The Beatles - Please Please Me (1963) Stereo Remaster

Craig in Indy

Your cool Uncle
Oct 3, 2009
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Circle City
I don’t really intend any of these posts to cover artistic or historic matters, though I may not be able to resist making those sorts of observations on occasion as I go through the catalog. I’m really primarily reporting on the sound of these new remasters, and even then, only as they compare to the originally issued CDs. I don’t have the time or even the resources to do any comparisons to LPs, as I only have a small handful of those any longer.

I should also say from the outset that I personally think the stereo versions of these discs are the way to go. I don’t have the new mono releases on hand to compare them to, but some of the additional clarity I’m hearing between these new stereo discs and the old mono ones must surely be attributable to the fact that there are two sources of sound now. There are simply some things I’m hearing now that I never heard before, because they were buried within the rest of the single-channel mix.

So here we go, in order of album issue.

Please Please Me (1963)

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1 – "I Saw Her Standing There"

The original mono release of this song starts with a noticeable low-frequency hum underlying everything. It’s easily heard, since the track begins with Paul shouting out the beat, so the hum doesn’t get hidden behind the band’s instruments for the first couple of seconds. Well, that hum is now gone in the new version. Also, in what seems to be something of a paradox, the bass part is not as loud as before, but at the same time it’s easier to hear compared to the rest of the instruments. Maybe it’s because it isn’t quite as boomy as before and that makes it seem better articulated and easier to follow. It’s like I’m hearing actual musical notes now, where before it was more of a muddy kind of mess. I had never really paid much attention to Paul’s bass playing until late in the band’s career, where songs like Oh! Darling and Octopus’s Garden made you sit up and take notice of the bass part. This song shows he was playing interesting bass parts as early as this, their first LP.

Also, Paul’s vocal has, to my ears, a much more easily heard textural element that the original lacked. It has a three-dimensional quality that was lacking before, as though it’s a more “rounded” tone. It’s hard to describe to anyone who isn’t used to this sort of discussion, but it’s like the difference between seeing a flat, two-dimensional photograph and seeing something in the flesh, so to speak. I know this will make no sense to many people, but it’s like I can hear the “sides” of his voice as well as the “front.” I suspect what it really comes down to is now I can hear a little more texture in the wavefront of his voice – the leading edge of the sound we make and how it’s different from the sound we make when we’re in the middle of a sustained tone. Whatever the cause, the effect is a little extra realism, as though he were one step closer to being in the room with you.

Overall, there’s a greater clarity to the recording all around. Those same effects benefit all of the band’s parts. Ringo’s drumming is more easily picked out of the mix, and while I always knew on some level that there were hand claps in the recording, they actually startled me a little when I listened to the new version for the first time.

This song also points up an interesting phenomenon I heard as I gave a first quick listen to all the albums. There are many times when some people are likely to say that the only difference is that the levels of the new releases have been goosed a little. That might be true, or it may simply be the result of changes in compression and the greater dynamic range that many of the songs now have. But in this particular song’s case, it almost seems as though the overall level has been decreased instead of increased. It’s possible it may just be a psycho-acoustic effect from the added clarity of the sound, too.

2 – "Misery"

The thing I noticed most about this track is that the stereo effect makes it much easier to hear that there are two guitars in the mix, one in the right channel and one in the left. They were getting jumbled together in the mono version, and in fact, the guitar in the introduction I had never even noticed before, as it had been buried behind the keyboard part and the opening vocal. The vocals are clearer as well. These are typical of the improvements I’ve been hearing across the board for the most part.

3 – "Anna (Go to Him)"

Changes are similar to track 2, plus there’s more of that increased “textural” element to John’s vocal, similar to what I noted about Paul’s vocal in track 1.

4 – "Chains"

More of the same improvements. It’s especially nice to be able to hear the jangly quality of the guitars now.

5 – "Boys"

At the risk of being repetitive (there’s going to be a lot of that as I go through this and the other albums, I think), it’s once more a situation where added clarity and texture make it feel much more like the band is in the same room with you. Ringo’s voice here definitely benefits from the additional texture. It reminds me of some of the pickup band singing I’ve heard (and participated in) over the years – where no one is likely to have a really good, professional-quality singing voice. Just a bunch of guys getting together to play simple, but fun music.

6 – "Ask Me Why"

Ringo’s rim shots are much more easily heard, and some of the more complex guitar strumming is evident in the left channel (something commonly heard on their songs that were in standard rocker rhythms).

7 – "Please Please Me"

Overall, similar improvements here, too.

8 – "Love Me Do"

This track, and the following one, are in mono, as the mono masters were all the engineers had to work with for this project. Because of that, the differences between these two tracks and their original counterparts are very small. In fact, the best way to hear them is to listen to the new versions first, and then go back to the old ones. Even then, the differences will be very subtle, and may not be easily heard on some systems. In both cases I’d say the difference is just a very tine bit of added clarity in the sound.

9 – "P.S. I Love You"

See my comments about track 8, “Love Me Do,” above.

10 – "Baby It’s You"

Again, there’s this hard-to-describe 3-dimensional quality that let’s you feel like you’re getting “inside” the recording. The vocals here particularly benefit from it.

11 – "Do You Want to Know a Secret"

George’s vocal is very distinctive now, and easily identifiable.

12 – "A Taste of Honey"

The arpeggiated (is that a word?) chords behind the vocal during the verses is something I had never noticed before. Going back to the original, I hear them, but definitely not as distinctly. Just one more example of being better able to hear “into” the music now.

13 – "There’s a Place"

Similar improvements all around.

14 – "Twist and Shout"

This song benefits a *lot* in my opinion, from the additional clarity. A full-force, straight-ahead, in-your-face shouting rocker, you can now hear instrumental and vocal details that weren’t evident before. That “textural” thing is going on again with the vocal, which is especially interesting because of the forced nature of John’s singing and the fact that it was at the end of the recording day. After all the other singing, and the takes that were required for this song, his voice was almost shredded by the time they stopped tape.

Overall, it's a much clearer picture of a talented group doing interesting things with compositions and arrangements, and doing them with simple (almost crude by today's standards) instruments and recordings, but the quality is like it was just done yesterday.

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