"The Beatles" Re-mixed by Giles Martin: Any Good? Page 2

Other than Beatles aficionados and historians, most consumers to this day don’t really care about this back story and many have never heard of the “Esher demos” but hopefully now they will. Also, many books exist that go into all of this in near-excruciating detail if you are interested, especially Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”, which I highly recommend.

Apple Corps/UMe will release on November 9th a number of configurations of the newly remixed The Beatles as outlined in the AnalogPlanet story written directly after the recent event at Power Station at BerkleeNYC studios. Please click on that link for the details.

To restate the obvious, the Esher demos is like the first “Unplugged” album and it clearly demonstrates that at least at the time it was recorded, the 3 Beatles were getting along famously and working together as a musical unit. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

The 4 LP box packaging has its good and less than good aspects. The gatefold jackets are not “top-loaders” nor are they “fold overs” nor are they numbered, but The Beatles is embossed. The inner sleeves are, like the original’s black, but with added inner protective rice paper or another vinyl protecting material. The full sized poster and 4 individual head shots are included as well and all are well-reproduced as are the inner gatefold’s black and white images.

However, while some on-line sites claim a “stapled 12”x12” booket” is included, one is not. Instead there’s a folded over 24”x12” heavy board “one-sheet” containing pictures of each Beatle playing their instrument and short essays by Paul McCartney (emphasizing the album’s group nature), Giles Martin (an introduction with some historical background information), and Beatles biographer Kevin Howlett’s album essay on the inner gatefold and Esher Demos essay on the outer gatefold along with four more photos.

Miles Showell 1/2 speed mastered the 4LP set at Abbey Road from the high resolution files and it was pressed at Optimal. All 4 LPs in the sealed set I received were perfectly pressed. QRP pressed the double LP set minus the Esher Demos (not auditioned).

There’s also a 3 CD set containing the same program as the 4 LP box set and for those who must have it all, there’s a numbered deluxe box containing 6 CDs containing what’s on the 3 CDs plus 3 CDs of studio jams, alternate takes and rehearsals taken from the album and associated singles. The Blu-ray disc contains a new transfer of the original mono mix and new 5.1 and the new stereo mix at 96k/24 bit resolution.

In addition the deluxe box includes a 164 page hardcover book that includes track-by-track details, and pictures of the band, tape boxes, recording sheets, and print ads. The book is a "must have" for hard-core fans and it's a shame a 4 LP box set with that book was not made available. Perhaps the book can be sold separately?

You Are Here To Read About the Mix!

This album is in my DNA and probably yours. Without knowing why (until now) certain tracks sound better than others. Some of you who are more “into the weeds” probably know why “Dear Prudence” sounds particularly good on the original and reissue because it was recorded at Trident on an 8-track machine. Most of the album was recorded on 4-track machines. When Ken Scott found out there was an 8-track machine at Abbey Road, he moved it into the studio without authorization so it could be used for much of the rest of the album. Some of those 8 track recordings also stand out, but some don't, probably because they were secondarily bounced to 8 tracks.

Originally, UMe/Apple Corps wanted reviews held until release date of November 9th but as of the day this review was posted (October 23rd), that restriction was lifted. So to get this review posted as quickly as possible, the planned microscopic examination of this mix versus the original got scrapped.

If you want to read about the original mix in detail I also suggest Mark Lewisohn's "The Beatles Recording Sessions/The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes 1962-1970 (Harmony Books). Also please see the fascinating website The White Album Project, which produced a sprawling look at the album from every possible angle including a track by track analysis of differences between the mono and stereo mixes and other mix related minutiae.

Lewisohn's book, for instance, notes on page 162 that Chris Thomas was given the job of "waggling the oscillator" on the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" mixes because Eric Clapton didn't want the solo to sound so archetypically Claptonesque. So to get it to sound more "Beatlesque", Thomas produced a "flanging" effect by wobbling the oscillator. Did the remix attempt to duplicate that? That's something I'd hoped to find time to check but there wasn't time when the okay to publish arrived in an email.

More generally and on the very positive side, there were no major mixing surprises when I compared my two original U.K. pressings with this remix. However, both of those sound far superior to an American original and especially to the one included in the 1980’s Mobile Fidelity box set. This is not The Beatles reimagined as much as it’s The Beatles clarified and neatly buffed without softening the purposefully hard edges of a recording as “live’ and unprocessed as The Beatles had recorded in some time.

Most importantly, Mr. Martin left mostly intact what was familiar and comfortable to long time listeners. If anything, the vocals sound richer, more velvety and more coherently believable than on the original.

Martin did not slam the record either. It’s arguably more dynamic than the original and is free of the original’s somewhat austere tonal balance without sliding into softness. The mix respects the differences heard on the original. Some tracks sound somewhat distant and some are “in your face”. That is true here as well.

