The Beatles: Remastered

The Beatles

The Beatles

Imaginative, experimental, gifted, trendsetters, remarkable and simply special are all words that can be used to describe John, Paul, George and Ringo: The Beatles. They were all about making albums to thrill and love and terrific as they were, they knew how to make everything come off like it was the easiest music in the world to make. Beginning with albums that amassed as many top pop hits as possible — combining R&B with Doo Wop with Rock — it wasn’t long before they were blurring the lines of genres with their creative methods. And before you knew it, everything under the bright yellow sun had been covered by these four gentlemen from Liverpool.

This was always a band that knew how to make dizzyingly amazing music. And without repeating too many of the clichés that have been already stated, they are the most important band of all time, period. The Beatles were able to release thirteen of the greatest albums we will ever have the pleasure of listening to. And it goes without saying that their presence — both as musicians and human beings — has towered over humanity for the entire forty years since they broke up.

Equally visceral and eclectic, melodic as much as harmonious and honestly playful, the music The Beatles have given us will always be dearly thought of. Their vocal harmonies are unmatched, their capacity to treat the studio as another instrument has been copied by everyone from The Beach Boys to The Rolling Stones, their ear for all the good things in music was downright spectacular and their ability to combine each member’s talents and desires into these amazing bodies of work is utterly staggering. So this one’s for you guys, an expository look into the catalog of music you’ve blessed us with and before we forget, thanks for everything.  – Bryan Sanchez

The Beatles - Please Please Me

The Beatles - Please Please Me

March 22, 1963: The Beatles – Please Please Me by Bryan Sanchez
Rushed to the studio, the entire album was started and finished in one day; along with a relentless touring schedule that spanned three years, it’s no surprise that The Beatles delivered an album that still sounds fresh to anyone’s ear. Producer George Martin hinted at recording the album live before booking time at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios) where the band was recorded in an effort to re-create their excellent live sound. This created an air of significance in realizing that every take counted but it also established their imposing proficiency as musicians.

Courageously bold and fashionably energetic, the tightness of the band is on full display throughout these eight originals and six covers. Tender love songs like “P.S. I Love You” are equipped with countermelodies, clever vocal interplays and crisply stunning musicianship. And the boisterous fun of “Boys” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” showcase Ringo and George, respectively, as equal counterparts. They left “Twist and Shout” for the end, to save John’s voice as he battled a cold, right? Or maybe it was to allow everyone in the band to let loose and shout for joy as they delivered one of the finest first-takes of all time. Who knows for sure but what we do know is that everyone else hasn’t stopped shouting for joy since.

The Beatles – With the Beatles

The Beatles – With the Beatles

November 22, 1963: The Beatles – With the Beatles by Bryan Sanchez
Wasting no time to place all of their limitless talents onto another LP, The Beatles returned with fourteen more songs of wondrous music. Following the same formula as their inauguration—employing eight originals and six covers—With the Beatles demonstrated a band that was growing by leaps and bounds. Beginning with some of the best songs to ever start an album, it also includes George Harrison’s first composition: the sultry and slicing, “Don’t Bother Me.”

It was at this point that people began to realize that this was a band to reckon with and for countless reasons: their impeccable taste of R&B and Motown placed the best possible covers on the album, their chemistry as a band was at the point where they could release multiple albums per year and each still be astoundingly fantastic but furthermore, those aforementioned covers now paled in comparison to the exceptional originals that they were crafting. For every gifted take on samba (“Till There Was You,”) there was also a gorgeous rendition of a cover (“You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”) but most of all, John and Paul really took to rivaling each other in terms of songwriting and melodies. It’s a flawless album in every sense of the word; just four months after their debut and they were already cutting albums that illustrated maturity, dexterity and above all, incomparable skill.

The Beatles – A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles – A Hard Day's Night

July 10, 1964: The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night by Jon Gordon
The Beatles third album shows them at the top of their early period game. The thrill of Beatlemania carries its own enthusiasms into the music and while songs like “Can’t Buy Me Love” remain familiar to just about everyone even today, the rest of the album contains some real moments of near or actual genius.

Clocking in at a little over thirty minutes, these are still the Hamburg Beatles, and the energy of the title track is sustained throughout the album with a relentlessness that gives even the slower tracks the air of Reeperbahn crowd pleasers. Containing some of Lennon’s best early work, “Tell Me Why” might have been a serious contender for the follow-up to “She Loves You” and “I Should Have Known Better” is a sneering stomp, replete with the entire band’s new-found confidence as the biggest, and already most revered act of 1963. Songs of the quality of “Any Time At All” (another powerful Lennon performance,) the bluesy shakedown of “You Can’t Do That” and the moody folk-based sturm und drang of “Things We Said Today” remain as listenable today as they were 45 years ago. Meanwhile, “Can’t Buy Me Love” must’ve sounded a bit funky back in the day — it’s certainly more than several steps removed from the standard 12-bar rhythms that practically every other beat combo were dishing out at the time. What A Hard Day’s Night might’ve lacked in quantity it more than made up for in terms of quality.

