Sunday, November 8, 2015

Featured Review: The Beatles - 1+ on Blu-ray Disc & CD


The Beatles

When The Beatles 1 CD compilation first came out in 2000, I was suspicious and took a few hardy swings at it. I argued that there were better, more comprehensive compilations and that this single disc with 27 British and American Number One (1) hits was a calculated, convenient money grab. Of course, it was pitched as a nice and tidy way to introduce the band to a new generation, which, at the time, was feasting on Britney Spears and on the verge of trading in their CDs for digital downloads. At the same time, the Beatles' website has just launched and a television special called The Beatles Revolution highlighted the group's influence on trend-setters and celebrities of the day. EMI went on record, saying that would become the greatest selling record of all time (it isn't, although it has sold a respectable 30 million copies). Fifteen years later, 1+ comes along and adds restored videos of the band performing those same hits to the mix. Now we're getting somewhere.
This time, the 27 Number Ones (1) get visual with CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray Disc configurations featuring videos for each song, along with new stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS HD surround audio mixes.  The Beatles 1+ is over 200 minutes of 50 TV appearances, promotional films and clips, which means that in addition to the 27 Number Ones (1), there are 23 more videos. A good majority of these clips have been around in one form or another, but questionable sources often resulted in low quality. Apple brought in an 18-person team of film and video technicians and restoration artists to clean things up. Frame by frame, they adjusted the color grading, added digital enhancements, and provided new edits. While many of the earliest black and white TV appearances still seem a bit washed out, the latter-day color promotional films the Beatles shot have been scrubbed up to high definition specs.
As to be expected, most of the clips are of the band lip syncing to the songs, either on a stage for a variety show or for the films they made to resolve the issue of being everywhere at once. In the process, they invented the abstract music video with footage shot behind "Rain," "Strawberry Field Forever" and "Penny Lane." Each video seems to have a great story, which you can get from the liner notes or Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr's audio commentary and filmed introductions for some of the clips. Normally, I don't bother with commentaries, but McCartney is hilarious when he throws in a few light and airy remarks about the crowd that surrounded the Beatles when they performed "Hey Jude" on the David Frost Show. Starr shares his dislike for riding horses during the filming for "Penny Lane" - apparently something he and the other Beatles had never done before. McCartney's insights into how the film for "Strawberry Fields Forever" was put together with Swedish director Peter Goldmann reveals a critical point at which the Beatles consciously began moving away from their mop-top image to the more psychedelic, surreal and hip stage of their career.
Sonically, The Beatles 1+ features new stereo and 5.1 surround audio remixes, produced from the original tapes by Giles Martin (son of George) with Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios. The accompanying CD will likely replace your 2000 original issue or 2009 reissue. For anyone with a Blu-ray Disc player, you can hear some, if not all, the tracks in 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS HD surround (it's not broken down in the credits). Likely, those surround mixes would come from the newer videos created for the Love and Anthology releases, although closer listening may reveal more. Of course, the best thing about the DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are the videos, especially the dazzling colors in "Hello Goodbye," and the young fresh faces of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mike Nesmith, Patti Boyd and Donovan surrounding the Beatles at Abbey Road as the manic camera captures the chaotic, friend-filled studio session for "A Day In The Life." A handful of clips from the dormant Let It Be film may give hope to those waiting for its reissue. Put together with every else on 1+, there's more than plenty to savor until that day comes.
~ Shawn Perry
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