Fifteen years ago, millions of people reveled in a fresh wave of Beatlemania with the 1 greatest hits collection. The concept couldn’t have been simpler: all their singles that reached the number one spot on either side of the Atlantic were included. The 27 classics fit perfectly on a CD. In the intervening years, we’ve seen the entire Beatles catalog remastered in stereo and mono. Those remasters were then reshuffled and repackaged in their U.S.-only album configurations. So why is 1 being reissued again? Short answer: videos! This time we get remastered videos for every song (on Blu-ray or DVD; both formats available), plus (on the deluxe edition) a second Blu-ray (or DVD) of additional promo videos. The album itself has not only been remastered, but also remixed. And the deluxe edition includes a 124-page book of track-by-track liner notes.
In other words, the deluxe edition—1+ and touted as a limited edition (though to what extent is unknown; I’m guessing it’s limited to the amount of copies they can sell)—is absolutely unmissable for Beatles fans. These promotional clips (they weren’t called music videos in the ’60s, though some of these short films were created post-’60s) have been cleaned up frame-by-frame and, when the source was real film and not archaic ’60s-era broadcast videotape, the results are jaw-dropping. Take for instance the Shea Stadium concert footage utilized for a newly-created “Eight Days a Week.” You’ve probably seen the footage before, but never like this. It’s so richly detailed and the colors are so vivid, it looks like it was shot yesterday. That’s not hyperbole. “Paperback Writer,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Hello Goodbye” are a few more examples of shot-on-35mm stunners.
The first Blu-ray disc contains one clip for each of the 27 tracks. Many of these are live performances (or in the case of “Hey Jude,” semi-live—a TV appearance for which the band sang live against pre-recorded instrumentation) rather than the standard studio masters found on the CD. This could result in disappointment considering one of the big draws of the Blu-ray set is hearing The Beatles in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound. Speaking of which, the 5.1 mixes are tremendous—more expansive and revealing, obviously, than the remixes found on the CD (more on that later). But you’re not going to hear all the original studio masters in 5.1, considering the various alternate versions. Several early songs—including “From Me to You,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Yesterday”—are culled from inferior fidelity live sources.
On the second Blu-ray disc we get an additional 23 promotional videos. Some of these are alternate versions of songs we saw on the first disc: there are two alternate “Day Tripper” films, a pair of different “Hello Goodbye”s and different edits of “Hey Jude” and “Get Back.” A little-seen—and rather amusing—alternate promo for “I Feel Fine” consists of nothing more than the four Beatles devouring a lunch of greasy fish and chips. But most of the second disc features clips for songs not found on the 1 album. In fact, some of these aren’t even ’60s recordings. The disc concludes with the videos for the ’90s reunion singles “Free as a Bird” (disappointingly window-boxed rather than enhanced for 16:9) and “Real Love.” One of the clips, “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows,” was created as a promotional piece for the Cirque du Soleil Love stage show.
So it’s worth making this clear: the producers of 1+, when assembling this program of promo films (which runs, between the two discs, over three hours), were clearly more interested in making a (re)watchable program than with presenting a true completist-targeted historical document. There’s no real reason to preserve the Flash animation clip for “Come Together,” created specifically to promote the original 2000 release of 1, other than there not being a better option to visually represent that song. Likewise, “Yellow Submarine” is a newly-edited piece comprised of clips from the 1969 animated feature. “Words of Love” is a neat little piece, created from some beautifully restored vintage footage plus new animation, but it exists only for this set. And the footage taken from the Let It Be documentary, both studio and rooftop concert footage, looks so awesome it will leave many fans wringing their hands over the fact that Apple hasn’t reissued the complete film.
As an extended grab-bag of live performances, pioneering “music videos,” newly-created clips, and glorious 5.1 HD audio, the 1+ Blu-rays are an outstanding way to celebrate to the music of The Beatles. There are a few extra bits as well—select-song commentary by Paul McCartney and video introductions by Ringo Starr. The book meticulously details the sources for all of the video presented, so there’s no confusion about which ones are presented exactly as they were in the ’60s and which were either re-edited or are brand new.
Oh, and how about the remixed 1 album itself? The big news is the fact that it’s remixed (the first three tracks in mono, the rest in stereo), because each of the 2009-reissued albums retained the original, unadulterated remixes. Anyone fearing (or perhaps looking forward to?) some Yellow Submarine “songtrack” remixes—which quite significantly, and in some cases quite radically, altered the sound of the songs—can rest easy (or be disappointed, depending on what you were anticipating). The team behind the new 1 was extremely respectful in regards to The Beatles’ and producer George Martin’s original conception. In fact, no one could even be blamed for initially not noticing the differences between these remixes and the originals. Many of the more noticeable changes involve the placement of the vocals, centering them to create a better balance in the songs that have always had the vocals panned far left or right. These are tasteful across the board, intent on retaining the songs’ original character instead of trying to “modernize” the sound.
The Beatles’ 1 is also available as a single-disc Blu-ray or DVD. The 1 and 1+ reissues are available beginning November 6, 2015.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B01576X9J0]