The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

Originally posted 2010-12-28 10:00:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

This category isn’t  populated by music technically from 2010, but it belongs here all the same.  After all, with all the unsatisfactory, unimpressive remasters and reissues that are being released every year, it’s important to salute the solid ones.

Number one hails form the ever-impressive — and ever-overpriced — “Deluxe Edition” series.  As with the DE treatment of the Blue Album, Pinkerton is dressed up with gorgeous multi-fold packaging and accented with a booklet that includes a note from Rivers dating back to 1996, handwritten lyrics to the core songs on the album, an essay by insider Karl Koch, and a veritable scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia in between.  The music itself is quirky, dissonant at turns, and harmonically pleasing at others.  The only criticism to be leveled at the plentiful bonus tracks is the repetition.  I mean, I love “Pink Triangle” as much as the next guy — probably more — but are five versions really necessary?

The next two on the list are Clutch re-releases.  True to form, Clutch is not simply going through the motions here.  The packaging for both are beautiful recreations of the originals with nice accents added.  The live DVD with Robot Hive/Exodus was a nice touch for fans like myself who will buy their CDs but not necessarily spring for other releases, like their recent live DVD.  There are few booklets so thoughtfully produced as that with From Beale St. to Oblivion, and I can’t imagine any lover of albums and packaging not appreciating this one.

The Fables of the Reconstruction box is indisputably one of the coolest packaging designs of the year, though it would have been preferable to downsize the poster in favor of a longer essay with more insight into the making of the album, etc.  The bonus tracks — the so-called Athens demos — will surely thrill longtime fans fascinated by the songs in their rough forms, though to my unseasoned ear the demos don’t sound all that different from the final studio versions.

The final addition here comes with a caveat.  The four Badfinger remasters are excellent candidates for receiving more attention from modern music listeners, and the packaging comes through in terms of adding several bonus tracks and liner notes that are more than sufficient to outline the context, either forgotten or unknown to those purchasing these albums.  And the remasters are significant, adding volume that was simply impossible on the original CD versions.  However, as a good friend pointed out, there is something lost when the reverb falls away from the drums and the other aural artifacts of their early seventies production disappears.

The honorable mentions are included here, as I’m uncertain of where else to place them.  The ever-excellent Bootleg Series should go without saying.  Even a non-fan could appreciate the rich experience that is to be had by listening to and reading one of these releases, this being the ninth installment.  The other mention is for Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, a double-album of unreleased tracks from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions.  The packaging is beautiful and the music, particularly for the Springsteen fans out there, is comparable to stumbling upon buried treasure.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, and then Thursday and Friday for the best lists yet: the Best Songs and the Best Albums of 2010!

1)  Pinkerton – Weezer

2)  Robot Hive/Exodus – Clutch

3)  From Beale St. to Oblivion – Clutch

4)  Fables of the Reconstruction – R.E.M.

5)  The Badfinger remasters (Magic Christian Music; No Dice; Straight Up; Ass)

Honorable Mention:

The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (1962-1964) – Bob Dylan

The Promise – Bruce Springsteen

Music Review: The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” (2009 Stereo Remaster)

Originally posted 2009-09-09 22:43:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Of all the remastered Beatles discs, the Fab Four’s debut album might seem the least likely to be the first you’d want to hear.  After all, it is their most raw effort, not only for the fact that it was their first experience in the studio but also because they were pursuing a “live” sound.  It was essentially recorded in a day under the supervision of a profoundly talented producer (George Martin) and four boys with a tremendous deal of potential (John, Paul, George, and Ringo), all five of whom had yet to re-create — or, really, create — the genre in which they would spend much of their respective careers and earn much of their respective fame.

Perhaps for all those reasons, Please Please Me is an excellent place to start.

"Please Please Me" - the Beatles' debut album, remastered for 2009!

“Please Please Me” – the Beatles’ debut album, remastered for 2009!

Amidst all the controversies over mono versus stereo, should the remasters have been remixed?, etc., Please Please Me has been released in the awkward stereo format — instrumentation at the left, vocals panned right — that would have been available only to “a small number of hi-fi enthusiasts,” as the liner notes recall.

