Music Review: The Beatles - 1+ - Deluxe 3-Disc Edition

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Beatles fans, it arrives on November 6, 2015. Available in a wide variety of configurations, the ultimate greatest hits album 1 is poised to once again make longtime fans happy and convert yet another younger generation to the joys of Beatles music. Why, 15 years after the release of the original compilation, are we being asked to re-open our wallets? For starters, the 27 number one singles collected on the album have been tastefully remixed. The goal wasn't to startle listeners with wildly different mixes. Instead of trying to make The Beatles' decades-old music sound like the rock bands of today, the new mixes still sound authentically like, well, The Beatles. Vocal and instrument placement have been tweaked for logical, carefully-considered reasons (the biggest changes involve the centering of vocals that have always been pushed all the way to one channel). There are no revelations, just an overall re-balancing that creates a subtly different listening experience (you may need to break out your other Beatles CDs for direct comparison in order to detect changes, in some cases). 
beat15bluraydvd.png Ah, but there I go, burying the lead! This is called 1+ after all, and for great reason. The deluxe edition contains two Blu-rays packed with mostly original (some newly created) promotional videos. The first disc has one clip for each of the album's 27 tunes. Some of these are the original films produced for promotional purposes. Others, particularly for the earliest tunes (including "A Hard Day's Night," "Yesterday," and more), are live performances. A few are actually brand new pieces, including "Eight Days a Week." That one, in particular, boasts stunningly restored footage from the band's 1965 Shea Stadium concert.

The restoration is a key point: whether you've seen the footage or not, it does look startling good when real film was the source. The videotaped stuff is always going to be limited, but clips like "Hello Goodbye" or "Paperback Writer" look strikingly vivid. The team at Apple, we're told, performed "painstaking frame-by-frame cleaning, color-grading, digital enhancement and new edits that took months of dedicated, ‘round-the-clock work to accomplish." The results are plainly obvious and Beatle fans are going to be thrilled. "Penny Lane" boasts increased clarity, though it's still a bit washed-out in terms of color vividness (I'm guessing, after all the work, this must've been inherent in the original cinematography). Footage from the famed "rooftop concert" used in clips for "Get Back" and others also provides visual highlights.

The deluxe edition's second Blu-ray contains an additional 23 promo films. Disc one runs about 110 minutes, while the second disc is 95 minutes. Some of the additional clips are alternates of what we saw on disc one. The band is decked out in their Sgt. Pepper uniforms in the "Hello Goodbye" clip on disc one, while they're dressed down in the two alternate versions. One of two alternate "Day Tripper" clips finds Ringo Starr attempting to literally saw apart the set. Clearly the Fabs didn't take a lot of these promos entirely seriously, especially the earlier ones, making them all the more fun. Disc two also has songs that aren't on the 1 album, including "Baby It's You" (from Live at the BBC Vol. 1), "Words of Love" (BBC Vol. 2), and many more. The restored "Rain" clip is so crisp it'll take your breath away. Same goes for the famous, surreal "Strawberry Fields Forever" film.

Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr contributed some bonus material. McCartney does audio commentary for "Penny Lane," "Hello Goodbye," and "Hey Jude" on disc one, plus "Strawberry Fields" on disc two. Ringo taped new introductions for each of those, plus "Get Back." But the real treat, in addition to the terrific restored visuals, are the lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mixes. Keep in mind: these Blu-rays don't contain 5.1 mixes for all the studio masters as presented on the 1 album. There are many live versions and alternate takes (like the Let It Be movie version of "The Long and Winding Road") throughout. But the surround mixes are awesome—turn up your system and let them wash over you. They're nuanced yet powerful, with strong (sometimes downright aggressive, when necessary) LFE activity.

For anyone tempted to cry "needless/shameless double-dip," keep in mind that many of these promo films were not included at all in the Anthology documentary series (several, like the Flash animation piece for "Come Together" and the Love promo for "Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows," hadn't even been created yet), and most of the ones that were included were only seen in partial versions. This isn't going to satisfy the staunchest completists (and even casual fans are sure to wonder why we don't have remastered/restored complete versions of the Let It Be movie and Shea Stadium concert documentary, for instance). But in terms of a generous selection of endlessly re-watchable/re-listenable content, 1+ is an awesome package. Details for each selection are included in the hefty, 124-page book that's part of the deluxe edition.

Other formats that 1 is available in: remixed/remastered CD-only; single DVD-only; single-Blu-ray only; CD/DVD set; CD/Blu-ray set. 1+ is available as a CD/2-DVD set or CD-2-Blu-ray set.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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