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The Beatles - Help (1965) Stereo Remaster

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Craig in Indy, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Craig in Indy

    Craig in Indy Your cool Uncle

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    Help! (1965)

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    I don’t know if I’ll have a lot to say about this one, as for the first time in the series, I’m comparing the remaster to a stereo original. I don’t know whether the initial British LP release was in stereo or not, but the first CD issue was, so there aren’t the revelatory differences between these two that I've heard with some of the earlier releases. There are across the board improvements in dynamic range, bass extension and to some extent a general increase in overall volume levels. Beyond that I’m not hearing many previously “hidden” instruments. So in general, the changes are kind of subtle for the most part, and sometimes can’t really be appreciated until you go back to the old version, which by comparison sounds decidedly more flat and lifeless.

    And on an artistic note, the energy that seemed a little tapped out in the previous release seems to have returned on this album.

    1 – “Help!”

    About the only change I hear on this track is a little more clarity in the drums and the lead guitar work. The biggest difference is, as I said above, a boost in levels and dynamic range.

    2 – “The Night Before”

    There seems to be a little more echo on the vocal tracks here, which I don’t personally think is an improvement. Nevertheless, they do stand out against the instrumental backgrounds a little better than they used to.

    3 – “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”

    There seems to be a bit more texture around the edges of John’s vocal in the remaster. You can hear it especially well at the end of the first verse, on the words “feeling two foot small.” There’s a weary sounding ragged quality there. The tambourine that comes in at the start of the second verse is a little more prominent and sounds a bit more real. And the second acoustic guitar that shows up in the right channel during the chorus was something I hadn’t noticed before.

    4 – “I Need You”

    Both guitars (electric in the right channel and acoustic in the left) are clearer than before. This is especially effective with the acoustic, as it brings it a bit more forward in the mix. Also, Paul’s bass is much more easily heard, though still just a bit boomy and indistinct. That last quality could simply be an artifact added by the speakers I’m using for this particular comparison. There’s no question it’s louder in the mix, and whether boomy or sharply in focus, you can definitely hear it better.

    5 – “Another Girl”

    Both electrics are in the right channel together, but since the lead isn’t playing all the time, the rhythm is easily heard, much more so than on the old release.

    6 – “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”

    The piano and the percussion are more readily apparent in the remaster. Otherwise, the same notes apply regarding dynamics and overall level.

    7 – “Ticket to Ride”

    Everything in this song that relies on good highs for their “presence” benefits from the remastering. The chiming lead guitar, the tambourine, even the transients from the drum hits. Plus (and this applies really to all the songs) the sounds all seem to be emerging from a blacker background. It’s like you can almost sense the “quiet” of the studio being disturbed by the playing, where on the old disc it’s all kind of a grayish, two-dimensional landscape, like those recordings could have just as easily been made in a noisy environment. I realize that unless you’re into this sort of thing to begin with, that kind of talk sounds like a bunch of audiophile happy horsesh*t, but it’s the best way I can think to describe it.

    8 – “Act Naturally”

    On the original CD, this song is actually one of the better-sounding recordings. It’s very clean, with good separation (both in terms of R-L and in terms of instruments and voices being distinct from one another). It’s even one of Ringo’s better efforts at singing, maybe because the song suits his voice so well (even Paul manages a convincing "country" sound in his backing vocal work). Because of all of that, I wasn’t expecting a lot of improvement in the remaster. And there isn’t a lot, but what there is is great. There’s definitely more bass than before, and the country twang of the lead work is retained. But what really struck me was how much more easily heard the non-drum percussion work is. I knew it was there before, but hadn’t paid much attention to what it was. Now it clearly sounds (to me, anyway) like a pair of drumsticks being played on some hard surface, like maybe the lid of a piano or a tabletop. They click, resonate briefly and project just brilliantly. Listen to it and let me know what you all think.

    9 – “It’s Only Love”

    Major improvements in the clarity of the guitars here, both lead and rhythm.

    10 – “You Like Me Too Much”

    The opening piano has a nice high end extension and luster that was missing before. And in the opposite channel what I had thought was an electric piano I now believe is some sort of organ, maybe a Vox. At any rate, it retains its identity through the rest of the song, when there were times in the original that I mistook it for a guitar. I know, right?

    11 – “Tell Me What You See”

    Again, the percussion is what really benefits from the work done here. There were times when it sounded like they were being played in the next room, and that effect is gone now. Plus they can be clearly identified as a tambourine and woodblock, where before it was kind of mushy and indistinct. The tambourine could have easily been mistaken for Ringo riding his hi-hat, and the woodblock for a rimshot.

    12 – “I’ve Just Seen a Face”

    The acoustic in the left channel sounds much more like a 12-string now than it did, but for me the big improvement here is in the vocal – much more presence and texture, and very well recorded consonant sounds. Ss sound like Ss, without any trace of sibilance, and the other consonants are just as clear, and the vowels have a lot of texture. A very good example is the D at the start of the phrase “Dream of her tonight” at 0:30. Listen to that and tell me you’ve heard that natural a vocal sound on a Beatle record before.

    13 – “Yesterday”

    If I didn’t know better, I’d think I’m hearing just a teeny bit of fret buzz in the opening guitar segment that I hadn’t noticed before. There is definitely a little more sparkle in the guitar playing, even if it only shows up sometimes in the transient attacks when the strings are first plucked. On the downside, the strings now seem (to me) to be a little more intrusive than before, like the song didn’t really need them. But I freely admit that could just be me, and at the very least it's a matter of taste.

    14 – “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”

    Brighter, clearer lead guitar, better bass and drums, and wider dynamic range are all evident here. I just wish they’d had a better song to close with. I know, I’m commenting on the music, which I said I wouldn’t do, but it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, IMO. It and "Act Naturally" are the only covers here, and AN kind of fits, even if it's because it's a Ringo song and by this time we'd come to expect those to be a little "off." ;) But this song belongs back on Please Please Me with "Twist and Shout."
     

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