Now, I’m not saying that I have a pre-digital temperament, but well, I clearly do have a pre-digital temperament.
I took delivery of the Super deluxe (3CD+1 Blue Ray) edition of the 50th anniversary remix of Abbey Road a couple of days ago, and I’ve been grumbling that I wouldn’t be able to give it a listen until Friday at the earliest – or more likely Saturday.
Well, my ageing brane has just reminded me, somewhat belatedly, that I have Spotify on my iPhone, headphones and a good Wi-Fi connection. So now, finally, I am having my first listen to the remixed album.
My initial thoughts are that the sound is clearer, punchier and more three-dimensional. Giles Martin has given more thought to the sound separation; it is no longer half the sound on one ear and half the sound on the other. The new mix puts the main vocals more generally in the middle, along with the drums. The bass goes to the right with the backing vocals and the rhythm guitar off to the left. The overall effect is to make each part of the track easier to hear. There is less lost in the mix, to the point that I now hear things that I’ve not noticed in the previous fifty years (or more precisely, closer to forty-five years – I can’t pretend I owned a copy of the album before I was about fifteen).
I think that one of the revelations of both this and earlier remixes (Sergeant Pepper and the White Album), is that on many tracks I can finally pick out the vocal harmonies on more tracks than I ever realised had them in the past. The Beatles’ harmonies were a very big part of their game in the early to middle years of their career, and I had thought that they had largely dispensed with them after perhaps, Revolver, but no. The harmonies are there, but they weren’t as obvious (at least to my cloth ears) in the original mono and electronically separated mixes. In the recent reworkings, those harmonies are there and clearly to be heard.
It now feels as though you can shut your eyes and place each of the band members in front of you.
What I need to do now, of course, is sit down and listen to the album track by track, in its original, 2009 remaster and 2019 re-mix formats, just to hear how the evolving technology has allowed more to come out as time moves on. In fact I should do that with Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road. It’s a huge task, but I think I’m up to it. Especially now that I have remembered that it’s 2019 and not 1999.