It has been a long time since The Beatles catalogue was released on CD, and fans have been waiting for remastered versions for some time now. Most of the other major artists have had their albums re-released on CD for some time (The Paul McCartney catalogue was released on CD for the first time in the mid-to-late eighties and was remastered and re-released on CD as far back as 1993!), but The Beatles original british albums have only been available on CD's mastered in 1987, with now long-outdated technology. The late Neil Aspinall, former head of the Beatles' company Apple talked about the remastering of The Beatles' albums for years before he died.
In the September issue of the british music magazine "Mojo", Yoko Ono was quoted to say "When the new White Album comes out....". The magazine also mentioned that they would bring an exclusive Beatles news item in their next issue, which lead to speculations among Beatles fans that a 40th Anniversary Edition of the White Album was due. An ebay seller claimed to have a release schedule from Capitol records that had "White Album" as a new release for November.
In the October issue, the magazine featured a review of ten of the new remastered songs from the forthcoming White Album. The verdict is "Better even than we'd hoped."
The Mojo article, written by Mat Snow, talks about meeting Guy Massey and Allan Rouse (sound engineers who were also involved in the making of the 2003 re-thinking of the Let It Be album, Let It Be...Naked) when he heard the ten tracks (Helter Skelter, Dear Prudence, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Bungalow Bill, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Martha My Dear, Don't Pass Me By, I Will, Everybody's got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey - that's just 9!). Apparantly "Rouse managed a small team of remastering engineers working in pairs so that each decision concerning EQ levels and removing clicks and pop could be properly debated. The biggest issue the team faced was bass. EMI's 1960's techical team was highly trained but extremely cautious; their cutting engineers feared too much bass would jolt the stylus out of its groove. The new remasters restore the intended, recorded bottom end. Massey has never heard any response from Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia other than a unanimous thumbs-up."
The statement about the cutting engineers trimming off the bass for vinyl masters is clearly a non-issue, as the original master tapes are from before that process. The intended, recorded bass sound IS on the master tape, and does NOT need to be tampered with. The same goes for EQ. The original master tapes are based on studio multitrack tapes that has already been subject to levelling of the various instruments, so that decision has already been made, in the sixties. If you remix from the session tapes, EQ should be used only to achieve the same levels on the instruments as intended on the sixties master tape. Clicks and pop? There's no such thing on tapes. Removing clicks and pop is something you do to transfers from vinyl records!
"In 1987, George Martin remixed the stereo Help! and Rubber Soul for CD to mitigate the primitive voices-to-the-left, instruments-to-the-right sound first used. The new versions of those albums keep Martin's rebalancing. But Beatlists will want those original left-and-right mixes spruced up too so (subject to EMI's confirmation) they'll be released seperately, as well as every mono mix."
Re: keeping George Martin's re-balancing of instruments in the stereo picture, that was not something he only did for those two albums, he also re-balanced some songs for the earlier compilation albums "Rock and Roll Music" (1976) and its counterpart "Beatles Ballads" (1979).
No word in the article about re-balancing the other albums, but rumour has it that new stereo mixes will probably place the instruments differently in the stereo image (like on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album from 1999).
People "in the know" claim that the remasters will follow this format:
- a standard CD version with new stereo mixes
- a deluxe edition with the following features:
- new stereo mix (like the standard version)
- a 5.1 surround mix
- mono mixes and extra tracks
- possibly the original stereo mix
- might also include hardbound book
Another rumour has October 22 as the release date for the remastered White Album, whereas the rest of the albums will be released next year. That's a month too early, because the original White Album was released on November 22nd, 1968.
Purists are already concerned that EMI will be boosting the bass and de-noising the high end to death. Let's all just hope not.