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The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (1969) Remaster

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Craig in Indy, May 8, 2010.

  1. Craig in Indy

    Craig in Indy Your cool Uncle

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    Yellow Submarine (1968, 1969)

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    Yellow Submarine was the soundtrack album to the animated film of the same name. The album was released in the UK on January 17, 1969, but in a rare twist, it had been released in the US the previous November. I’ve been frankly avoiding this album for a couple of reasons: 1) the later we get into the Beatles’ catalog, the fewer the sonic differences between the original CDs and these reissues – which means I have to struggle to find little differences to comment on – and 2) more than half of this album is George Martin’s orchestrated compositions, making it a little less than a real Beatle album. I’ve never really enjoyed those cuts, and I’m guessing they aren’t the reasons any of you are reading this in the first place, so I’m not planning to discuss them at all. That will make this one pretty short.

    1 – “Yellow Submarine”

    There seems to be just a tiny bit more extension to the highs in the remaster. The sound of the strumming of the acoustic guitar is a little more prominent (I mean the sound of the pick on the strings, not the ringing of the strings or the resonance of the guitar itself), and you can hear the sibilant vowels in Ringo’s vocal better now.

    2 – “Only a Northern Song”

    This is an odd one. This is the only mono track on the remastered disc, whereas on the old CD it's in stereo. The remaster liner notes discusses the reasons – apparently during the recording sessions for this song (which took place during the Pepper era, the grand plans to synchronize two different 4-track machines went awry (they couldn’t get the “start" buttons pressed at the same time), and for some reason the fix for that problem was to mix the whole thing down to mono. They say the stereo version on the original CD was a fake – an artificially enhanced version that simulated stereo. Then they add the following somewhat confusing note: “Ironically, the original mono mix of 'Only a Northern Song' was never used because the mono LP was created during the cutting process by simply combining the left and right channels from the stereo master tape. Consequently, this previously unreleased mono version can now be heard for the first time.” If someone can explain that to me, I’d be happy to hear it. Not having had the mono LP I don’t know what songs it contained, but it sounds to me as though this song never made it onto it because of technical problems. But that hardly seems likely to me.

    Anyway, on to the sound. The original CD’s “fake” stereo sounds pretty much like real stereo to me, but the new version, while only mono, is much higher fidelity. The stereo one sounds thin, flat and two-dimensional, with almost no bass. The remaster, even though mono, is much more fully fleshed-out, with better highs, and lows where there were none before. So although you hear the sounds piled all on top of one another, they’re better quality sounds to begin with. If that makes any sense at all.

    3 – “All Together Now”

    I hear no discernable differences other than a better-defined bass in the remaster.

    4 – “Hey Bulldog”

    This, one of my very favorite Beatle rockers, benefits quite a bit, but mainly in the instrumental tracks. Lennon had a fondness for making his voice sound thin and insubstantial, like he was singing in a far-off bathroom, and that characteristic remains in the remaster. But the instruments are hugely improved. I suspect it’s a slight goosing of the lower mids and upper bass registers, but whatever it is, the opening piano has some real weight behind it now, and sounds much less tinny and “vaudeville-ish.” And the third time through the opening theme, when the bass comes in, it’s something of an eye-opener. You could hear the bass clearly in the old recording, but now it has some real texture to the notes, as though you’re hearing a bass and not a recording of a bass. The notes have a “roundness” to them that’s hard to describe other than to say it’s all just more realistic. Dynamic range seems a bit improved, too.

    5 – “It’s All Too Much”

    Here again, the big improvements are in bass response and dynamic range, making the song seem more alive, to my ears anyway.

    6 – “All You Need Is Love”

    The improvement here is again in the bass, but the song still comes off as a little flat sounding. It’s not bad, and it’s definitely improved, but I still come away from it a little disappointed. It could have been great if it were recorded today. I think my big problem with it is even with improvements in frequency response, it still sounds compressed. With some improvements in dynamic range it could have been great. I’m left to conclude this is probably the best they could coax out of the old tapes.
     

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