Akie, Dave Tomar and I took on the remastered Beatles albums in the Perpetual Post.
I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed with the concept of remastering all of the Beatles’ albums. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that is done with the fans in mind, as much as with the private island which the producer wants to buy in mind. If the remastering is really done for the sake of bringing the works of the Beatles to a higher and more digitally delicious plane, then I would imagine that not every single song would need to be remastered. Maybe just do the ones that are scratchy. But no—this has to be an overhaul of the entire Beatles library, so that compulsive fans will feel obliged to once again collect ‘em all.
I understand that technology is improving every day, but really, how much can they do to improve the sound quality of these songs? It seems to me that the technology that existed back when many of the Beatles’ albums were first recorded had its limits, and thus that any sort of digital cleanup of that original sound is only going to be able to go so far. Besides fixing minor imbalances and background noise, how exactly are they improving these songs? Is the sound now…soundier? Did they fix it so that it feels like the Beatles are standing around you in a circle singing Yellow Submarine in your ear? Can you hear George Harrison blow his nose during the chorus of Eleanor Rigby? Do you care?
I think there’s also an argument that the way the songs sound is the way that generations have listened to them, and is in effect part of the Beatles musical experience. Similar to how turntables have experienced a resurgence in the last several decades; because they impart a certain quality to the sound that is lost with modern musical media. Digital is all fine and good, but does it have to be the ultimate way to hear things? I like a little variety sometimes. You can shove Blu-Ray in my face and I’ll still seek out black and white movies because they’re still great. Is it wrong to feel some nostalgia and love for the sound of a scratchy record? To feel that it has a place in modern life? Plus, what if they’re not just remastering these songs, whatever that even means? What if they’re adding in sneaky little subliminal advertising messages? I wouldn’t put it past them, would you? Is that the Windows chime you heard as the last strains of Rocky Raccoon faded into silence? Did Paul McCartney just sing “Come together” or did he sing “switch to Geico”?
Maybe I’m just being cynical. Or unenlightened. Maybe I have relatively bad hearing so everything sounds all the same to me. But I don’t really understand the fanfare surrounding the release of the digitally remastered Beatles canon. That is, unless some sort of crucial discovery was made in the process. If while remastering Rubber Soul they realized that you can hear Ringo hitting a bong during the instrumentals of ‘Norwegian Wood’, let me know. I might just buy that on iTunes. Otherwise, I’ll take my fab four Original Style.