In TONEAudio Magazine's review of the remasters, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is cited as a classic example of the original CDs' terrible sound. The 1987 CD sounds “tinny, lifeless, shrill, flat, and canned—to the extent where listeners are forced to mentally fill in parts they think (and know) should be present.” After all, according to Mojo's review of the remasters, “the best Beatles music (and that, of course, is most of it) is a federation—not a union—of elements, with the individual contributions so discrete and characterful that any time spent drawing them out is well-rewarded.”
Then in 1999, Beatles fans received their first clue of what a remixed, remastered Beatles album could sound like—the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. The album boasted remixes, which entails manipulating separate tracks to create altered vocals and instrumentation, according to Edna Gundersen's USA Today report). The sound engineers remixed each track from the original multi-track tapes, creating a stereo update of the tunes (for a detailed recounting of the original recordings and remixes, visit Norwegian Wood's Yellow Submarine Songtrack page).
2003's Let It Be...Naked, remixed and remastered under the direction of Paul McCartney, provided another example of what modern sound engineering could do. McCartney famously despised Phil Spector's 1970 production on the original Let It Be album, so he stripped the album of all Spector traces, then had Abbey Road engineers Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse (who are also involved in the current remasters project) essentially create a new album from the original 1969 recording sessions. This digital tinkering resulted in a bare bones, sonically balanced album that serves as an interesting counterpoint to the 1970 original.
The ultimate tease—and perhaps the final straw for many listeners—occurred in 2006, with the release of the soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil show Love. Although not a true remastered Beatles album—producers George and Giles Martin created mash-ups of various Beatles songs—Love revealed how incredible and fresh the familiar songs could sound with new technology. McCartney's driving bass line on “Get Back” made the floor vibrate, while Ringo Starr's drumming thundered anew on “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows.” If the mashed-up Love songs could sound that vibrant, imagine what a complete audial makeover of the entire Beatles catalog could do. After fan protest dramatically increased, Apple finally announced the release of the remastered Beatles catalog in 2009.
Why Do The Remasters Matter?
Now that all 12 original Beatles albums have finally been remastered—as well as the American-issued Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack (which became part of the core catalog in 1987) and Past Masters CD—one question remains: why do the remasters matter? In other words, hardcore fans and collectors have been crying out for these recordings for over two decades—why should casual fans invest in them?