Monday, November 12, 2018

The White Album, 2018 Stereo Remix: Track By Track

Friday saw the release of "The Beatles," better known as "The White Album," in a stunning new 50th anniversary deluxe edition, with demos, session outtakes and a new stereo remix by Giles Martin, son of Sir George. Here is my track by track analysis of the new remix.

Back In The U.S.S.R.
Right from take-off, this song has new life. The hand claps are more pronounced, the drums are louder, the whole band sounds alive. Even Paul's vamping at the end seems new, as I only just noticed it.

Dear Prudence
Always a fave on the record, this new remix sounds as crisp as ever, with sounds I am hearing for the first time, especially on the fade-out, where you can now actually hear Mia Farrow adopting her fourth kid.

Glass Onion
Those STRINGS! Lennon's VOICE! This is now a powerhouse. Also noticed Lennon's primal vocals for the first time.

No difference

Wild Honey Pie
What used to be a throwaway is now a throwaway in a new stunning 2018 stereo remix.

The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
I was always on the fence about this song. I quite like the Esher Demo. Even Take 2 is exciting, with John asking Yoko is she could see the lyrics. But, the new remix didn't add much, except now I hear a countermelody on the singalong coda that I swear sounds exactly like "Quando Quando Quando."

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Original lyric now inserted in original spot: "I look at you Paul, see the smug look you're sporting, still my guitar needs to be turned up." Brilliant.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun
This new 2018 remix makes the original from 1968 sound 50 years old. Amazing.

Okay, I can't do all four sides. Sorry.

Truth is, I am truly blown away by this whole set. I have mentioned a number of times how "The White Album" is not anywhere near my favorite from the Fabs, and yet I can't stop playing this new remix.

I think our friend Richeye nailed it with this:

"Giles remix of the album itself is stellar. There is a power in the band that wasn't there, yet the songs don't really sound any different."

One of the best examples of that statement is the instrumental take of "Birthday." While not on the record proper, this version sounds like a well-oiled, hard rocking band. Even The Beatles "heavy metal" song, "Helter Skelter," never quite hit that high, regardless of Paul's howling. Whether due to George Harrison's untreated, one-note solo, or just the careful production, it always sounded like a failed experiment. But what you hear on the "Birthday" session could stand up next to a track from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This band has balls! I can only imagine and hope, that while in the studio rehearsing, The Beatles were as loud and sweaty as most rock bands. I think that revelation now helps me hear a different band when I listen to the final product.

Another striking moment is the guitar version of "Good Night" with all four harmonizing, which got its own piece in the New York Times. Surely, this track was never a go-to, with its cheesy strings and Ringo's not quite vocalizing. Here, in this early take, Lennon employs his "Dear Prudence" guitar-picking, while the boys sing along. It's a beautiful piece of music, but what stands out is how much they don't sound like The Beatles. "Beatles Harmonies," by and large, is a term. Bands have been employing "Beatles Harmonies" since the Fabs broke up. Yet, on this track, it's hard to point out any singular voice other than Ringo's. These are not "Beatles Harmonies." My little mind was blown.

The "Pepper" remix seemed to correct a 50 year old stereo mix, and did so with great success. If you compare the 1967 edition with last year's edition, you'll hear a difference. It feels fixed. What's happening on the 2018 "White Album" is subtle, yet to my ears, more effective. It has somehow, miraculously, turned a record, that for years has been thought of as a collection of songs made by a band coming apart, into a brilliant, coherent, rock and roll record.

Play it loud!


cmealha said...

Nice write up. I’m still waiting. It’s in the mail

Shriner said...

Maybe it's me, but I've thought these remixes have *too loud* bass/drums in them in many instances (presumably to get Ringo and Paul to sign off on them). I thought that about the Pepper remix and it seems just as prominent here in the White Album. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but once I started hearing that, I can't *not* hear it.

Maybe I need to try another set of headphones....

I do agree that (like the Pepper remix) some of the hidden stuff is more prominent, though, and that makes these quite enjoyable. I haven't hit up the Esher Demos or "Sessions" yet -- saving those for another day so it's not all lost in a big 6-albums wash.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

I concur. I listened to the remix over the weekend and, like Richeye, was *really* impressed with the sonic pop. And this was with Spotify. It must be even better with a good stereo (which, sadly, I haven't had for years.) Birthday just kicks ass from stem to stern. Bravo, Giles.


dogbreath said...

I couldn't stop playing the White Album first time around. Knocked me for six. And this super deluxe thingy is the bee's knees, the dog's bollocks, the cat's whiskers (That's enough of that - Ed) and to me it's almost like hearing the songs for the first time all over again. Brilliant!

richeye said...

Thanks for the shout out. I've been playing the album(s) a lot these past few days, in different sequences and am still stunned by how many different moments catch my ear as I go casually gliding by.

