Age Old, New Gold: Why The Beatles’ Remastered ‘Revolver’ Album Merits a Listen
Not along ago, music critic Anthony Fantano uploaded a video on his YouTube channel, sharing his thoughts on the newly remastered version of The Beatles’ 1966 classic, Revolver.
Re-released in October 2022, the album was packaged as a super deluxe special edition, and in his video, Fantano tells his 1.5 million subscribers why he thinks “The Beatles Revolver is even better now”.
Actually, what do The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and Prince have in common?
Well, their music has resonated strongly with fans over the years, transcending time to leave a permanent mark.
Even decades later, these icons still command attention and generate a new bout of discussion about their work, oftentimes through re-releases of their albums, which have also been remastered.
THE BEAUTY OF REMASTERED MUSIC
In order to understand the concept of remastering, let’s talk about mastering first.
In an interview with Gear Patrol, music writer Greg Milner explains that there are many tracks that comprise a song. He says that the drums occupy several tracks, as do the vocals, along with the various other instruments.
“A recording engineer artfully mixes all those recorded tracks together to create the song. It’s all mixed down into two channels, left and right, which gives you a final stereo recording. Once that final mix is done, it’s done,” Milner adds.
“Think of each track like a colour of sand going into a jar – it’ll have layers of red, blue, and green, but you can’t separate or remove any of the individual colours. The rainbow-coloured jar is the final mix.”
Remastering is redoing the entire process again, but this time, through the help of technology, the sound quality and clarity of the original recordings are improved.
Sometimes, it also refers to the process of porting a recording from an analog medium to a digital one, which is the case with many classic albums as early as 1969 (The Beatles’ Abbey Road), or even as recent as 1991 (Nirvana’s Nevermind).
Good remastering not only helps to preserve these bodies of work in the latest audio formats, but also taps into a profitable market of die-hard fans who can now enjoy their favourite musician’s songs on a whole new level.
While analog recordings are said to be warmer and natural-sounding, the noise interference and distortion becomes more evident as time passes.
Copying the original results in deterioration of sound quality, and the analog version requires constant maintenance to stay in its best condition.
Of course, there are also a number of re-released albums that have no improvement whatsoever in terms of sound quality, and have been produced purely to meet the market’s demand, akin to out-of-print books being reissued.
This “supply and demand” issue is similar to bootleg recordings, as pointed out by Taiwanese music critic Shifang Ma.
In his book, Subterranean Homesick Blues (named after a Bob Dylan single), Ma writes about how rock music (Dylan’s in particular) shaped his world.
Throughout Dylan’s career, his music had always been subject to bootleg recordings, which over the decades, culminated in a huge compilation that ended up being remastered and re-released as a boxset by Columbia Records.
The Bootleg Series contains a total of 58 songs spanning Dylan’s career from 1961 to 1991, and peaked at No.49 on the Billboard 200.
WHAT MAKES THE BEATLES’ ‘REVOLVER’ UNIQUE
Credit: Poppe de Boer/Wikimedia Commons
Coming back to Revolver, a remastered version had actually been produced in 2009.
However, this time, what makes the 2022 super deluxe special edition so unique is its multiple versions of some of the Fab Four’s most popular songs, which include demos, monos, session tracks, rehearsal recordings and a number of unreleased audio tracks.
All in all, the five-CD album plays for a total of 162 minutes, which is longer than a feature film.
Featuring a new stereo mix sourced directly from the original four-track master tapes, the new Revolver boasts audio in stunning clarity, made possible with de-mixing technology developed by Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films Productions Ltd.
Audiophiles are in for a treat as they also get to enjoy the album in a digital Dolby Atmos format, allowing them to enjoy The Beatles’ experimental, avant-garde sonic psychedelia in its full glory.
This isn’t The Beatles’ first remastered album, though – over the previous years, there have been four more releases: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017), White Album (2019), Abbey Road (2019) and Let It Be (2021).
Along the same tune, Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller was also recently re-released to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary.
With an estimated 70 million copies sold worldwide, Thriller is the best-selling album of all time.
This third reissue, Thriller 40 (2022) contains bonus material like the king of pop’s original demo of “Behind The Mask”, “Thriller”, and “Best of Joy”, as well as previously unreleased songs.
While the response towards Thriller 40 hasn’t been very positive, with fans criticising the hasty production and unoriginal content, the remastered music video for Thriller (now in 4K) is definitely worth a watch.
WHAT REMASTERED MUSIC MEANS FOR THE FUTURE
Remastered versions of iconic albums will definitely delight fans, but are they absolutely necessary for the ordinary listener?
After all, new music is being produced every day, and each step forward only puts a larger gap between young listeners and old classics.
However, the reality seems to be the other way around.
Music historian Ted Gioia writes that old songs represent 70% of the US music market, a staggering figure considering how “advanced” we are with all the streaming services available to us at the tap of a finger.
Gioia opines that old tunes carry an appeal that is interlinked with our memories, which enables people to identify with them much better than with new songs.
Therefore, no matter how many new songs there are out there, we need our “emotional support” songs too, especially the ones that take us back decades and evoke a sense of nostalgia in our hearts.
That said, it seems pretty promising that decades from now, what’s trendy today will most likely be reissued and re-appreciated, thanks to advanced leaps in technology.
Maybe 30 years later, we’ll be listening to a remastered version of Taylor Swift or Beyonce’s album, and remembering them as iconic classics of yesteryears.
Love me do! Check out Sound of Life’s curated playlist of The Beatles’ remastered classics:
For more on The Beatles:
- Ways The Beatles Changed The World Of Music
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono: An Unforgettable Romance
- Between The Beatles and Hymns": Kathryn Williams on What Makes A Chri
Cover: Eric Koch via Nationaal Archief
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Writer | Michelle Tan
Having spent the past decade turning her passion into profession, Michelle is a freelance writer/translator based in Malaysia. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.