The Beatles Reissued

Today marks the day that The Beatles complete catalogue is re-issed on CD (and quite possibly digitally – but we’ll find out later).
The original CDs were – seemingly – fairly rushed affairs and during the intervening years, technology has marched on, and many less famous classic albums have had the remastering process applied.
For some it’s a simple affair with just a bit of tidying up at the outer edges, but I know full-well that the master recordings were pulled out for this release, and a start-from-fresh policy was adopted.
The albums will largely be available on the high-street for about £10.99 (and a pound less on Amazon et al) which also seems remarkably reasonable for individual titles. I’ve long moaned about the fact that Beatles albums were way over-priced. While just about any other major artist got the “Nice Price” treatment, The Beatles remained more expensive than just about any other back catalogue titles out there.
They remained that expensive because they could get away with it. Clearly there’s still not another musical act that can claim to be as big.
As a consequence, until very recently, I’d never bought a Beatles album. I do own a copy of Sgt. Pepper, bought around the 40th anniversary a year or so ago. It was also around this time that the albums dropped to around the ten pound level on the high street. But by then we all knew the remasters were coming.
I do have some Beatles on vinyl though, courtesy of my parents collection (including, I think, the mono version of Sgt. Pepper).
So will I be rushing out to buy my copies of the re-issues today?
Er, no.
Why not? Because “troubled” EMI still seems to be trying too hard to gouge fans with its pricing.
A few years ago, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds got the remastering treatment too. Since albums from the sixties and seventies tended to be quite short, coming in at around half an hour or so, it was quite possible, on the remastered disc, to fit both stereo and mono versions of Pet Sounds. I’m happy with that.
And that’s not a solitary exception. There are other classic albums that exist in both formats on the same disc.
I suspect that most people will just want the stereo editions of the albums and will settle for that boxset – albeit at a price which almost negates any savings from buying the albums seperately (of course, there are extras only to be found in the box). But the mono versions come in their own seperate boxset purely designed to hit collectors and the purist. It’s the same as George Lucas and his various versions of the original Star Wars trilogy. I refuse to be suckered.
Some fans are a bit miffed that SACD versions of the albums haven’t been made available – or DVD Audio or Blu-Ray. “Love” was released in such a format a couple of years ago, and high-end classical music is regularly released in SACD format. It’ll play fine in a regular CD player, but if you have the appropriate hi-fi gear, you can benefit from surround sound versions. With Love that was fine, but I accept it’s questionable whether or not surround sound should be applied to albums that were only ever designed to mastered in – at best – stereo.
Then there’s the attendant hype. We’ve had a Beatles day on Radio 2, and another on BBC2. My own employer has been playing albums in full in the evenings (we do this regularly anyway though), and there’s the video game. Finally, for some reason it’ll be amazing news if Beatles tracks are available via iTunes. That announcement either will or won’t come later today. Quite why it’s so important isn’t clear. If you want the albums – go and buy them. They’re in the shops after all!
But I won’t be buying today, thanks very much. I appreciate the lots of work has gone into these CDs – but they’re still too pricey as a set for me. I could just pick up some of the individual titles, but then perhaps post Christmas the boxset will be down to a more palatable price?
We’ll see.