Roll up, Roll Up .. for the Magical Mystery Tour (Blu-Ray/DVD/E.P.) Box Set

 

“You’ve got everything you need … satisfaction guaranteed” …

Fifty-one years ago today those lyrics (above) blasted out of record players and radios across America with the release of The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” album on Capitol Records.

In the UK and other parts of the world the songs from Magical Mystery Tour (a one hour TV special by The Beatles broadcast only in the UK in December of 1967) were released in a double E.P. (extended play) set.

Seeing as how E.P.’s sold poorly in the U.S. Capitol decided to gather all the Magical Mystery Tour songs on one side of an Lp and then place all The Beatles 1967 singles which hadn’t been released on an album on the other side.

In celebration of the 51st anniversary of the release of the Capitol album I thought it might be fun to take a look at the Deluxe “Magical Mystery Tour” (Blu-Ray, DVD and E.P.) set that came out in 2012.

This set really focuses on the UK perspective of the film and music as the original UK E.P. set is included in a lovely repressed version as well as a nifty transfer of the TV film (on both Blu-Ray and DVD) along with out-takes from the special and a nice oversized booklet telling about the making of the film and music.

While Magical Mystery Tour has never been my favorite Beatles films, it does have its charms and the musical sequences are first rate! The transfer on the Blu-Ray and DVD is quite good as well and probably the best this film will ever look.

For anyone interested in a “Magical Mystery” fix and have never seen the film this box set (which is still available) is a great way to experience the weirdness and great music from this rather strange Beatles odyssey from 1967.

The excellent sounding repressed double E.P. in the box is in mono by the way and features the 2009 mono transfers of the “Magical Mystery Tour” songs.

While not quite as fun a listen as the Capitol album (which is now officially part of The Beatles canon worldwide) this set is a blast and a great way to experience the film and music as they originally came out in Britain.

If you want a glimpse of how well done this set is just check some of the photos above. I love the small size of the set and everything was done with great taste and looks and sounds terrific!

Until next time and more music collecting adventures be well and … Roll up!

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Through a Glass SHM – “The BEATLES” 3 SHM-CD set

 

 

 

Okay, this is turning out to be quite the month of The Beatles if I do say so myself.

With the release of the various 50th Anniversary configurations of “The BEATLES (White Album)” Beatles fans have had a LOT to celebrate as of late.

Just a few years ago the thought of hearing three CDs of unreleased “White Album” out-takes seemed like a pipe dream but with the Super Deluxe set we got just that plus demos and a remix to boot!

(Note: I use either “The BEATLES” or “White Album” interchangeably when referring to the album as the official name of the album is “The BEATLES” but most people just call it by its nickname the “White Album” because of its stark white album cover.) 

While the amount of different variations of “White Album” set is headache inducing – there’s a 3 CD set, a 6CD/Blu-Ray set, a 2 LP set and a 4 Lp set – as usual Beatles fans of all budgets can dip their toes in wherever they like and sample some new Beatles material.

Today I’m going to add one more “White Album” configuration to the pile (as if one needed another variation! ) – the 3 SHM-CD format set that was released in Japan. (Sheesh, I hear wallets around the world groaning.)

Readers of this blog have seen me talk of the SHM format previously (okay, more than once I must admit) and so I thought it might be fun to highlight the groovy SHM-CD set that came to my door just yesterday (and no my troubles aren’t so far away – sorry, couldn’t resist).

Last week I highlighted the granddaddy “The BEATLES” Super Deluxe set which features 6 CDs plus a Blu-Ray disc and lovely hardback book.

This 3 SHM-CD set contains two CDs that feature the new 2018 remix of the album plus one CD that features the 27 Esher demos of most of the songs that eventually made up the “White Album.”

What you my ask is the need for a 3 CD version of “The BEATLES” when all of this music is a part of the massive Super Deluxe set? Well my dear friends welcome to collecting!

I actually do think that the SHM-CD format tends to improve the sound of the music, especially the bass which I feels gets more defined and smoother, plus the Japanese sets are so well made that as a collector I really love to add them to my collection.

As you can see from the above photos the set comes in a nice fold out cover complete with a mini replica of the poster that came with the vinyl version of the album as well as a nice booklet and a booklet with the lyrics and text in Japanese.

There is a worldwide release of this 3 CD set in non-SHM-CD format but for me the SHM-CD is worth getting because of the slight improvement in sound. At last for me anyway, your mileage may vary.

Take a gander at the set above and even if you don’t want to spring for the SHM-CD set I hope you check out some variation of the new “White Album” remix as it’s a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this landmark album and what could be better than good music especially heading into the holiday season.

Until next time, be well and enjoy your weekend (what’s left of it!).

 

 

 

Paul McCartney Record Store Day Exclusive 45 – “I Don’t Know/”Come On to Me”

 

 

Well, I hope everyone had a good Turkey Day yesterday! I know I did.

As we turn to the madness of the Christmas shopping season, today marks the annual tradition in the U.S. known as Black Friday.

