the LP cut; B is non-album

11. The Ballad Of John And Yoko
12. Old Brown Shoe
30 May 1969 20th UK 7" single on Apple R 5786 [1st UK 7" in STEREO]
11 and 12 are the A&B - A features vocal lead by John Lennon with backup from Paul; B-side is a George Harrison song with him on Lead vocals; both tracks were non-album

13. Across The Universe
This is the version that preceded the more famous "Let It Be" LP cut (released May 1970); this "birds & nature" version was given to a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund called "No One's Gonna Change Our World" released 12 December 1969 in the UK on one of EMI's budget labels - Regal Starline SRS 5018. It has none of the strings or choir added by Phil Spector to the LP cut...and was said to be the take favoured by John Lennon who wrote the song

14. Let It Be
15. You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)
6 March 1970 22nd UK 7" single on Apple R5833 (Last Release as a Band)
14 and 15 are the A&B - A is in STEREO; B is in MONO; A-side is credited to THE BEATLES with Billy Preston and features a different guitar solo by George Harrison than the album cut - both tracks were non-album

Regarding the astonishing Audio. George Harrison's B-side "The Inner Light" ("Lady Madonna" was the A) is a good example of the sound improvement - it's just beautifully clear. It's loud yes, but not amplified to a point where hiss drowns out the song (there's none). And listening to Disc 2 especially - you're struck with awe at how good they were. Most of these tracks were only SINGLES back in the day yet most bands these days would kill a beloved granny for 10% of such craft and talent. Double whammies like "Hey Jude" and "Revolution", "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down", "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out" are just amazing.

Of the earlier stuff - the three part harmonies of "This Boy" and "Yes It Is" sound so young and fresh - while the Rock 'n' Roll stuff exudes their passion for the music. And that guitar on "Paperback Writer" packs a mean left hook. By the time you get to "Let It Be" and "Across The Universe" - the 'best band ever in the history of the world' doesn't seem like an accolade too far. Soundwise literally everything seems up for grabs here - and in a thrilling new way...

For me this rather dull looking double "Past Masters" is one of the best 09/09/09 releases. The song quality is incredible from start to finish and it also rather eloquently shows The Beatles extraordinary development from pop ditty songsters in 1963 to pure rock genius by 1969. 

OK - so "Past Masters" is not historically accurate - but I suspect for the average listener this will not matter - they'll be too busy enjoying the brilliance coming out of their speakers to care about chronology...and isn't that exactly how the boys would have wanted it...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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