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Sneak Preview: Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ 50th Anniversary Edition Features Dazzling Sound, Unreleased Outtakes
The Beatles’ body of work has been so worshipped, scrutinized and dissected that 50 years later, one could wonder what’s left to discover. After all, how much more can one say about “Abbey Road”? It’s arguably the greatest album by the greatest group of all time, and is one of the premiere artistic statements of its era. And as the final album the Beatles made together — it was recorded after “Let It Be” but released before — it was created in a spirit of pre-breakup détente: The Beatles knew they were splitting up, so they made one last big effort for the team, and consequently, “Abbey Road” has none of the tension and contentiousness of “The White Album” and “Let It Be.” It’s all harmony, in every sense of the word.
Although the Beatles’ catalog has already been revisited several times — first on CD in the ‘80s, then the “Anthology” rarities series in the ‘90s, then in meticulously remastered stereo editions in the ‘00s, then in mono, and now in 50th anniversary editions — each one has revealed tantalizing surprises for longtime fans.
And as evidenced by a Monday sneak preview of the “Abbey Road” anniversary edition — which has been remixed by longtime Beatles producer George Martin’s son Giles in stereo, high res stereo, 5.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos, and comes out on Sept. 27 — there were plenty of delightful surprises lurking in the previous mixes, and lots of outtakes that haven’t made the rounds. The remixes unveil many previously hidden elements in the songs — mostly subtle ones, but exciting to fans all the same — and just two of the outtakes were previously released, and in slightly different versions.
The full tracklist appears below and granular details of the set can be found here, but all anyone who’s read this far will care about is what it sounds like — and, speaking as someone who has heard every second of this album hundreds of times since the age of 6, it sounds amazing.
Most of the new remix of the album was played, along with parts of the special “Atmos” mix — and hearing it over the mind-blowing sound system at the Dolby 24 Screening Room in New York is a privileged setting that won’t be recreated in most mortals’ homes. With that caveat, it sounds stunning: The remix places the listener in the center of the music, with the so-familiar elements of the Beatles’ sound — the breathtaking vocal harmonies, the snarling electric guitars, Ringo’s cascading drum rolls and Paul McCartney’s astonishing bass playing — moving from one speaker to the next fluidly.
“Abbey Road” is arguably the most cleanly produced and arranged Beatles album, and the new remix places it in dramatic relief: The vocals on “Because” and the sweeping strings on “Something” (the latter of which were played in isolation during this session) have never sounded so full and pristine.
The unreleased material is equally fascinating. Aired during this session was a stunning, extended early version of John Lennon’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” that finds the group edging into noise-rock, as guest keyboardist Billy Preston wails away on the organ. Also played was an earlier take of “Octopus’ Garden,” close to the final but featuring some priceless studio banter between the soon-to-be-former bandmates. When the take breaks down, Lennon jokes to Ringo, “I thought you were about to sing ‘In an octopus’ garden with John,” to laughter. The segment ends with Ringo joking about the reason the take broke down: “Maybe I came in too early … or maybe you did!”
The set focuses not just on the album but also on the singles recorded during its sessions, and early versions of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and “Old Brown Shoe” are included in the set, as are Paul McCartney’s demos of “Goodbye” (recorded at home on acoustic guitar) and “Come and Get It” (given to Apple recording artists Mary Hopkin and Badfinger, respectively). Since the “Abbey Road” sessions overlapped with those of “Let It Be” — which was recorded before, but released after, “Abbey Road” — some other contemporaneous recordings will be included in that anniversary reissue, which has not been officially announced, but everyone knows is getting the 50th anniversary treatment next year.
But in the meantime, the “Abbey Road” anniversary edition provides some wonderful surprises, even for those who have heard the album hundreds of times.https://variety.com/2019/music/news/beatles-abbey-road-sneak-preview-50th-anniversary-e...
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