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

December 4, 1964: The Beatles – Beatles for Sale by Bryan Sanchez
Once again, hurried back into the studio after their third consecutive masterpiece, The Beatles were truly running on empty by the time Beatles for Sale hit the scene — “Eight Days a Week” was equally insightful and invigorating. Noticeable in everything from the cover, with their drained expressions, to the use of their old standby: the eight original and six cover formula; at the height of Beatlemania, you’d think they were finished. No, instead you have Lennon’s oft-described ‘trilogy’ as the gloomy, depressing beginning of the album. And this trio of songs is highlighted by “I’m A Loser,” which happens to signal the band’s first notice into the presence Bob Dylan’s music was starting to possess.

The covers took a dip only because they lacked that fire and flavor the previous albums were richly enriched in. However, the prolific Lennon/McCartney duo was writing music at a relentless pace. It’s still obvious to many what songs were John’s (“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”) and which were Paul’s (“I’ll Follow the Sun”) but from the careful attention of timbre and tone, to the substantial growth in wordplay, it’s evident that they were profoundly influenced by each other. It’s unquestionably carried by the soaring highs; their sheer talent and quality-infused ability would never lead you think these were four tired men.

The Beatles – Help!

The Beatles – Help!

August 6, 1965: The Beatles – Help! by Mike Sanders
They still hadn’t gotten the formula quite right, maybe, but Help! should share the same “The Record That Shows The Beatles’ Burgeoning Maturity” status that Rubber Soul basks in — the songs are wonderful. “Help!” is quintessential John Lennon: a woe-is-me anthem buried under layers of melody and George Martin shine and “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is The Beatles at their most rollicking and fun.

But every song must take a backseat to the two masterpieces adorning this album: “Yesterday” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” There’s been so much written about “Yesterday” that I wouldn’t be able to add anything meaningful in that department, suffice it to say that it very nearly outshines a majority of The Beatles’ later work. “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” however, often gets overlooked. Featuring a melody and lyrics that represent John Lennon at his most Dylan-esque, the song is a nice indicator of the newer direction The Beatles were going to go in; it’s the aural opposite of early hits like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You,” but you’d never notice it upon first listen. And that friends, is a little something called progress.

The Beatles - Rubber Soul

The Beatles - Rubber Soul

December 3, 1965: The Beatles – Rubber Soul by Bryan Sanchez
Some of the band’s earnest chemistry was on Rubber Soul, an album that presented a band further progressing into the destined prominence that followed. Lyrically, they were moving towards the mature direction where relationships could be expressed through metaphors and introspective imagery. Musically, the shift towards the psychedelic and peace and love fusion was just starting to flow through them — their influences had taken a hold of them and would never let go from here on out. Harrison, enthralled by world instruments and befriending David Crosby, persuaded for the use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” where it would become the first pop recording to use an actual sitar. Besides the French licks on the delectably delicious “Michelle” and the piano disguised as a harpsichord on Lennon’s infamous, “In My Life,” The Beatles shaped these innovations into their own, distinctive yet brilliant creations.

Closely examined, the thoughtfulness of every little detail: that deep sighing in “Girl,” their “ooh…la la la” chants, in a nod to the R&B that sustained them on erstwhile records, Ringo’s matches tapping in the background of “I’m Looking Through You,” was all irrefutably masterful. It captures The Beatles during a time when they were gelling as a band, each one growing within each other and within the band. Its magnitude was immeasurable for sure, but in many regards, even if they stopped right here, everything was already gold.

The Beatles – Revolver

The Beatles – Revolver

August 5, 1966: The Beatles – Revolver by Matt Cohen
At its heart, Revolver is an album about expansion; expanding your mind, expanding instrumentation and recording techniques, expanding influences. It’s a revolution of sound, where rock and roll not only gets trippy and acid-washed, but thoughtful and introspective, becoming more than just a pleasant diversion in the grand field of music history. Rock and roll as a performance-driven art? The Beatles stopped touring. Rock and roll bands dressed uniformly? The Beatles cut their hair, grew facial hair, and wore the trendy clothes they, not former manager Brian Epstein, wanted them to wear. Rock and roll bands kept a clean cut image and hid the seedy underbelly of the lifestyle from the public eye? The Beatles sang about doing drugs and the positive effects drugs have on the human consciousness. For the first time, they questioned who they were and who they wanted to be.