Black Friday, for those who don’t know, is a day when kindness and patience go out the window as shoppers of all ages crowd shopping malls, Walmarts and various other retail stores to get great deals on merchandise.

It’s the perfect way to start the holiday season and what’s not to love? Crowds and pushing and shoving – Merry Christmas!

While Black Friday is still a popular day of getting good deals in physical stores as well as online it also marks a fun day for music lovers and record fanatics.

Today happens to be what I call the mini-me Record Store Day as record stores across the globe feature sales of exclusive vinyl, as well as CDs and more, that are only available at independent record stores.

The grand daddy Record Store Day happens in the spring but today’s Record Store Day also features some cool vinyl treats and other fun stuff.

AND I happened to be off work today which is unusual so instead of braving the crowds for Black Friday I leisurely drove to my local record store to check things out.

Happily it wasn’t too crowded and I did manage to stumble upon the one thing that was coming out today that I was interested in – a Paul McCartney exclusive 45! (That should come as absolutely no shock to anyone whose ever read this blog).

(Note: The U.S. pressed Record Store Day 45 which I bought is the only hand-numbered version. Apparently there is an EU pressing but it doesn’t have the FBI warning on the back, no Record Store Day sticker on the front and is not numbered.)

The 45 consists of two songs  – “I Don’t Know” and  “Come On to Me” – from McCartney’s latest No. 1 album “Egypt Station” which came out this past September. This limited 45 comes in a uniquely hand-numbered edition of 5600 copies (mine is #566) which I’m guessing is a worldwide pressing number.

There’s an attractive stiff cardboard sleeve (see above) that houses the 45 as well a groovy cardboard inner sleeve. The pressing is also really nice as the 45 sounds terrific – yes I actually played it – and features two lovely looking labels.

My copy has “Sterling” stamped in the runout groove and doesn’t say it was pressed overseas so I’m guessing the 45 was made here in the U.S.

As usual you can take a peek at the 45 in photos above and if you happen to  live in a town or city with an independent record store and are a McCartney fan it might be well worth going out today and seeing if you can find one.

Of course only McCartney vinyl fiends are probably interested in buying this but it sure is purdy and sounds great to boot!

Until next time be well and enjoy the sunshine if you have it!!!

 

 

 

Can You Take Me Back … “The BEATLES” Super Deluxe 6CD/Blu-Ray Box Set

Well here we are, the week of Thanksgiving. It’s cold outside (at least where I am) and there is indeed a lot to be thankful for – at least in my world.

I’m thankful for my health, the fact that my body hasn’t become totally creaky and ache-filled yet and of course I am thankful for music.

What music you ask?  Why The Beatles of course!

One of the things I’m most thankful for this month arrived on my doorstep ten days ago – “The BEATLES” – a Super Deluxe 6CD/Blu-Ray box set of The Beatles classic “White Album” which celebrates it’s 50th Anniversary this upcoming November 22.

This new set, much like last years terrific “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” Super Deluxe box set, is filled with superb music including the entire album remixed in stereo and 5.1 surround as well as a disc of 27 demos featuring The Beatles testing out most of the “White Album” acoustically and three discs of glorious (to me anyway) studio out-takes featuring the songs from the album in different stages of completion.

There’s been a lot already said online and in print about this new set already but I thought I’d toss my two cents in the ring because that’s what I do.

These past nine days have been filled with the sounds of 1968 Beatles and to me that’s an especially fitting treat. I’ve read that Giles Martin, son of famed Beatles producer George Martin, has said that the “White Album” sounds like it could have been recorded today and he’s right.

All of the edginess and world weariness that’s present in the varied collection of songs on the “White Album” feels like this particular collection of songs was written about the current state of the universe that we’re all currently experiencing.

Timeless is a word I’ve used before to describe The Beatles music but this album certainly retains of its freshness and vitality especially with its nifty new remix.

So let’s talk about this new set!

First off though, the initial set I received in the mail had to be returned as it came with nasty dents on three of the corners which also tore the flimsy plastic case that holds the set.

I’ve read that Amazon has had several returns as the huge books that holds the discs weighs just over five pounds and is ripe for being dented as I’m sure these sets get tossed around in shipping.

Luckily Amazon’s return policy is quick and efficient and another set arrived at my door a couple of days later in near perfect shape.

Now on to the music.

Stereo Remix

First off the new stereo remix of the album done by Giles Martin is in my opinion for the most part is very successful. It really does make the music sound fresh and more clear, especially the vocals, while remaining fairly faithful to the feel of the original mixes from 1968.

Not every song works in this new remix but I really enjoy hearing the album in this new context. I’m never one to say that a remix would surpass the original mix but this mix sounds pretty darn good and is a nice alternative and is more enjoyable than last years “Sgt. Pepper” remix as it’s not quite as loud and adds a nice punch without being fatiguing.

I was particularly taken with the new mixes of “Dear Prudence”, “Cry Baby Cry”, “Savoy Truffle” and “Martha My Dear” – different yes, better than the originals no. But different is fun and overall the remix is satisfying. I like picking out bits of background vocals and instruments that were previously buried though the new double track echo on some songs sounds weird but overall this remix is nicely done.

