Monday, September 30, 2019

Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition

I remember the first time I heard Abbey Road, the final album recorded by The Beatles. I had a third generation copy taped off of someone's dual cassette recorder. Despite the hiss and hum I could tell that I was listening to a masterpiece. Over the years, it has become not only one of my favorite Beatles albums, but one of my favorite albums overall. So, when the Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition was announced, I pre-ordered it the moment it was available. It arrived at lunchtime on Friday and I have spent most of the weekend listening and re-listening to it.

The Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition is a 4 disc set which includes:

  • Disc 1: Abbey Road in a new stereo album mix, sourced directly from the original eight-track session tapes and produced by Giles Martin
  • Disc 2: Session outtakes and demos
  • Disc 3: More session outtakes and demos
  • Disc 4: A blu-ray audio version of the album
  • Booklet: The four discs are housed in a slip-sleeved 12” by 12” 100-page hardbound coffee table style book with McCartney’s foreword; Martin’s introduction; insightful, in-depth chapters written by Beatles historian, author, and radio producer Kevin Howlett covering the months preceding The Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions, track-by-track details and session notes, the cover art and photo shoot, and the album’s reception upon its release; plus an essay by music journalist and author David Hepworth looking at the album’s influence through 50 years. The gorgeous book is illustrated with rare and previously unpublished photographs, including many taken by Linda McCartney; never before published images of handwritten lyrics, sketches, and a George Martin score; Beatles correspondence, recording sheets, and tape boxes; and reproduced original print ads.
The current price-tag of the Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition hovers around $90. Is it worth it? I'm probably the first person to bitch about record companies constantly going to the well and re-offering stuff in a slightly changed format. It seems that every 10 years an artist gets another greatest hits album re-issued, even if that artist has long since been deceased. And, yet, I have been nearly the first in line to buy some of these re-issues, especially those from Crowded House (I even bought the deluxe version of Temple Of Low Men if that tells you anything) and The Beatles. Why? Because these re-issues are the definitive versions of the albums. For me, Abbey Road is worth the cost. Here are some of the highlights for me: 

I don't notice much of a difference with the new mix other than to say that it feels brighter and fuller. I'm happy with that because the Super Deluxe version of The White Album felt like a completely different album, which is something I didn't want. I will say, though, that the remixed version of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" sounds much more intense in the outtro. There are some real gems in the outtake discs. I've heard McCartney's demo for "Goodbye" before, but it's nice to finally have a properly sourced version. McCartney's demo of "Come and Get It" is available on Anthology 3, but they Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition version adds some studio talk beforehand. The best part of the outtakes is "The Long One" which is the original version of the Side 2 medley with "Her Majesty" restored to its original position. The overall mix of "The Long One" sounds great, and it's an interesting artifact, but I completely understand why "Her Majesty" was cut out and tacked onto the end: It's jarring. The inclusion of "The Ballad Of John And Yoko (Take 7)" is quite the revelation. John and Paul worked on the track together without the other two Beatles and you can hear the playful banter between them in this take. John tells Paul, who is playing drums, "Go faster, Ringo" and Paul responds "Okay, George".

And, of course, I love the booklet. It's absolutely gorgeous and is worth most of the money right there.

So, should you buy the Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition? If you're a big Beatles fan, I'd say that it's a necessity. But, if you just like Abbey Road as it, you can easily live without it.

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