There was less for Martin to do than on the Sgt. Pepper’s…. remix since the basic tracks were laid down live with vocals and overdubs were later added.

I never had issues with the original mixes as much as I did with the somewhat hard and occasionally harsh tonal balance (though as my system improved so did my opinion of the original mix).

This is a good place to state this: I’ve played this same original pressing since November of 1968 I don’t know how many times, but a lot and the top end is all there and it’s mostly very quiet with no noise and no distortion caused by grooves having been “eaten”.

Records do not “wear out” if properly cared for and correctly played back! End of sermon.

There were only a few notably jarring moments playing back the vinyl edition of the reissue, one being it sounds as if Martin was able to somehow lower on “Blackbird” Paul McCartney’s foot tapping. Not sure if that was done with amplitude or EQ (probably EQ) but it definitely sounds less pronounced.

Yoko on “….Bungalow Bill” was also panned right instead of left. Probably just a mistake. It’s funny: when I first got the original record my system wasn’t sufficiently resolved to identify the singer as Yoko but once improved, well there she was!

Also noticed that on Lennon’s sweet lullaby closer “Good Night”, Ringo’s vocal seem somewhat buried in the strings, whereas it’s more upfront on the original. I prefer the original there.

Yes, as on Sgt. Pepper’s…. bass is far more pronounced, but it’s not because Paul insisted it be boosted. It’s on the tape I’m sure and it was attenuated on the original so the stylus wouldn’t jump out of the grooves on the kiddie phonographs of the day (the same was true of the mono originals versus the AAA reissues. I know that’s true because I heard this album’s mono tapes at Abbey Road). If your system is well-balanced you’ll appreciate the difference. If your system suffers lower mid-bass bloat, you may insist the equalization was poor.

These records were not “slammed”. In fact it could be argued that the original is louder. No doubt some overall compression was applied, as it should be to any rock record that’s intended to rock.

All of this said, the reissue does not sound like the original U.K. pressing nor was it intended to. Yet it remains true to the original’s intent, in part because there was less Mr. Martin could do to change it.

The new mix does sound more “modern” because modern techniques and gear were used, and the final source was a modern digital storage system, but this reissue does not sound “digital” as the pejorative use of the term has come to be used.

You’ll definitely be able to hear further into the reissue mix because it has greater transparency. And you can crank it up farther because it’s less harsh and somewhat smoother but not to where it’s soft. I know some would also like to hear the original tape re-mastered but that's not likely.

As for the Esher Demos, they are truly wondrous. John brought 15 songs, Paul 7 and George 5. You are in the Kinfauns Bungalow as they strum, bang and shake and you’ll love every minute of it—on vinyl. When I played the CD version (on a dCS Rossini, which is among the best CD players you’ll hear) all of that magic disappeared. I was hearing a plastic-sounding recording. Was it different EQ? Was it the downrez from 96/24 to 16/44.1? I don’t know and I don’t care. Am I prejudiced against CDs? Damn straight I am! Based on what I hear and nothing else. I’ve not had time to evaluate the Blu-ray sound and the other material on the extra CDs but I’ll report back as soon as possible.

My conclusion about this remix is that if you have an original British pressing that you love, you will still love that. If you have an open mind you will also love this re-mix. You might be surprised which one you choose when you want to revisit this album. Yes, The Beatles has been “Martinized” but you won’t be left thinking you’ve been taken to the cleaners! (unboxing video to come).

Music Direct Buy It Now

Hats Domino's picture


Tell Mark Lewisohn Abbey Road didn't have a 16 track at the time, much less a 24 track. And there would be no need to compile an album on a 24 track. 4 track machines were used to crossfade one song into another, or they simply played the two tapes into and recorded the resulting crossfade to another 2 track machine.

The next two Beatles albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be, were done on 8 track machines. 24 track machines didn't even exist in 1968.

And I don't understand how anyone couldn't identify Yoko's voice until this remix. That's just silly.

AnalogJ's picture

What is your source to counter the information in the article?

Hats Domino's picture

Everything I posted is pretty common knowledge.

AnalogJ's picture

Common knowledge? Apparently it's not necessarily common knowledge. I'm not trying to be contentious, but why don't you cite information regarding the details of your assertions.

Michael Fremer's picture
Some is from the Lewisohn book "The Beatles Recording Sessions/ The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes 1962-1970" (Harmony Books). Other information is from Wikipedia with sources cited and checked.
AnalogJ's picture

Whether The Beatles did or didn't have access to higher numbered multi-track recorders is interesting, But you can't both be right.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was an error corrected. However it’s obvious that HatsDomino has an anger management issue.
Michael Fremer's picture
You are too angry to read with comprehension. I did NOT write that I couldn’t tell it was Yoko until this remix.
dfsdave's picture

I suggest you re-read his comment about Yoko's voice,You misunderstood what he wrote. And I too would love to hear the source for your other assertions.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was my error not Lewisohns. I will correct it.
Hats Domino's picture

Awesome! Thanks, Michael.