I had to chuckle to myself as I sat in the parking lot today, cellophane wrapper on the floor and new-CD smell filling my nostrils, as I imagined how exciting and fresh this format must have been at the time, a hint of what was to come in the not-so-distant future.

For the first time today, I too was excited to purchase a Beatles album.  Each of my previous purchases of a Beatles record on CD left me feeling empty.  Sure, the music was excellent — phenomenal and mind-altering, even — but the packaging has always been far too sparse, nothing more than the cheapest of cheap jewel cases and a one-fold booklet.  The packaging of this 2009 remastered album makes it worth the purchase alone.  There are reprinted liner notes, rare photos, and a mini-documentary that, although very brief (less than four minutes), includes entertaining footage and interesting narration from all four band members as well as George Martin.

The songs themselves sound as good as they ever have.  The Beatles’ rapid ascent to pop music stardom becomes clear after hearing tracks like the energetic “I Saw Her Standing There,” the vocally superb “Please Please Me,” and George’s lead vocal debut “Do You Want to Know A Secret?”

As if these weren’t enough, the other Lennon/McCartney originals round out the set nicely — the classics “Love Me Do” and the lesser-known but equally catchy “Misery.”

Even the covers, like “Anna (Go To Him)” and “Twist and Shout,” shine almost as bright as Lennon/McCartney originals.  Although I have always maintained that “A Taste of Honey” is disposable, it is interesting to hear the first instance of Paul’s double-tracked lead vocals on a recording.

Throughout this remastered album, as with the original release, the words that continually come to mind are “energetic” and “fun.”  In all reality, the remastered tracks are merely cleaned up versions of the original mixes — the same as always with a sharper focus, so to speak.

If the past four decades are any indication, this may be the last overhaul of the Beatles catalog for a very long time.  For those of us “hi-fi enthusiasts” in 2009, it seems a shame to go on for the foreseeable future without all the Beatles’ material — arguably the most essential albums and tracks of rock and pop music — in full, lush stereo sound, each vocal and instrument standing out.

And yet, even if you feel this way, the 2009 remaster of Please Please Me — with all its simplicity and raw energy — should provide nothing but pleasant listening and reading.  And if you’re interested, make sure to check out all of our Beatles cover songs here on the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!

Music Review: The Beatles’ “Let It Be” (2009 Stereo Remaster)

Originally posted 2009-10-26 20:10:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It is truly a testament to the outstanding talent and staying power of the Beatles that Let It Be, their final and perhaps least ambitious — by their own designs, at least — release, is composed of such an impressive assortment of tracks.

For this reason alone, the 2009 remastered version of this classic 1970 album is worth your time and money.

Held up against the previously released audio on the CDs that have been standard issue for over two decades now, this remaster is crisper and cleaner in all the right places.  To be fair, this is probably one of the less drastic remasters, as Let It Be was originally issued in actual stereo.  Still, the seasoned Beatles fan will immediately take note of the subtle improvements, such as the even warmer ambiance of the background vocals in “I Me Mine” and the clearer separation between piano notes and vocals in both “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

It is a joyful experience to hear the individual vocals and instrumentation as clearly as possible.  After all, when the bulk of these tracks were laid down in January 1969 — almost one and a half years before the release of the album — the keyword had been simplicity.  Following the tumultuous White Album sessions, they had decided to adopt a more “live in the studio” feel for their next album.  Paul in particular felt that they had lost the cohesion that could only come from playing live.  Considering the backbreaking schedule of live shows in their early years and the relative happiness of their early period, it is difficult to disagree.

The Beatles' "Let It Be" (1970)

The Beatles’ “Let It Be” (1970)

For this reason, as well as the fact that Let It Be was mixed, remixed, re-arranged, and shuffled around by so many people outside the Fab Four before its initial release in 1970, I think Let It Be…Naked should be and is the first and best way to experience this album.  Purists, traditionalists, and historians may disagree, but any detractors to this theory must first explain why the Beatles’ initial intentions for the concept of this album should be all but ignored in favor of the “actual” release.  Why tracks like “Maggie Mae” and “Dig It” could ever belong on the same vinyl — or silver, for that matter — disc as gems like “Two of Us,” “Across the Universe,” and “Let It Be” is beyond this writer.

