THE BEATLES - The Beatles [White Album] (1968) [Super Deluxe Edition, 2018]
The featured element of this seven-disc celebration of the 1968 double vinyl White Album on its 50th anniversary is a remixed version of its 30 iconic tracks by original producer George Martin’s son, Giles. There are, of course, many Beatles purists who will only consider any such project sacrilegious. After all, this is The White Album we’re talking about. What was so wrong with it in the first place? Evidently, not much: 19-times platinum speaks for itself. Giles Martin’s got form for improving on Beatles perfection. From collaborating on Love to last year’s widely lauded 50th-anniversary remix of Sgt. Pepper, he’s a safe pair of hands. That Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr offered support and assistance to the project speaks volumes. So was all the effort worth it? Hell yes. Instead of losing intrinsic magic, Martin’s enhanced it. Drums are crisper, cymbal crashes shimmer off into infinity, the bass sound is thicker, its presence defined and accentuated. Vocals gain warmth, guitars chime and soar. Elements previously lost in ensemble murk re-emerge as independent entities, as fresh ears locate and open up airy space between blurred frequencies. Everything sounds more emphatic, more… everything.
The White Album’s extraordinarily diverse content has been a constant presence in rock’s subconscious since the genre’s genesis. Reaction to its epoch-defining charms have dulled, familiarity has replaced visceral awe with cerebral respect, but now, sharpened and buffed, the likes of Happiness Is A Warm Gun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps shine brighter than ever. Some selections have been transformed by the process: Dear Prudence is a revelation. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da? You might even make it to the end. Disc Three is Esher demos. The band convene at Harrison’s to nail down working versions of material contrived in India. It’s Beatles unpled, basically. Bin your bootlegs, it’s exceptional. But the gold for completists comes on discs 4-6: the sessions. Early takes, working versions, unfinished sketches; there’s intimacy (Lennon road-testing Julia for George Martin), revelation (13 minutes of Helter Skelter’s blues inception), surrealism (the unreleased What’s The New Mary Jane?) and fascinating insight into making-history’s humdrum side (Harrison ordering a cheese, lettuce and Marmite sandwich as Clapton prepares to render his Gently Weeps magical).
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