Sunday, 10 April 2016

"Abbey Road" by THE BEATLES (2014 and 2015 Japan SHM-CD 5" Mini LP Repro Sleeve – 2009 Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Here Comes The Sun..." 

You have to say that the attention to detail on this December 2014 Japanese SHM-CD reissue is impressive (2nd press reissued April 2015 as an 'Encore' version). Beatles nerds like me know that first state British pressings of the vinyl album had a glossy laminate sleeve on both sides, the Apple logo 'misaligned' under the track list for Side 1 on the rear (they straightened it for re-pressings) and the final 17th track - the cheeky-buggers "Her Majesty" - is listed only on the Apple label of the actual LP and not the rear of the sleeve. The Japanese get all these piddly details right.

On top of that you get the rather gorgeous 16-page booklet Apple provided with the 09/09/09 digipak when it first came out with photos of the boys looking groovy and all grown up at Twickenham and Tittenhurst Park and historical notes by KEVIN HOWLETT and MIKE HEATLEY. There's their usual separate 20-page white booklet for UICY-76978 – lyrics in Japanese and English and a page illustrating all 16 titles in this hugely desirable Beatles series. There's an 'Apple' obi-band wrapped around the "Abbey Road" oversized glossy sleeve - again with the whole series pictured but this time in colour. My god they've even repro'd the matt textured black inner bag that came with original British albums. The 5" card sleeve repro itself is beautiful to look at - but you'd have to say that the track titles on the rear are a teensy weeny bit lost in the background – not perfectly focused. But they do provide a plastic protective within the black inner sleeve – a very nice touch. Here are the Volkswagen number plates (Paul is very much alive)...

Released 17 December 2014 (reissued 15 April 2015) and using the 2009 Remaster done at Abbey Road Studios - this Japan-only SHM-CD on Universal/Apple UICY-76978 (Barcode 4988005867605) is a straightforward transfer of the album presented in limited edition 5” card repro Mini LP artwork (47:29 minutes). It will be deleted in June 2016.

1. Come Together
2. Something
3. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus's Garden
6. I Want You (She's So Heavy)
7. Here Comes The Sun – Side 2
8. Because
9. You Never Give Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty
Tracks 1 to 17 make up their 11th studio album "Abbey Road" – released 26 September 1969 in the UK on Apple PCS 7088 and 1 October 1969 in the USA on Capitol/Apple SO 383 (both Stereo only). It hit No. 1 on both the UK and USA LP charts.

GUY MASSEY, PAUL HICKS and SEAN MAGEE - Grammy nominees for their beautiful and sensitive handing of such a precious catalogue - carried out the remasters at Abbey Road from original master tapes - and what a job they've done. You add a Japanese-pressed Super High Materials CD (will play on all devices – it's a better form of disc with better retrieval details) and suddenly this beauty is singing like the very proverbial happy bird. The audio on this sucker through my Marantz CD/AMP combo (paired up with Tannoy Mercury V4 speakers) is just beautiful. The accumulative effect is to have even the most jaundiced ear sit up and take notice.

Then of course there's the album – the music. And Holy Crap! Wow! Yowsah! is the only appropriate response. Right from the opening bass and bars of "Come Together" – you're blown away. After the sloppy and personally critical debacle of the "Get Back" sessions that would be truncated and eventually released as "Let It Be" in May 1970 (after "Abbey Road") – Producer and helmsman George Martin was having no more crap from the four warring parties. He argued that he'd only go back into the studio if they approached the new album properly – no jamming – no hangers on – just tunes played well and recorded with polish. And he/they got what they wanted. By the time you rehear the beautiful "Something" by George Harrison, Ringo's witty and whimsical "Octopus's Garden", McCartney's blistering blues boogie vocal on "Oh! Darling" and Lennon's in-yer-face menace on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" – it's hard not to be awestruck at the sheer brilliance of it all.

But then you have to negotiate the 'suite' that is Side 2. Opening with George Harrison's penultimate moment "Here Comes The Sun " (probably his greatest song) - your launched into a roller-coaster ride of different themes and rhythms in "Sun King", the genuine hurt in "You Never Gave Me Your Money" and the melodic pathos of "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" (covered so well by Joe Cocker on his second album - 1970's "Joe Cocker!"). It all ends on that "Carry The Weight" riffage and of course those few moments of jab at the monarchy. Wonderful stuff...

Reputedly the first CD reissue of "Abbey Road" was put by Toshiba in Japan in May 1983 right at the beginning of the format's infancy and a full four years before most of us mere mortals got a CD stab at it in the West (October 1987).

I know you could argue that you just spend six quid on the 9 Sep 2009 digipak CD remaster/reissue – but this is The Beatles and I want the best. If you do too – then settle for no less. But be prepared for your wallet to bleed because once you hear this SHM-CD of that most brilliant BEATLES album – you’ll want the rest of their catalogue with the same audio kick in the gonads (ouch)...

PS: For info purposes - there are 16 STEREO titles in THE BEATLES Japanese SHM-CD Reissue Series. The first wave came in December 2014 and then a repress in April 2015. Purchasers should note that both issues have the same catalogue numbers and barcodes – the way to recognise the difference is the sticker colour. 

1st Issues come with Red Stickers on the front plastic and were released 17 December 2014 - 2nd 'Encore' Reissues come with Blue Stickers and were released 15 April 2015. 

I’ve provided Barcodes but to locate the right pressings on Amazon...but you will need to check with your seller to see 'which' pressing they're selling (most sellers will identify them as either 1st or Encore - but if you want a specific issue - check).

1. Please Please Me (Universal/Apple UICY-76966) – Barcode 4988005867438
2. With The Beatles (Universal/Apple UICY-76967) – Barcode 4988005867455
3. A Hard Day’s Night (Universal/Apple UICY-76968) – Barcode 4988005867452
4. Beatles For Sale (Universal/Apple UICY-76969) – Barcode 4988005867469
5. Help! (Universal/Apple UICY-76970) – Barcode 4988005867476
6. Rubber Soul (Universal/Apple UICY-76971) – Barcode 4988005867483
7. Revolver (Universal/Apple UICY-76972) – Barcode 4988005867490
8. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Universal/Apple UICY-76973) – Barcode 4988005867506
9. Magical Mystery Tour (Universal/Apple UICY-76974) – Barcode 4988005867513
10. The Beatles [aka The White Album] (Universal/Apple UICY-76975 & 6) - Barcode 4988005867520
11. Yellow Submarine (Universal/Apple UICY-76977) – Barcode 4988005867599
12. Abbey Road (Universal/Apple UICY-76978) – Barcode 4988005867605
13. Let It Be (Universal/Apple UICY-76979) – Barcode 4988005867612
14. Past Masters (Universal/Apple UICY-76980 & 1) – Barcode 4988005867629
15. 1962-1966 (Red Album) (Universal/Apple UICY-76982/3) – Barcode 4988005867636
16. 1967-1970 (Blue Album) – (Universal/Apple UICY-76984/5) - Barcode 4988005867643

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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