Monday, November 19, 2018

The Beatles (White Album) Super Deluxe Edition

I broke down and bought a copy of The Beatles Super Deluxe Edition (or, if you prefer The White Album Super Deluxe Edition). The price tag of $140 made me think twice about getting it. That hefty price made me balk at getting the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Super Deluxe Edition several months ago. Plus, this would be the fifth time that I bought The White Album in some form or another. However, my interest in the White Album was strong enough, and the extra offerings were interesting enough that I felt that I could pull the trigger on this one. And, for the most part, I'm glad I did. I've been living with the album for about a week and I am ready to share my impressions:

The first thing that struck me was the decision to remove the fade over from Back In The U.S.S.R. into Dear Prudence, which I think is a fine idea, but, why fade Dear Prudence up? Why not just start it from the beginning? Glass Onion sounds so different that I almost thought it was a completely different take. And Kenneth Wolstenholme shouting "It's a Goal!" was added back to the end. Yet, John's muttering of "Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?" at the end of "I'm So Tired" is de-emphasized to the point where the final falsetto "Meep" is completely removed. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" sounds great, much less muddied than the original sounded. The falsetto background vocals on "Savoy Truffle" are de-emphasized which actually sounds better to me. I still can't stand listening to "Revolution 9", so I skipped it as always.

It's nice to have the entire Esher demos. I had a bootleg recording of them over 20 years ago but you could tell that it was second generation at best. What we get with this version of The White Album is a recording off of George's original reel-to-reel tape. I've always loved the way that these tracks sound. To me, this is the final appearance of The Beatles as a cohesive unit. They're all joining in and playing and singing together and they sound like they're having a good time. After this, the band would branch off and would act more like studio musicians for each other rather than an actual band.

The rest of the set is filled with alternate takes and studio jams. The thirteen minute version of "Helter Skelter" is underwhelming. The released version is often cited as the first heavy metal song ever recorded, so I had expected the thirteen minute version would shape up to be some kind of thundering monster jam. It sounds more like a blues shuffle, which, while interesting and very listenable, is underwhelming in light of all the hype. Other stand-outs are "Los Paranoias" which is goofy, "Not Guilty (Take 102)" which was criminally left off of The White Album, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 3)" which sounds better than the released version, And I love how "Revolution 1 (Take 18)" sounds before it delves into a trippy jam.

I have yet to listen to the album on Blu-Ray and I don't know that I ever will. It's nice to have, but I just don't see a situation where I'll actually use it.

So, should you buy The Beatles Super Deluxe Edition? If you're a big Beatles fan, a completest and/or want to delve into the nuts and bolts of The White Album, the yes, absolutely. If you're just not into the alternate takes and studio jams, then you would do well with the scaled-back Deluxe Edition which includes the remixed album and the Esher demos. If you'd bought The White Album before, should you upgrade to one of the new editions? The 1987 CD versions of this album that most of us grew up with don't do justice to the album, but the 2009 re-master edition sounds good enough that you would be fine with just having that.

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