I think that those of us who are old enough to remember the release fifty years ago may also have been influenced then by the nascent rock critic industry, that kept telling us that this album sounded like a John + band album, a Paul + band album, a George + band album and not a Beatles album; all mashed together into one overblown mess - at least, when compared against their other albums. The codicil in all those reviews was the acknowledgment that a "bad" Beatles album was still better than most of its competition.

Those reviews still haunt my thoughts as I continue to absorb the album with new ears and an open mindset. There is so much adventure on the album and a willingness to take chances and allow them to fail, because ultimately they serve the album as a whole. To whit: It is not a Paul and band album or a John/George/Ringo album + a band... it is a Beatles album through and through. Why that seems like such a revelation to me is part of my astonishment.

I give it an 85 cause it's cool and you can dance to (most of) it!

Anonymous said...

It will take me many months to come to a definitive conclusion to the quality to the new White Album set due to it's size and my exploring it slowly but surely.

Same for The Village Green box set. I have no idea when I'll find time for the new Dylan!!! We're drowning in musical riches!

Captain Al

Sal Nunziato said...

I realize this may be old news, but as I listen to the outtakes, it hits me that they stopped sounding like The Beatles. Think of the difference and leap from Between The Buttons to Beggars Banquet, or Who Sell Out to Who’s Next. The White Album has more in common with Mcartney, Ram, Plastic Ono Band and ATMP than it does with Pepper. Definitely a different set of ears with that in mind.

A walk in the woods said...

Love it... this is making me want to buy this AGAIN.

But, did you get the super deluxe 7-CD version, or one of the smaller versions?

If super deluxe - IS IT WORTH IT??! I need to know because I'm on the fence... but could easily be pushed over. I'm a Beatles super fan... just wondering if the price tag is worth it.

Anonymous said...


When The White Album came out in Nov. '68 it took me weeks of listening to all four sides almost ever evening to wrap my head the concept that The Beatles had retreated from the brave new frontier of Psychedelic Rock back into (mostly) just plain old "Rock & Roll".

Once I got use to the 90 minutes of new rocking Beatles it quickly became my favorite Beatles album and has remained so for 50 years!

Captain Al

Michael Giltz said...

Terrific. You sound as blown away as I was by all the MONO albums when that boxed set came out.

1. I listen ONLY to the MONO albums for the ones that are available. It just seems the preferred.
2. I have read nothing explaining why they chose to do a new remix of the less-preferred STEREO mix and NOT the MONO mix. I never geek out on this sort of stuff, know nothing about mixes, never had a high quality hi-fi system or bitched about LPs versus CDs and all that. But it's the Beatles.
3. Have you been a strictly stereo guy or can you discuss anything about the new stereo mix versus the MONO box mix?

I tend to think whatever Beatles album I listened to last is their definitive album but I've always loved the White album, from the nutty cassette edition I had for years that accidentally cut off the end of "Blackbird" on one side and the beginning of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" on the next to those exciting months when the albums came out on compact disc to the MONO boxed set, which again blew my mind on their entire library.

Loved reading your impressions and hope you will continue when you pull yourself off the floor after being floored again and again.

I did love the "Good Night" guitar version and the sense of camaraderie. The big take-away from the extras per others is, hey, they were having a lot of fun and not bitterly hating each other, at least not all the time. Agree?

Looking forward to the Escher Demos.

I really enjoyed the Bob Dylan rough cut version of Blood ON The Tracks -- it sounds like you're seeing him in concert before the album came out and hearing more acoustic versions where he's still figuring the songs out. Amazing how a little change in tempo or word emphasis can change the atmosphere of a tune. Not about to replace the classic version but very playable and fascinating and fun to hear.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Michael Giltz

Maybe The Beatles camp also feels that the MONO editions are definitive, so why touch them. Or, maybe there is more to work with on the stereo mix, giving the producer more possibilities. I can't say for sure. I always had the stereo records, then once the MONO remasters were released in 2009, those became the preferred way to listen. Though, I do own both a MONO and STEREO "Help." Can't tell you why exactly, but some of the songs on "Help," like "Ticket To Ride" specifically, just sound better to me in stereo.

Off the top of my head, the differences between the mono and stereo White Album:

Paul's vocals on the bridge of "I'm So Tired"--"you say, you've been"-- are way up in the mix. It was striking when I first heard the remaster in 2009 and I still dig it. It's like a whole new vocal part. He's buried in the mix on the stereo.

And of course, Helter Skelter is a minute longer on the stereo.

I am sure there are many more, just can't think at the moment.

heartsofstone said...

Thanks - the Dear Prudence comment is simply awesome.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks JD! I’ve been crushed that no one mentioned laughing at it.

heartsofstone said...

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a close second. Much appreciated!!

M_Sharp said...

I'm a big fan of remixes from 1968 that sound 50 years old, so I'll definitely be grabbing this one! Thanks, Sal!

cmealha said...

A week later and I finally got my copy. Just gave it a first listen on vinyl. What I hear is a clearer separation with brighter highs and punchier lows that breathes new life into the whole thing. I even listened to Revolution 9 all the way through because it sounded so good.