Wednesday, 15 June 2016

"Magical Mystery Tour" by THE BEATLES (2014/2015 Japan-Only SHM-CD Reissue in Mini LP Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Goo Goo G'Joob..."

How could 'any' Beatles album be classed as 'overlooked' - especially in Britain?

When the UK saw the release of "Magical Mystery Tour" on 8 December 1967 - it was a 7" single book-pack - a double 2 x 45 'EP' on Parlophone MMT 1 (Mono) and SMMT 1 (Stereo) with only 6-songs - all culled from the movie of the same name.

Our American pals had it different and a couple of weeks earlier too. Theirs was the full 11-track album on Capitol MAL 2835 (Mono) and Capitol SMAL 2835 (Stereo). Released 27 November 1967 – the US LP used the 6-songs of the British double-EP as Side 1 and added five sides of three UK 45s The Beatles issued in 1967 as Side 2.

In short – the Yanks have always had the album. But in Blighty - and I genuinely have to double-take on this factoid whenever I see it - "Magical Mystery Tour" the LP (as we know it) wasn't officially released by EMI until the 19th of November 1976! There were original 1967 US import copies on Capitol Records of both LP variants brought into UK shops - but they weren't that common. So as far as most British fans were concerned - "Magical Mystery Tour" was 'that ditty' The Beatles did at the end of a very productive year (June's "Sgt. Peppers..." was just ending a long number 1 LP run when the "...Tour..." Double EP was released in December). The "Magical Mystery Tour" album in their native land has always seemed like some kind of afterthought - a sort of 'best of 1967 tracks' compilation given a more cohesive name.

Which brings us to the album and the music. By adding on those five tracks onto Side 2 - the Americans turned a good UK 45-release into an LP-platter of friggin' genius. In fact you could argue that you simply take a look at the track list for this LP - and the review is already done. "Hello Goodbye", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Penny Lane", "All You Need Is Love", "The Fool On The Hill" and "I Am The Walrus" - all on one album! And of course there's those other nuggets like the trippy instrumental "Flying" (too many magic mushrooms boys) and equally groovy spiralling of "Blue Jay Way" (other substances on top of the mushrooms) and Paul's poppy "Your Mother Should Know" - a song that wouldn't have gone amiss on "Peppers".

This Japanese variant of "Magical Mystery Tour" cost me - but is so beautiful that it deserves uber-praise. Here are the Semolina Pilchards climbing up the Eiffel Tower...

Released 17 December 2014 (reissued 15 April 2015) and using the 2009 Remaster done at Abbey Road Studios - this Japan-only SHM-CD of "Magical Mystery Tour" by THE BEATLES on Universal/Apple UICY-76974 (Barcode 4988005867513) is a straightforward transfer of the 14-Track STEREO album. It’s presented in a limited edition 5” Mini LP Repro Artwork and will be deleted in June 2016 (total playing time 36:32 minutes).

Side 1:
1. Magical Mystery Tour
2. The Fool On The Hill
3. Flying
4. Blue Jay Way
5. Your Mother Should Know
6. I Am The Walrus

Side 2:
7. Hello Goodbye
8. Strawberry Fields Forever
9. Penny Lane
10. Baby You’re A Rich Man
11. All You Need Is Love

Using the 09/09/09 STEREO MIX of the album – this Japanese SHM-CD reissue also decides to keep it simple and loses the enhanced CD track called "Magical Mystery Tour Mini Documentary" that came with the 09/09/09 releases (wasn’t up to much anyway). The Super High Materials CD (SHM-CD) does not require special audio equipment – it will play on all devices and Toshiba claim that it offers a better form of disc with increased retrieval details. As someone who owns about 20 of them - I've found that claim to be true. 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 there's the sexy artwork...

The chunky EMI 36-page colour booklet returns as a separate entity - but there's also the usual 22-white-page Japanese booklet too that features some unreadable Japanese liner notes followed by the lyrics in English and a back page that pictures all 16 titles in this SHM-CD Reissue series. The attention to detail on the actual 1967 album-sleeve is delicious. You get a hard card repro of the USA STEREO LP artwork (Capitol SMAL 2385) complete with its hard-card gatefold sleeve with attached booklet. The label reflects the rainbow coloured variant of the American Capitol Records original LP – even aping the paste-on effect of the front and inner artwork. There’s a white inner bag, a protective plastic for the SHM-CD within that and an OBI strip around the edge of the sleeve – mine being Blue in colour for the 'Encore' reissue series of 2015 (see list below). Holding it all together is a resealable plastic that is prone to tearing – so be careful removing the goodies.

The Audio Quality on the 09/09/09 CD Remaster was and is magnificent. Both GUY MASSEY and STEVE ROOKE remastered the first generation stereo master tapes and to say they've done a good job is like saying the Great Wall of China is an ok building-project. Their work here is fabulous – monumental almost - it really is. The sound quality is glorious throughout - clear, warm, detailed - every single track a revelation.

"...See how they snide..." - John sings on the wonderfully potty and acidic "I Am The Walrus" and follows it with words about Expert Textperts and Elementary Penguins singing Hare Krishna. Paul warbles about The Fool on A Hill, The Man With A Thousand Voices and people on a bus being strange kinds of Egg Men...

How can you overlook and not own “Magical Mystery Tour”! Barking Nuts has never looked nor sounded so damn good as it does on this wonderful Japanese SHM-CD reissue. Seek it out and prepare to fork out for the rest of the series...

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 on the front plastic. 1st Issues come with Red Stickers 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 pressing CD on Amazon - but you will need to check with your seller first to see which pressing you're getting (most sellers will identify as either 1st or Encore so there’s no confusion).

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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