Keen Observer's picture

A 24-track deck was available in 1968, albeit as a custom built deck (they modified an Ampex 300 deck) for a studio in L.A. None of the UK studios used for the white album sessions had more than 8-track machines. I don't think commercial production of 24-track machines began until the following year, but the previous commenter's claim about a 24-track deck is, of course, suffering a lack of accuracy.

alucas's picture

A very good article. I remember well when The White Album came out. It was different. It was a grouping of songs from 4 separate people with the help of the others. I loved it but it was less of the Beatles and more of a collection of songs from 4 artists, John, Paul, George and Ringo. They did correct this singular collection with the next two albums, that were more from The Beatles as a group effort, than the four that were starring at the beginning of a break up.

homersoddishe's picture

Feel free to remove them. My iPod kept reporting an error, so I kept trying. :)

bwright's picture

Another favorite waiting in the advance order queue. And many thanks for the great review. Nice to know it's another winner, like the 50th Pepper.

I have to ask - how does it compare to the '78 UK white vinyl?

audiophilewannab's picture

The article's last sentence cracked me up...Thanks for that. Well spun. LOL!

Findog3103's picture

Michael, how did you like the new stereo version compared to the mono in the box set?

cundare's picture

i) OK, not the most important question, but still: Is the poster the "censored" airbrushed version, or are Paul's pubes intact? Michael, inquiring minds need to know.

ii) What's most annoying to me about this otherwise-praiseworthy project, especially given the precedent set by Steven Wilson's terrific "Defnitive" Yes BD-As, is that the WA Blu-ray is being made available only as part of the most expensive package. As great as I'm sure the LPs sound, as interesting as the Esher demos are, the BD-A is the format I'm really interested in. And I hate that obtaining a copy will force me to buy CDs & albums that will likely be played once, if at all. Maybe Tidal will offer the 94/24 versions, but there will likely be no other way to hear Giles' 5.1 mixes.

cundare's picture

Just noticed that Michael's unboxing video has been posted and I see that it answers my poster question. I should have had more faith.

But isn't it pronounced "ee-shir"? That's the way a couple of old friends of mine in Surrey have always pronounced it.

David Andrews's picture

As far as the Kinfauns tape official release sounding "plastic," let me share an experience with its bootleg incarnations, of which there have been several, with the KF tape sometimes packaged with other material.

I hate .mp3, but I received a CDR from a friend with a particular KF bootleg title that sounded great - airy and ethereal. I downloaded (don't tell anybody) several lossless .flac KF versions because I could not locate the identical bootleg title in lossless - and these versions all sounded one-dimensional and "blah."

Surely, I thought, a lossless download of the exact title would be best! But when I finally downloaded one months later - it sounded like the other "blah" lossless versions and not like the .mp3 burn that I cherished, though it was demonstrably the same release. How'd that happen? Was there something beneficial in removing information? Could this experience be relevant to the sound of the official release?

mmaterial1's picture
mmaterial1's picture
mmaterial1's picture
mmaterial1's picture
rexlibris's picture

That must have hurt.

StonedBeatles1's picture


zeus's picture

Are the 4LP and 2LP versions both mastered by Miles S. at Abbey Road and just pressed at different plants? Or are they both mastered differently also?

Atomicmod's picture

Wow - you aren’t kidding about “Long, Long, Long” - what an incredible upgrade in imaging, clarity, and gorgeous dynamics. The result of all of this, is that the emotion in George’s voice and the performance as a whole is far more impactful.

M1chael's picture

As Don Corleone said in the godfather, Look what they did to my white album, they made a mess of it. Loud vocals,soft instruments,switched channels, all I wanted was the album remastered keeping the same tone and character, just cleaner and clearer with higher resolution. Mikey, you forwarned us about sgt pepper but this one got me, a lot of money for a nice book.

swimming1's picture

Now I've got an original UK st top loader,mono reissue,red japan mono,blue box stereo,purple capitol,original US apple st, and german weiss. Which is best?

swimming1's picture

Oh I also have a cd and a cassette version. I sort of like the cassette version played on my old Akai tape deck.

kavorka's picture

Michael, I'm always finding your reviews right on the money, but this time you caught me by surprise. I don't think I'm hearing what you're hearing.

Like everyone else, I could barely contain my excitement while waiting to grab my copy of the 50th anniversary White Album reissue. I knew it's going to be a remix (not a big fan of remixes), but I was hoping that at least it will deliver the improved sound quality.

