09/09/09: Chances are you've seen these mysterious numbers in the media of late, and those digits represent a special occasion. In addition to The Beatles: Rock Band game release, the date marks the debut of The Beatles digitally remastered catalog. After over 20 years of complaints concerning the original 1987 CDs, music fans will finally hear the Fab Four's iconic songs in their clear, crisp glory, as close to the original masters as possible.
A team of Abbey Road Studios sound engineers have spent the past four years painstakingly listening to the original reel-to-reel tapes, vinyl masters, the 1987 CDs, and finally the newly remastered CDs, making sure that the sound represents the best quality possible and omits any tape hiss, pops, or distractions. Finally, the packaging vastly improves upon the original CDs, including detailed booklets describing the making of each album as well as the entire original album artwork.
Consumers have several choices in purchasing the Beatles remastered catalog. Two box sets are currently available: the stereo set and the limited edition mono set. In addition, the stereo remasters may be purchased separately. The following is an overview of the stereo CDs and box set, the mono box set, as well as a look back at the original 1987 CDs, and a discussion of why these remasters matter.
The Stereo CDs and Boxed Set
The stereo set includes the 12 U.K. albums, the American issue of the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack (which, according to the Beatles' multimedia corporation Apple Corps.'s official press release, became part of the catalog upon the 1987 CD release), and one disc combining the Past Masters, Volumes One and Two collections. As the press release states, the remasters mark the stereo debut of the first four Beatles albums, in their entirety, on CD. Totaling 16 CDs, the set also includes brief documentaries on the making of each album, all comprising one DVD which may be played on any DVD or Blu-Ray player. The CDs may also be purchased separately, with the documentaries included as Quick Time files on each album, viewable only on computer. These mini-films were directed by Bob Smeaton (writer and director for the Anthology documentary), and include rare archival footage, photographs, and studio chat. While the DVD will continue to be included in the boxed set, the Quick Time versions on the separately sold stereo CDs will be available for only a limited time.
Each CD booklet details recording information as well as historical notes, with reproductions of the original album art. Beatles historians Bruce Spizer and Matt Hurwitz gave the August 2009 Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans audience a sneak preview of the remasters, stating that Kevin Howlett (who wrote the liner notes for the Beatles Live at the BBC CDs) and Allan Rouse, Abbey Road engineer and chief project coordinator, wrote the historical and recording notes, respectively. All original liner notes are present on the CDs as well.