Before I trample upon too much musical holy ground, I should reinforce that the 2009 remaster provides a great experience.  Some argued that the tracks should have been stripped down and entirely remixed.  While I wouldn’t have been against that idea if it had been engineered by the right team, there doesn’t seem to be the need for anything quite so drastic here.

Perhaps the focus should instead fall on the pressures within and around this record.  Within, it is interesting to consider how complicated and tense the Beatles’ interpersonal relationships had become, and yet to listen in wonder at the beautiful music they made despite it all.  Outside of the recording process, there was a great deal of expectation when the album was released, especially considering that it wasn’t available for sale until after the Beatles had announced that they were breaking up.  That put a lot of weight on this very final addition to what is arguably the greatest rock ‘n roll catalog of all time.  Even Rolling Stone fluctuated wildly, dismissing the album at its release but soon after adding it as #86 on their list of the best rock albums of all time.

Regardless of your perspective on this album, Let It Be is a strong addition to anyone’s music collection, if only for the outstanding songs it contains — and not only the singles, but many of the deep tracks, as well.

I’ll probably still click one more space lower on my iPod for Let It Be… Naked, but I have enjoyed hearing the original in remastered audio.  And make sure you watch all of our great Beatles cover songs videos here on the music video blog!

Music Review: The Beatles’ “Let It Be… Naked” (2003 Remix)

Originally posted 2009-09-14 23:50:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

The chart-topping success of Let It Be is truly a testament to both the heights of Beatlemania and also to the abilities of the four Beatles to consistently top themselves in their songwriting and musicianship.  Even by 1970, amid tensions that caused all four to at least threaten to quit the band, they managed to come together (no pun intended) to finish the principal tracks for a new album.

This was made easier, of course, by the fact that this new album was based primarily on material that had been written and recorded before their previous record, Abbey Road, was released.

The true complication in this process arose when Phil Spector was somehow given the “okay” to add his signature studio treatment to the tracks.  Perhaps with the disagreements between the Fab Four obscuring their collective vision, Spector was allowed to turn these songs — many of them little gems — into overblown, overproduced testaments to the capabilities of a mixing board.  Orchestras aside, the original concept of this album (at least, when it was begun in January 1969) was that there would be no overdubs of any kind.  How the leap was taken from “no overdubs” to “here’s Phil Spector” is a subject of some debate.  The result?  An album that made many fans and sources close to the band wonder what it would have been like without all the accessorizing.

Let It Be… Naked puts an end to that inquiry.

The cover of the 2003 remix of "Let It Be"

The cover of the 2003 remix of “Let It Be”

As the title implies, Naked is a stripped-down, bare bones version of Let It Be that highlights the instruments and original vocals of the four Beatles which, not surprisingly, is more than enough to excite and entertain.  Ringo once pointed out that, despite all their issues and arguments, when the count began and a song was performed live, they transformed back into those four boys from Liverpool who just loved to play music together.  For anyone who thought that may have been an overstatement, this new take on their final album is the proof of its veracity.

Throughout Let It Be… Naked, the Beatles’ harmonies are tight and their instrumentation is simple yet impressive.  The drums and bass are particularly fun to focus on, perhaps imagining Ringo and Paul falling perfectly into the rhythm and putting all their combined experience, personal talent, and emotion into what would be these final released tracks.  Of course, John and George are just as much fun to listen to.  George’s guitar work, for instance, clearly never needed to be and never should have been buried beneath layers of production and overdubs.

Even the track listing is rearranged on this 2003 remix of the album, tossing out “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae,” as well as adding “Don’t Let Me Down,” a track that had made the cut on the earlier Glyn Johns mix of the album, before the project was shelved.  This is hardly a revelation — I don’t imagine many will miss the two deleted tracks and the album is certainly much better for the inclusion of the latter.

In every conceivable way, Let It Be… Naked is a success and finally presents the album as originally intended, making it a must-listen for any Beatles fan as well as any fan of rock music who is interested in hearing the real story of the final album of this legendary band.

COMING LATER THIS WEEK:  In addition to our regular Beatles cover songs, a review of the new Let It Be 2009 remaster.  How does it compare?…