I went for the 2 LPs (I'm not a big fan of alternate takes -- certain things cannot be 'unheard').

Now, it could easily be that the 2 LPs release is inferior to the more lavish 4 LPs, in terms of pressing quality, and I hope that's the case, because my copy of the 2 LPs verges on unlistenable.

I'm comparing it to several copies I have (most of which have been procured in the 1970s). I'm doing comparative listening on the medium quality stereo chain -- Heavily modded Systemdek IIX turntable with Jelco 12" tonearm with Nakamichi cabling, Ortofon OM 20 cartridge into iFi Micro iPhono 2 phono preamp into DSP 2000 preamp (via Audioquest Golden Gate interconnects) into DPA 200s power amp (via Audioquest Red River interconnect) driving a pair of Magnepan MG-1 IMP modded speakers (via Nordost Blue Heaven speaker cables). Fairly revealing system that boasts tonal neutrality and razor sharp imaging, tall and wide soundstage and convincing dynamics.

When listening to the old White Album pressings, I get plenty of sparkle, rich and fairly elaborate soundstage, and lean and taut, but very deep bass.

When listening to the 2018 remix, I hear lush, warm and cuddly sound, with plenty of bloom, exaggerated mid-bass, and deadened sparkle.

I'm mystified. It sounds as if the original tapes had a lot of hiss which the remix crew intended to remove and in the process chopped off the transients. I honestly find that hard to believe -- I mean, it's only been 50 years, tapes do not deteriorate that quickly.

Or, seeing how the contemporary trend in speaker design is to really go overboard with boosting the highs (probably addressing the hearing loss that baby boomers are experiencing as they age), the remix attenuated the highs.

Another theory of mine is that the remix crew wanted to transform the White Album to sound closer to how Abbey Road sounds than how it originally sounded in 1968. I mean, there's gotta be an explanation for such drastic alteration of the very nature of the sound of that album. There's gotta be a good reason for changing its character.

I think you are right that "Long Long Long" is the ultimate litmus test, since that song suffered most alterations compared to the original. This may come as a shock, but I vastly prefer the original mix. It is mysterious, eery, evoking spiritual seance, while the remix is just a soft, mellow ballad.

Overall, the 2 LPs remix I'm holding in my hands is a barely recognizable, pale shadow of the mighty White Album. Yes, it is a pleasant sound, no doubt, but it's the kind of a sound that is catering more to the 'audiophile' crowds, to those listeners who enjoy the sound of Diana Krall's albums, which you can play in the background during a sit down dinner without the fear that the music might interrupt frivolous conversation.

What we really need is an equivalent of the 2014 mono remaster. Go back to the original White Album stereo master tapes, follow to the letter the notes engineers made during the prepping for the pressing, use highest possible quality equipment and highest quality virgin vinyl, and please give us the AAA remaster of the White Album in stereo!

David Andrews's picture

If so good and holy, then why is the lead guitar that pops in at about 2:13 in "Back in the USSR" so greatly diminished as to be non-existent compared with McCartney's vocal? It's not like this on my US 1970s LP pressing nor on my British early 1980s pressing. Rather than "Long, Long, Long," this moment sets the tone and the bar for the remaster as I heard it. Where were your ears, Giles? Not hearing the vinyl, I'll swear.

tingly's picture

from https://recordcollectormag.com/reviews/beatles-50th-anniversary-edition

Q&A:MILES SHOWELL Mastering Engineer, Abbey Road Studios

What’s the difference in the way you approached the mastering of the vinyl and CDs?

The process is similar. However, there is an extra step for the CD, which is the digital limiting. Now that we seem to have reached something resembling a truce in the loudness wars, there is a lot less limiting going on for the CD than there was a few years ago. This can only be a good thing. Giles and Sam’s new remixes were high resolution digital and I kept it high resolution all the way through; only dropping the resolution to CD specification for the CD master. The master lacquer discs were cut from the high resolution non-limited mastered files. I am pleased to say these same non-limited high resolution files that I used to cut the vinyl masters are also on the Blu Ray discs.

Don Roderick's picture

In playing Wild Honey Pie on side 1, I noticed obvious speed fluctuations that were not in the original mix and certainly sound unintended.

Also, although I can't locate it now, I'm could swear I read of this problem in some print or digital article, to the fact that Capitol/Apple/UME would issue replacements when available.

*** Does anyone have info to share regarding this problem? ***
Any info, help, suggestions, or comments would be greatly appreciated!

Don Roderick
Tuxedo, NY

bill lettang's picture

I like The White Album remixes for the most part.The only track that really lets me down is While My Guitar Gently weeps....Drums, in particular the bass drum, no longer have that hefty volume to support the descending line..fills are faint to. This is most jarring when listening to the track in context following previous song. Like Gilda once said, Oh well, there's always something.....