SH12K061BEATLESMUSIC Nov. 13, 2012 -- A hard-bound 252-page book about the Beatles' studio albums is included in a deluxe box set. (SHNS photo courtesy EMI Music North America)
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:30PM
For Mike Mettler, the editor-in-chief of Sound + Vision magazine, music enthusiast and passionate devotee of vinyl records, last week’s release of the Beatles’ original studio album remasters on stereo LP represented “The Holy Vinyl Grail, Part I.”
“It’s the world’s greatest band in the best-ever stereo sound,” he says, “and it’s on vinyl, the format for which the music was originally recorded. This really tells the story. In the vinyl form, when you put it on, you automatically understand why the Beatles are so good.”
The remastered stereo vinyl releases of the band’s 12 original U.K. albums, originally released between 1963 and 1970, are the latest chapter in the history of a storied discography.
In 2009, the remastered CD editions hit stores, and in 2010 — after considerably lengthy negotiations — the music made its download debut on iTunes. Next year will bring Mettler’s “Vinyl Holy Grail, Part II” — the same vinyl LPs, only this time in mono.
For years now, hard-core Beatles fans and audiophiles have debated and analyzed every subtlety and nuance of a legendary (and somewhat chaotic) discography.
It’s a reality that’s not lost on Sean Magee, one of the engineers at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London who, using the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions required for the production of CDs, cut the digital remasters to vinyl.
“No pressure, really, is there?” he said with a laugh. “You approach it like any job. Not saying the Beatles were ordinary, but you go into professional mode and do what’s required. We see what we’re trying to achieve, and then stick to that. We’re not trying to change anything. We just want to try to make it better if it needs to be.”
For Mettler, the new stereo vinyl editions contain numerous revealing moments that make for an enhanced listening experience, from Paul McCartney’s pulsating bass line in “Taxman” (from 1966’s “Revolver”) to the powerful orchestral backing on “A Day in the Life.” But the earlier songs also chart new sonic paths.
“For the casual listener, songs like ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ — any of those songs where the harmonies were the core of what the songs were about — you can really hear how all those voices blend. You just get a sense of what masters of harmonies these guys were. You sit there and you smile, because you’re like, ‘Wow, this stuff is as good as I remember.’ The proof is in the groove.”
The new Beatles 180-gram stereo LPs appear against the backdrop of a small but steadily growing marketplace for new vinyl. According to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music-industry-sales data, some 3.9 million new vinyl albums were sold in 2011. That’s up from 2.8 million in 2010, 2.5 million in 2009 and 1.88 million in 2008.
“For all its imperfections, they’re kind of what makes it sound nice,” Magee said. “There’s just a little bit of chaos thrown in there. It’s something you can sit and look at and appreciate, even when it’s not delivering music to you.”