It is time for a mystery tour down memory Lane with a 2023 twist for all Beatlemaniacs. The ride is surely a wild one that started with the sweet serenade of "Now and Then." A near seven days on one must hold onto their mop-top wigs, because the revamped 1973 "Red and Blue" collections hit the shelves and streaming services, truly a blast from the past with a peppering of 2023 mixing technology.
The official names of these collections are “The Beatles 1962-1966” and “The Beatles 1967-1970,” both which have undergone a complete makeover, boasting more songs than the original LP and Cassette releases, along with every track receiving the remix magic touch from Giles Martin. Simply put, some of these mixes are as fresh as a McCartney head shake.
Of course, many long-time listeners are not fans of messing with the Beatles' sacred tunes. I fall in the middle of this camp, with an appreciation for the original recording and the excitement about how improved mixing and audio technology can offer higher fidelity sound. Still, it is hard not to be stuck in the '60s for those who lived it, having grown up 10 years on, I would gladly go back to the ‘70s today if I could. So, to be clear, I do still feel original mixes are like fine wine, created at the time when the artist was fully engaged in the music and the producer along with the engineer was guiding the aural palette.
Thus, having said all of this, please hold onto your original vinyl, cassettes, or even the CDs from those initial masters, because Peter Jackson's MAL audio technology has been sprinkled like fairy dust on these new mixes. It's like musical wizardry, separating sounds like a Jedi with a lightsaber. The individual vocals and instruments now shine like a Sgt. Pepper uniform in the sun, leading listeners to enjoy a balanced stereoscape, or for that matter a spacious Dolby Atmos mix.
Yet, Ringo's drums, albeit a crispier sound, are pushed forward quite a bit further than common to the era. I wonder what kind of Ringo revelation was in Martin’s mind while remixing. Still, McCartney’s bass is also significantly fuller along with the broader spectrum of these tracks. The sonic texture truly has changed, and the difference for many listeners may be too disturbing. After a few listens, I came to appreciate the new mixes on both the 96kHz / 24-bit lossless download I picked up and the Dolby Atmos version I stream via Apple Music. When compared to the CD copies, the music sounds natural instead of thin. Additionally, the CDs always had an edge which is distinctly gone from both the download and Atmos version. So, bravo for the cleanup.
Digging into the classics, like a musical archaeology expedition, the ching-a-ching of guitars in "She Loves You" is clearer than a crystal ball, and edits in songs like "Roll Over Beethoven" have been cleaned up so nicely, they're smoother than a Beatles haircut. There are plenty of other changes for fans to explore, and it’s probably best to have the music become the guide.
Now, let's hop onto the Blue album rollercoaster. Actually, I would imagine anyone reading this article has already listened to the new Stereo, Surround, and Atmos mixes available on the box sets and via streaming services long ago. However, several songs have been remixed again, including “I am the Walrus” which fires nicely from the back channels making this one of the most ambitious spatial Beatles mixes to date. “Revolution”, “Fool on the Hill” and a couple of others. Nice to hear the rhythm guitar on the “Magical Mystery Tour” 2023 remix, it's like finding an extra pizza you didn't order, an unexpected pleasure. Certainly, these became factors in my decision to pick up the hi-res stereo download version.
Overall, the Atmos mixes of these two collections colorizes what had previously been a black and white movie. Listeners who have heard these songs for the past decades likely will hear things on the surrounds and height speakers that seemingly were buried before. With nearly 80 tracks spanning their career, it is like hearing these classics all shined up and ready for a new generation. I absolutely appreciate hearing some of the White Album tracks in Atmos too, most notably the jet circling in from the sky at the start and tail of Back in the USSR, which is truly awesome!
One may wonder about the inclusion of “Now and Then” on this later set, which was recorded between 1979 and 2022, since it's like inviting a time-traveling guest to a '60s party. While it was offered as a standalone single, the marketing strategy to include it in the set certainly was another compelling reason to get the revamped Blue album. I am not going to get into a review about the song, other than to say that it has a very modern sound, and the stereo mix is excellent, while the Atmos mix is lacking.
In the grand symphony of audiophile sonics, these Stereo and Atmos versions of the Red and Blue albums offer something for everyone. Listeners will hear the songs in a whole new way, whether they like it or not. But let's be honest, these remixing adventures have left me somewhat giddy like a kid on roller skates. Although I may still wonder if a 2023 twist on the classics is still needed, the Mystery Tour is still in business, and the Beatles magic lives on, remixed or not.
Released November 10, 2023.
CD, Vinyl, Hi-Res 96kHz / 24-bit Download, and Dolby Atmos via streaming.
Get your copy here:
Red Collection: 1962-1966
Blue Collection: 1967-1970
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.