To understand the truth, significance and legend behind The Beatles is to understand the two entirely different bands that comprise The Beatles. There’s the Fab Four, mop top teen sensation with undeniable charm. And there’s the revolutionary psychedelic experience, the four mad scientist musicians (and producer George Martin) huddled up in Abbey Road studios, unleashing their brilliant creations upon the world. Revolver is the genesis of the second form of the Beatles. They de-constructed the idea of a rock band, then rebuilt it the way they wanted it to be, in such a fashion that still stands today.

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

June 1, 1967: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by Jordan Blum
They were tired of the expectations, the pressure, and most of all, the unprecedented fandom. To escape, they stopped touring, Lennon delved further into his obsession with LSD, and Harrison retreated to India to be ensconced in the culture and learn the sitar from legendary musician Ravi Shankar. The concept album had rarely, if ever, been explored but The Beatles certainly took the idea to new ground with this musical preface. It continued where Revolver left off, tracks like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” and “Within You Without You” (Harrison’s only cut, which he had to fight for) progress the colorful, drug induced psychedelic production further than it had ever been.

From the artwork, to the music, to the lyrics and to its legend, it still amazes us visually and sonically. Pieces like “She’s Leaving Home,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Good Morning Good Morning” implement classical instruments (courtesy of producer George Martin) that broke barriers for what a “pop” song could do. On top of all of this, it includes the song often viewed as the greatest collaboration between Lennon and McCartney, “A Day in the Life.” It’s amazing that an album released forty years ago and with a running time of less than forty minutes can still bring us so much joy, inspiration and intrigue, but then again they were The Beatles, and this is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

November 27, 1967: The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour by Greg Argo
As a cobbled together album, Magical Mystery Tour holds together as well as or better than their proper full-lengths thanks to an across-the-board commitment to sensuously enveloping sound worlds and a second side consisting of top-of-the-line A-sides of singles from ’67. The songwriting is top-notch, with Lennon continuing on his hippy-dippy way (co-opted 20 years later by an aging, peace sign flashing, head-wagging McCartney) with kaleidoscopic mindfucks like “I Am the Walrus” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and McCartney offering more saccharine-sweet pop, chronicling a dreamy domesticity in songs like “The Fool on the Hill,” “Your Mother Should Know,” “Penny Lane,” and “Hello Goodbye.”

Still, it’s the everything-to-the-front, Technicolor production aesthetic, continued and expanded from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that is the most influential aspect of this release. Miraculously, it sounds like all the individual parts are mixed both as loud as possible and at exact equal levels, creating an environment both immersive and transporting. It feels as if you are actually strolling along Penny Lane or tripping in fields of strawberries. With The White Album right around the corner, this marks the end of The Beatles’ carefree and childlike period, and their heads were never again so gloriously in the clouds.

The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)

The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)

November 22, 1968: The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album) by Bryan Sanchez
Inventive, imaginative, innovative; The Beatles were everything and then some on their prolific self-titled album, affectionately known as The White Album. They could be wildly passionate and still boyishly in love (“Sexy Sadie”), they were experimental in the method that they could advance the real and unreal (“Revolution 9”), they could rock out and put their impeccable talent on display (“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”) and they could display gorgeous, symphonic music (“Good Night.”) And that was just on the second record!

The superlatives don’t do it justice, they don’t even come close. So I thought I’d share some personal back-story to my personal love for this album. About ten years ago, I really started to crave and seek music. I was only fourteen then but I would beg my father to take me and buy me music. At first, clueless and somewhat curious, I found this album and had remembered the praise shouted from the rooftops for it. I’d often get two albums every so often and this time I grabbed that one and walked to the cashier with it. My dad, wondering what I had, just shrugged at the album and was more bothered by the price tag; nonetheless it was mine. The following two weeks were thrilling: hearing the ‘shot’ on “Rocky Raccoon,” the vibrant energy on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” or the perfect love song that is “I Will,” it was magical — and that’s just the first record!

The Beatles (White Album) is a landmark album for many reasons and each is an importantly distinguished one. It’s well-known that a lot of it was recorded individually with each member often sitting in a studio room by himself while the other three worked in their own individual rooms. After making neat, tidy albums that spanned fourteen songs, they imploded: not only did they cram it with song after song of tremendous and sprawling music but they did so in a manner that revealed their collective imaginations. And with every proceeding listen, it continues to astonish and amaze through every single note.

