Beatles celebrate 50th anniversary of ‘Abbey Road’ with stunning remixed version
“Abbey Road” was a landmark moment for the Beatles almost immediately upon its release, back in 1969. One of the two records that could technically be called the final one from the band — it was recorded last, but released before “Let It Be” — “Abbey Road” has always been simultaneously nostalgic, looking back at the band’s past, and slightly painful, as it hinted of great things to come that never came.
So now, 50 years later, its only fitting that this record has been re-released, and given a stunning remixing and remastering to boot. Now, the “Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition” makes the record sound better than it ever has, which also serves to further highlight the cracks that were beginning to show through the band’s work at this time.
One thing becomes immediately clear when throwing on this record: it sounds incredible. At this point, I’m not talking about the songs. We’ll touch on them later, but, come on, it’s the Beatles. Everyone knows these songs.
What I’m talking about here, though, is the sound quality itself. From the opening moments of “Come Together,” it becomes clear that this is going to be an entirely different sonic experience.
Now, when I say that “Abbey Road” has been remixed, I don’t mean in the more modern usage of the term; I mean the mixing of the recording has been totally redone, so the songs themselves are structured exactly the same, but different parts of the mix have been highlighted or minimized.
The one striking thing is how dynamic the sound is. On “Come Together,” Paul McCartney’s bass rings out in a way that it hadn’t before; it sits almost above the mix, letting you realize that the bass is truly the driving force behind that song.
Going back to even the most recent remaster of “Abbey Road,” the mix sounds muddy by comparison. The driving bassline is so low in the mix that it can barely be heard. But not so on this newest remix; the bass becomes the most shining part of the song, perhaps even exceeding John Lennon’s vocals.
Examples of little tweaks on the record abound: McCartney’s vocals on “Oh! Darling” are more emotional than ever, making the pain in his voice much more visceral; the crunching guitars at the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” take on an almost doom metal tone as they repeat themselves into oblivion as they sit in stark contrast to Lennon’s piercing vocals; George Harrison’s already gleeful “Here Comes the Sun” is an absolute treat as the backing vocals wrap around the listener in stereo.
In short, the super deluxe version of this album is without a doubt the best way to listen to it.
But it definitely serves to further highlight, perhaps not flaws in the record itself, but flaws in the band members’ relationships with one another.
While I firmly believe that “Abbey Road” is the Beatles’ finest collection of songs, it hardly has much cohesion as an album, at least until the medley that takes up the majority of the album’s B-side.
By this point in the Beatles’ career, they no longer sounded like a band. Their albums became collections of songs by four solo artists that all used each other as sessions artists. Sure, the bulk of the songs on “Abbey Road” were still credited to Lennon-McCartney, but it’s undeniable that songs like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” are clearly McCartney songs, while “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” has Lennon all over it.
The same goes for songs like Harrison’s “Something” and Ringo Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden”; it’s difficult to imagine all of these songs sitting side by side on the same record, let alone being recorded by the same band, but of course, that’s part of what made the Beatles so remarkable.
After the album proper runs out, there’s dozens of studio outtakes and different versions of the songs we’re all familiar with tacked on to the end of the super deluxe edition. While it can be interesting to hear the differing ways these songs almost ended up, I can really only recommend listening to this if you’re a major Beatles fan.
But it says something about the staying power of the Beatles that, in the year one of their albums turns 50, a 25-year-old like myself can still find new things to say about them. I’m reasonably confident I’ll be doing another retrospective when “Abbey Road” turns 75.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan
Album: ‘Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition’
Artist: The Beatles
Label: Apple, Universal Music Group
Length: 133 minutes
Best songs: It’s the Beatles; it’s all good