The Beatles’ remastered back catalogue has finally been released in mono and stereo by EMI and Apple Corps.
The compact discs are available as single or double CD sets, a stereo box set, and a limited edition 13-disc set containing the original mono mixes.
As announced in April 2009, The Beatles’ back catalogue has been carefully digitally upgraded from the original mixes by a team working at Abbey Road Studios. The releases are the configurations as originally released in Britain, with the exception of Magical Mystery Tour, which retains the full-length US tracklisting.
No bonus tracks or alternative mixes are included, with two exceptions. George Martin‘s 1980s stereo mixes for Help! and Rubber Soul have now become the standard versions; the 1965 stereo mixes have been included as extra tracks in the Beatles In Mono box set.
The stereo remasters
Much attention to detail has been lavished on the packaging, from the glossy box with magnetic clasp to the three-panel sleeves (four-panel in the case of the White Album) that house the discs.
There are additional booklets containing photos and essays, and the CDs themselves have reproductions of the Parlophone, Capitol or Apple labels that originally adorned them. Additional historical notes were written by Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley, and recording notes are by Allan Rouse and Kevin Howlett.
Initial quantities of the CDs, apart from the Past Masters collection, will contain embedded QuickTime documentaries on the making of the albums. The short films will also be collated on a DVD available only on the stereo box set. The documentaries feature extracts from interviews recorded for the Anthology project, and are brought together on a special DVD in the stereo box.
The stereo albums were remastered by Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee.
The Beatles in Mono
The mono box set is a limited edition, although initial reports of 10,000 copies have been denied by EMI. The mono mixes are unavailable as individual CDs. The box contains a total of 185 songs spread over 13 discs.
The box contains the original albums, from Please Please Me to The Beatles (White Album), which were mixed differently for mono in the 1960s. Many fans see these as the definitive versions, as The Beatles and George Martin typically spent more time working on the mono mixes than they did on stereo.
The CDs bonus packaging is absent from the mono release, but each disc is packaged with an accurate reproduction of the original albums, including, in some cases, the folded down cardboard flaps on the back covers.
Extras such as the White Album poster and portraits, and the Sgt Pepper cutouts, are also included, as is a special 44-page booklet containing photographs and historical information written by Kevin Howlett.
The mono albums were remastered by Paul Hicks, Sean Magee with Guy Massey and Steve Rooke.
A bonus two-CD set, Mono Masters, is also included in the box. This features mono mixes made in the 1960s which were not included on the albums, together with tracks from an abandoned Yellow Submarine EP which was to include Across The Universe.
The Yellow Submarine album is not included in the mono box, as the original mono UK LP was a fold-down version of the stereo version, rather than a unique mono mix.
The full tracklisting of Mono Masters is as follows:
- Love Me Do (original single version)
- From Me To You
- Thank You Girl
- She Loves You
- I’ll Get You
- I Want To Hold Your Hand
- This Boy
- Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
- Sie Liebt Dich
- Long Tall Sally
- I Call Your Name
- Slow Down
- I Feel Fine
- She’s A Woman
- Bad Boy
- Yes It Is
- I’m Down
- Day Tripper
- We Can Work It Out
- Paperback Writer
- Lady Madonna
- The Inner Light
- Hey Jude
- Only A Northern Song
- All Together Now
- Hey Bulldog
- It’s All Too Much
- Get Back
- Don’t Let Me Down
- Across The Universe
- You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)
The remastering process
EMI staff, overseen by Allan Rouse, returned to the original mono and stereo mixes prepared in the 1960s by George Martin, Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott, Phil McDonald, Glyn Johns and The Beatles. Improved technology allowed a more detailed digital transfer than was available when the CDs were first issued in 1987.
Staff at Abbey Road Studios began work on the project at the start of 2005, and the remasters were approved by Apple Corps and EMI in early 2009. All the remastering was done within Abbey Road Studios using state of the art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment. The work was done chronologically, allowing the team to progress with The Beatles’ sound.
The re-mastering process began with the master tapes being copied onto digital, using a Pro Tools workstation operating at 24 bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter. Transferring was done one track at a time, and any build up of dust was removed from the tape machine heads between each title.
The early vinyl pressings and 1980s CD versions were also loaded into Pro Tools, to allow comparisons to be made at each stage. Upon completion of an album, it was replayed the following day in Abbey Road’s studio three, to allow any further EQ alterations.
Although the original 1960s master tapes were used, some technical faults in the recordings were removed, including bad edits and tape drop outs. It was agreed that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be improved where possible, so long as it didn’t impact on the original integrity of the songs.
Some equalisation was used where appropriate to enhance the sound, but the removal of tape hiss was used subtly and sparingly. Less than one percent – five minutes – of the stereo recordings was treated to noise reduction, and none of the mono remasters were affected.
Around 20 of the stereo tracks received no equalisation treatment after project staff decided they couldn’t be bettered after the initial transfer.
The stereo Help! And Rubber Soul CDs use the mixes made by George Martin in 1987. Martin was unhappy with the how the 1960s mixes sounded when they were originally remastered in the 1980s, and so prepared new versions from the four-track tapes. The 1965 stereo versions, however, are included in the mono box as bonus tracks.