1962-1970 (Red/Blue Albs) (Rm)
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Brand new 2010 digital remaster of the classic Beatles album. This superb compilation from 1962-1966, often called The Red Album, brings together the majority of the Beatles' hits from the early to mid 60s. Consequently, it plays like an overview of some of the most popular and indelible rock songs of all time. From the 'yeah, yeah, yeah's of "She Loves You" through the amped-up giddiness of "I Want to Hold Your Hand", the minor-key melodicism of "And I Love Her", and on to the chiming power pop of "Eight Days a Week" and the tweaky feedback of "I Feel Fine", these are the songs that turned the entire Western world on its ear. The second half of the set--in addition to its phenomenal songs-- is interesting in that it charts the Beatles' move from straightforward pop toward the new chapter of rock the band would help script in the late 60s. After the expansive chords and slinky melodies of "Ticket to Ride", the band becomes alternately darkly introspective ("Yesterday") and looser and more groove-obsessed ("Drive My Car"), while trying on allegorical Dylan-inspired narratives ("Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"), and happy-go-luck psychedelia ("Yellow Submarine"). These songs are part of our living, breathing cultural identity, and--as this collection reminds us--for good reason. The companion piece to the 1962-1966 singles compilation, this set (often called The Blue Album, as opposed to its chronological predecessor The Red Album), brings together the Beatles best known songs from 1967 through 1970. The Beatles were fiercely, relentlessly experimental during these years, and the swirling, visionary soundscapes of "Strawberry Fields Forever", which opens the collection, sets the tone with its effects-heavy production and backward tape loops. John Lennon's psychedelic songwriting, which emphasised crystalline melodies and surreal wordplay, can be heard on tracks like "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" and "Across the Universe". Paul McCartney's fascination with English music hall and novelty numbers is clear on "Penny Lane" and "Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da", and the set also has some of his finest ballads, including the mega-hits "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude". George Harrison emerged as a fine songwriting talent during these years with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun". Yet despite evidence of their diverging individual directions, the Beatles still rock as a band on cuts like "Revolution". (The set includes the single versions of "Revolution", "Lady Madonna", and "Hey Jude"). The Beatles set the tenor of the late-'60s with this spectacular soundtrack, and it remains--even afteryears of overplaying--original, beautiful music.
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For all fellow Beatles fans considering whether to invest (again!) in this paired title - I have played and compared them, track by track, against the original 1993 'Red & Blue' CDs and also against previous digital releases that hold some of the same tracks, namely The Yellow Submarine 'Songtrack' CD Album (from 1999), The Beatles '1' CD Album (from 2000) and the `Let it Be - Naked' CD Album (from 2003). My aim is to provide a useful, constructively-critical guide to anyone unsure about committing themselves to this purchase.
THE 'RED' ALBUM (1962-1966)
1."Love Me Do" - 2:23 (Mono)
I found the version on the '1' Album to have better focus to the vocals and more clarity to the tambourine than both the 1993 & 2010 Red versions.
2."Please Please Me" - 2:03 (Mono)
I think The 2010 'Red' version has better bass definition than the 1993 'Red' version and the electric guitars sound crisper, Ringo's background drum fills are also cleaner.
3."From Me to You" - 1:57 (Mono)
It seems to me that the '1' Album's version sounds less bright overall than the 1993 & 2010 'Red' versions, with John & Paul's vocals being noticeably clearer with less (distracting) delay to the studio echo which George Martin applied to them.
4.Read more ›
Like all Beatles material, the stereo mixes (i.e. everything in this batch except the first few songs, which are mono) can be a little distracting in headphones because of the heavy left-right separation of the instruments and vocals. On speakers, that problem disappears--and true purists will probably buy the Mono Box Set anyway.
But regardless of that, if you don't yet have much Beatles material, this mini-box is the perfect place to start, better than the single-disc compilation The Beatles 1 for sure. Even if you already own the earlier digital incarnation of everything the band released, this is still a great collection to have in your car's CD player or as an iPod playlist. Play them chronologically or on shuffle: are there a better 54 songs from a single act? I doubt it. Sure, your particular favourite ("Rain," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "I'm Down," or "This Boy," perhaps) may be missing, but the compilation has to stop somewhere. Almost all the most important, classic tracks are here.
The included booklets are brief but informative, though they do gloss over some of the band's later infighting. And it's splendid to have all the lyrics printed to read along with. Yes, for instance, John is singing "jai guru deva" in "Across the Universe," not "jackaroo days, ah."
Listen through from start to finish, and you'll be smiling and singing along the whole time. What more could you want in a batch of music?
I purchased the combined Red/Blue set from Amazon.ca for a slightly higher price (around $42); that set is a QVC exclusive in the States right now, but it may be available on other sites, including Amazon.com, later on.
Packaging of the two sets is much better than the 1993 CD issues; foldout digipaks replace the clamshell jewel boxes. The booklets are really nice with a great essay by Bill Flanagan and lots of photos. The version that I purchased combines the two sets in a nice slipcase.
The sound quality, using the 2009 remasters, is much better than it was in 1993, when the inferior 1987/88 masters were used. My only disappointment is that the mono masters of Please Please Me and From Me to You were used, as was the case in 1993, instead of the stereo mixes that were issued on the original 1973 LPs. Perhaps Apple wanted to release these versions to the general public, as they were previously available (the remastered versions) only on the pricey THE BEATLES IN MONO box set.Read more ›