Abbey Road - Anniversary Edition (Super Deluxe Version)

Performace
Sound
The Beatles were, for all intents and purposes, over. While new, original music would follow in May 1970 with the release of Let It Be, the balance of the recording sessions for what ultimately became September 1969's Abbey Road is generally acknowledged as the in-studio swan song for those four Liverpool moptops who forever defined, if not outright created, the popular music artform in the 1960s.

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At its core, Abbey Road chronicles the apex of The Beatles' inherently catchy songsmithery as backed by shrewdly honed yet naturally intuitive band interplay—not to mention the genius move of rescuing a cavalcade of unfinished song snippets by sewing them together into a now-legendary Side 2 medley that added yet another layer to the overall pop music template. And now, 50 years on, we have a quite glorious Abbey Road Anniversary Edition to pore over (and over). Although this collection's contents specifically celebrate the half-century milestone, the "50" distinction itself is quite deliberately left off the release's nomenclature— perhaps with the ultimate goal of rendering it all so perfectly timeless. Regardless, the four-disc Super Deluxe Version is the way to go (duh!). This box set contains three CDs— one with the remixed original stereo album, two with studio demos and outtakes—plus a Dolby Atmos mix on Blu-ray as overseen by the incomparable production team of Giles Martin and Sam Okell. The included hardbound book contains in-depth essays and studio-session analysis as acutely detailed as any Beatles-related account must be.

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The stereo mix on Disc 1 is as fab and full as can be expected— an accomplishment that shouldn't be glossed over, since Abbey Road was the first full- length non-soundtrack Beatles album not to be mixed in mono. Also, I highly doubt anyone can read the track listing information that appears on the disc's Apple label itself. A super-dark shadow effect covers no less than three-quarters of the green fruit's cylindrical surface, a poor design decision that mystifies me to no end. It's the visual equivalent of what an actual octopus's garden in the shade must look like from the bottom of the ocean.

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Thankfully, the much more legible label info on both Discs 2 and 3 appear on the white innards of a sliced-open apple. More importantly, the audio content on these two discs comprise 85 minutes' worth of carefully chosen studio-outtake gold. And they're all beyond fascinating, whether it's the studio demo of Paul McCartney's "Come and Get It" (a hit track he ultimately gave to Badfinger), Take 7 of John Lennon's confessional "The Ballad of John and Yoko," Take 2 of George Harrison's duality play "Old Brown Shoe," or the Trial Edit & Mix of the 16-minute medley, dubbed here as "The Long One."

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Naturally, we audiophiles salivate at what the Blu-ray Atmos mix has to offer. Once again, the dream knob-turning team of Martin and Okell are totally in the zone with the breadth of their mixing choices. Among the gems: Ringo Starr's crisp snare and cymbal work on "Come Together," Billy Preston's wholly enveloping organ fills on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," producer George Martin's encircling electric harpsichord on "Because," and the counter-clockwise all-corners rotation of McCartney's lead vocal on "Her Majesty" that starts in the rear right.

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One key Abbey Road sequence instantly enters the pantheon of the toppermost Atmos mix mastery, right alongside the A+ surround mixes done for "A Day in the Life" on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and "Revolution 9" on The White Album—namely, the back half of the Side 2 medley, starting with the one-two synergy of "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" that carries directly through "The End." On the latter, Starr's only pure drum solo for The Fabs teems with power and precision, while the gnarly three-way two-bar guitar-solo tradeoffs between McCartney, Harrison, and Lennon weave and snarl across the sound- stage in primo cutting-heads fashion. Meanwhile, the heavenly piano-and-strings denouement that slides into one of the most affecting final lines of any album in rock history is as chill-inducing as one would expect, with a continuing resonance that has yet to dissipate upon each successive listen.

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BTW, there is one Blu-ray Easter egg to note. Click to the right of "Something" on the main menu and you can cue up the Neil Aspinall-compiled videoclip featuring rotating scenes of all four Beatles paired up with their respective spousal counterparts. It's touching and bittersweet all at once, buttressed by the all- encompassing sound of one of the most mystical love songs in the band's canon.

And in the end...well, as McCartney himself puts it in the accompanying hardback book's Foreword, you know the rest. That being said, let me assure you: something in the way this music moves, especially in its Atmos form, will attract you like no other album.

Blu-ray & CD
Label: Apple/UMG
Audio Formats: 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM Stereo (CD); 24-bit/96kHz PCM Stereo (Blu-ray); 24-bit/96kHz DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Atmos (Blu-ray)
Number of Tracks: 57 (40 on 3 CDs, 17 on 1 BD)
Length: 3:01:05 (2:13:34 on 3 CDs, 47:31 on 1 BD)
Producers: George Martin (original recordings and orchestrations); Chris Thomas (additional production, original recordings); Giles Martin (2019 mixes); Jeff Jones (executive producer); Jonathan Clyde, Guy Hayden (project producers)
Engineers: Phillip McDonald, Geoff Emerick, Glyn Johns, Ken Scott, 2 others (principal engineers, original recordings); Alan Parsons, 8 more (additional engineers, original recordings); Sam Okell (2019 mixes and sessions engineer); Giles Martin, Chris Sheldon (sessions engineers); Miles Showell (2019 stereo mastering engineer); Emily Lazar (2019 5.1 and Atmos mastering engineer); Kevin Howlett, Mike Heatley (2019 archive tape research)

COMMENTS
ghost_7's picture

The first thing I and probably most who read this is a question of audio quality vis-a-vis the 2009 version. Not a word, really odd.

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