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

January 13, 1969: The Beatles – Yellow Submarine by Jon Gordon
Listening again, it’s apparent that “Only a Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much” were both too strong Harrison performances to sit comfortably alongside McCartney’s developing music hall sentiments and Lennon’s increasingly erratic experiments. Although in different ways, both songs are at odds with the wild humor and the chintzy surrealism that characterized much of The Beatles later output. “Only A Northern Song” is probably the greatest song Lennon never wrote, its sonorous keyboard overriding the seemingly obligatory Pepperesque sound collage of brass and choir that it ends on, while “It’s All Too Much” is a feedback drenched guitar raga that seriously prefigures the work of many 70s groups. Neither track really belongs on any other Beatles release, somehow.

For the rest, “Hey Bulldog” is a properly focused Lennon jibe at whomever his target was that week, while both “All You Need Is Love” and the title track were already familiar to Beatles fans. The George Martin tracks sound very much like what they are, which is orchestral film soundtracking containing only a very brief musical reference to the “Yellow Submarine” tune, although “Sea Of Holes” has a darkly gleeful touch to it. “All Together Now” really does sound like whistling in the dark from the rapidly disintegrating band themselves. So, does Yellow Submarine constitute as a proper Beatles release? That’s up for debate but it does provide a curious glimpse of how a less experimental version of The White Album might’ve sounded.

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The Beatles – Abbey Road

September 29, 1969: The Beatles – Abbey Road by Adam Costa
I’m not sure what the Fab Four would have to say about it if a 40th anniversary summit were possible today, but few music aficionados will refute that The Beatles’ Abbey Road is one of the finest — not to mention most iconic — swan songs ever committed to tape. With relationships turning to shambles after that spring’s disastrous Let It Be sessions, the boys from Liverpool made a conscientious decision to put their personal gripes on hiatus in order to enter the studio one final time. Making the most of the new technology afforded by the era, it was the only Beatles album in which a majority of its tracks were laid down on an 8-track tape machine. Additionally, Abbey Road’s meticulous production values set a precedent for future artists who would openly acknowledge that the studio was as much an instrument as any guitar or drum.

The album is chock full of examples of The Beatles’ sturdiest musicianship, ranging from the inane lyrics and slick bass of “Come Together” to the song suite that encompasses the only drum solo Ringo ever recorded with the group, “The End.” With estimable songwriting contributions from all four Beatles, it’s in cuts like George’s “Something” and the Lennon/McCartney epic “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” that we hear a band that still had one hell of a sparkle left, even as it was burning out.

The Beatles – Let It Be

The Beatles – Let It Be

May 8, 1970: The Beatles – Let It Be by Damon
You might say Let It Be shows that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The band’s final release was, for McCartney, a doomed final effort to reconnect. The album denied fans the closure they sought, and its confused temporal relationship with Abbey Road didn’t help. To recapture the band’s spirit, the boys tried recording as a blues-based rock ensemble like the early days. But after production controversy, bejeweled arrangements crept in anyway. While the production on “Across the Universe” and “Long and Winding Road” may be a bit overdone, the two burgeoning but abandoned songs, “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” are outstanding. Lennon delivers his best vocals on “Dig a Pony” and McCartney gives his on “I’ve Got a Feeling.” Harrison’s remorseful rocker “I Me Mine” and the undeniably apt “Let It Be” have their definite strengths.

The mythology around the album — the film, the in-fighting and walkouts, the rooftop concert, Yoko — often eclipses the music. The remarkably easy feeling of “Two of Us” is a funny way for a bunch of guys who can’t stand each other to start an album but at least album closer “Get Back” gives fans one last catchy, accessible song to go. Maybe there was no other suitable goodbye.

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Realizing that their original catalog was finally going to be remastered and reissued was surreal but that day has finally come. They had their share of influences, sure, but it goes without saying that The Beatles influenced everyone that heard their music. After Brian Wilson matched them with his perfect Pet Sounds, once he heard “Strawberry Fields Forever,” he had fully resigned in competing with them. And even John Lennon would go on to joke that they were more popular than Jesus but when you put everything into context, he knew what he was talking about.

Their story is rich with imagery, their arch is absorbing and their allure is immense — the pure mystique of their history as a band is overwhelmingly crucial. And if you sit back and reflect, they made some of the best music of all time during the narrow span of seven years. It’s unheard of and seldom seen when a musical artist makes more than one album a year, let alone one album every two years. Just imagine bands making albums once a year and each one being revolutionary, inescapable, flawless and utterly transfixing. It’s one thing when you can be good at what you do but to be the best at what you do and still, insanely popular, is entirely exceptional. This was The Beatles, unlike anything we’ll ever witness. – Bryan Sanchez