(Note: I’m one of those old fogies that believes all the original mono and stereo mixes of any album should always be considered canon and THE mix to discover that particular album. However, I’m not against remixes as long as the original mixes are readily available.)

Esher Demos

Second, the so-called “Esher” demos are fantastic!

The third disc in this set contains 27 songs that The Beatles recorded on 4-track tape at George Harrison’s house which was located in Esher, a town in Surrey, England thus the title.

These acoustic workouts were put on tape so The Beatles could take stock of the tremendous volume of songs they wrote while spending time in India studying transcendental meditation in early 1968.

Most of these demos have been previously bootlegged but they have never sounded as good as they do on this new collection.

Truth be told I was only a lukewarm fan of the demos in their bootleg form as they sounded muddy and too out of sync.

These new versions of the demos were remixed from the original 4-track tape and sound tremendous! Some of the songs here – most notably Harrison’s “Not Guilty” and “Sour Mike Sea” and McCartney’s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – sound so damn good that if the studio versions had never been made these acoustic versions would be just fine all by themselves.

Out-takes

Now here’s where it gets really interesting – for me anyway! I LOVE studio out-takes and the bounty of three discs worth in this set doesn’t disappoint.

So may nice gems in this set it’s hard to pick favorites – but I’ll have a go anyway.

I especially love “Good Night (Unnumbered Rehearsal)” with the lovely background vocals featuring John, George and Paul, “Back In The U.S.S.R. (Take 5 Instrumental Backing Track)” which is so fun slowed down – makes it oddly more powerful, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third Version Take 27)” – lovely though a bit sloppy but really nice guitar work, “Savoy Truffle (Instrumental Backing Track)” – really nice backing track and I’m loving the backing tracks more than  I thought I would, “Martha My Dear (Without Brass And Strings)” – love this song in any version and “I’m So Tired (Take 7)”.

Yes, I’d say you have to be a big Beatles fan to really get into the alternate takes but this is why I bought the Deluxe set in the first place.

None of these out-takes are dramatically different from their finished counterparts but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. These three discs of out-takes are full of wonderful performances which deserve to be heard.

The Beatles were a tight unit and even the really loose takes are fun and great to hear.For those worried about out-takes not being enjoyable this new set should prove to be really illuminating. The Beatles were damn good and these out-takes prove that even the unpolished takes can be gems and are an entertaining listen.

Blu-Ray Disc

This disc tuned out to be my second favorite part (or fourth part) after the out-take discs! I LOVE the Hi-Res stereo version of the album here as it uses the non-compressed master which sounds so much better than the CD counterpart! I wish they had done that with the “Sgt. Pepper” set from last year but at least they’re improving.

The uncompressed sound of the Blu-Ray is a bit easier on the ears and sounds great through my surround set-up. Unfortunately the indexing is a bit off as if you try to select a song from the menu it starts a few seconds late but that’s a minor quibble for me.

The Blu-Ray disc also contains a 5.1 mix which from the little I’ve sampled is really fun. I’ll have to really give this more time in the next few weeks as I don’t want to burn out on the songs but what I sampled sounds great.

You also get the 1968 mono mix of the album which is one my my favorite ways to hear this album. It seems that the mono is a straight transfer as it sounds like it wasn’t mastered at all and is lower in volume than I was expecting but nice all the same.

I’d say I prefer the 2009 mono CD version of the album as it sounds a bit more lively but this version is so nice to have. I just wish it would have been put on CD but it’s better to have it than not.

All in all this Blu-Ray is superb and my preferred way to hear the new remix of the album as it’s less compressed (though really the CD isn’t bad by any means) and sounds a bit warmer.

The  Book

The last piece of the puzzle for this terrific set is the massive hardback book that holds the discs as well as lovely reproductions of the original photos and poster that came with the vinyl album.

I have to say this book, though quite heavy which probably is the cause for damage in shipping, is so well done. It’s full of great photos, nice information about all the tracks contained in the set and is the perfect thing to browse as you sit back and take in this bounty of wonderful Beatles music circa 1968.

I enjoyed the book that came with last years “Sgt. Pepper” set but I think this one is better. I’ve really enjoyed pouring over the book as I listen to all the variations of the songs on the album.

Final Thoughts

This new Super Deluxe has surpassed all of my expectations and is such a great thing for any Beatles fan! It is a bit on the pricey side so if you’re on more of a budget the 3 CD version with just the remixed album and Esher demos may be a better buy.

You can also thankfully stream all of the content of this wonderful set online as well but since this blog (and I!) are hopeless stuck in the physical world than of course I’d say splurge on the Super Deluxe box if you can.

The book and discs are a lovely site and so well done that this set makes the perfect gift for yourself or someone else.

It really hits all the right notes and is pretty much a crash course on “The BEATLES” and a really nice way to spend a few hours stepping back in time with The Beatles in the recording studio.

As usual check above to see some groovy photos of the set I bought.

Until next time be well and Happy Thanksgiving! (for those in the U.S.!)