Sunday, November 8, 2009

THE BEATLES-Box Set Review

Written By Donald Kay

Earlier this year, Beatles fans and music lovers alike were greeted with news of, not ONE, but TWO box sets from the Fab Four. Both sets would have added extras, such as sound bytes of the Fabs in the studio as they were making each album, plus visual clips which are added to each disc in the form of a CD rom component.

On the 9/9/09 Beatlemania happened all over again, with both box sets being sold out in hours after going on sale. Many shops couldn’t fill their quota, resulting in disappointments everywhere. It’s taken some four years for the technical people at EMI /UK to find clean master tapes of the first four original mono albums and come up with a first time on CD, “stereo mix.” I have to say that after hearing the “new” versions and comparing them to the “original” vinyl versions, that, whilst they do sound great, only a diehard vinyl addict would spot the difference. Being as they are in the CD format, they’ve enhanced the music contained on each disc, by increasing the treble, and decreasing the bass, to make it crisp, and give it a “modern” sound. Onto the box set, which saw the light of day on the 9/9/09. The first album,”Please, Please Me” has two tracks that are still in MONO, “Love Me Do” and P.S. I Love You.” There is no known stereo mix of both tracks. I found this to be a little bit disappointing, from the point that, we were told that this is the “first” time in the world that the first four albums would be heard in true stereo. As for the packaging (digi packs), for me, I would rather the discs came in jewel cases, because each time the disc is taken out of the cover there’s no protection for the discs, subsequently they get scratched. The extra photos, plus the CD rom features are great, but for my money, I would’ve been quite happy with jewel cases, and drop the CD ROMs.

The stereo box set will set you back, roughly $300 (Australian). Pretty good value, considering you get 13 albums plus a DVD containing all the CD rom components, enabling you, the listener to watch it on your plasma, reliving the excitement from the fabs all over again. The MONO box set is slightly more expensive, somewhere in the region of $375 (Australian). Again it contains the first 10 albums, digitially remastered, with the final three albums appearing in stereo only, plus the past masters, appearing as a double album this time.

The sound quality overall is great, with more clarity given to all tracks, apart from “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.” However, the original cover artwork has been retained, with extra photos, plus extra sleeve notes, which make for interesting reading. It’s great to hear the differences between the mono and stereo versions, such as the double tracked voice of John on “If I Fell.” (Fantastic). “Tell Me Why” sounds louder and brighter this time around, as do all tracks contained in the box set. For all diehard Beatle fans, who bought the first edition of the Beatles discs, do yourself a favour, and invest in a copy of the new Beatles Box Set. You won’t be sorry.

A bonus for all Beatle fans, who preordered copies of the Box Set and missed out. You’re in luck, as the record companies have come to the party and in late October are issuing another batch of both the Stereo and Mono box sets. Once again we can all go Yeah! , Yeah! Yeah! Enjoy.

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