The Beatles: 1+ Deluxe Edition

How do you improve upon perfection? That is the central question at the very core of the 1+ collection—emphasis very much on the plus—the latest must-have Deluxe Edition to emerge from The Beatles’ empiric vaults. Fifty Beatles classics—all of The Fab Four’s 27 #1 hits, plus 23 additional cuts that include alternate versions of some of those aforementioned moptop chart-toppers—are presented here on two Blu-ray Discs in filmed form, all accompanied by stunning 5.1 mixes done by Giles Martin with Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios. (The CD is a stereo remaster of the original 1 disc released in 2000, which has sold 31 million copies internationally to date.)

There’s no one else I’d trust to do The Beatles right in 5.1, since Martin not only literally shares DNA with the one true Fifth Beatle—his father, producer Sir George Martin—but he’s also the man who turned 2006’s LOVE into a multichannel masterstroke and was able to remix the 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night into as natural-sounding a surround bouillabaisse as could possibly be expected. And that’s no easy task on either front, especially for those of us Fab Four fanatics who tend to prefer the majority of our Beatlesonics in their original mono habitat.

On 1+, Ringo Starr provides, well, Ringo-esque video intros to four of the clips herein, while Sir Paul McCartney lends audio commentary to four on his own. The promotional films—I hesitate referring to them as “videos” since almost all of them were lensed during the pre-MTV era—have been restored frame by frame by an 18-person team, with the original 35mm negatives duly scanned in 4K and digitally restored with a level of care that would do the Criterion Collection cognoscenti proud. Yes, you will see The Beatles ride horses—some well, some poorly—in “Penny Lane,” and yes, you will see the collective momentary bliss of the legendary Rooftop Concert captured with crackling energy in “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” You’ll also revel in observing the vibrant sheen of those day-glo Sgt. Pepper uniforms in “Hello, Goodbye,” and be mesmerized by how the lads’ shoulder tassels continually shake and sway to the beat as they move around. (Some of you thought I was going to say that about the hula dancers, weren’t you?)

Martin knows exactly when to let the front channels carry the harmonies, like he does in “I Feel Fine,” while also allowing for just the right amount of echo on John Lennon’s lead vocal and Ringo’s cymbals in the rears. “Paperback Writer” has the distinction of being the first track to feature the full impact of McCartney’s wicked Rickenbacker bass line—and if your subwoofer doesn’t give you the full oomph of Paul’s loudspeaker-amplified tone, then, sir or madam, you need to take a look into your low-end reproduction capabilities ASAP.

On the second disc, the abject majesty of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life” are fully realized in 5.1. Key in on the shaker that appears in the front left at the outset of “Life” and follow how it eventually shifts across the front stage once McCartney takes over the lead vocal after he woke up and got out of bed. The track truly ascends into an all-channel dream during both of the pivotal orchestral swells, and the song’s infamous denouement—that multi-piano-bashed E-major chord—is truly jarring in every corner as it resonates and pulses vibrantly for the final 40 seconds until the fade out.

Jeff Lynne lends a hand to the surround mixes for “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” the two Lennon demos the remaining “Threetles” finished together that he helped produce for the Anthology series. The track opens with a bird fluttering in the rear left before it takes to flapping across the front stage and then swoops back into the rears. Lennon’s admittedly twee lead vocals for both cuts are buttressed as best they can, especially in the rear channels when Paul, George, and Ringo harmonize on the phrase “as a bird” during the first chorus. And there’s just something in the way Harrison’s sweet slide guitar solo helps the track fly as high as it can.

The bottom line, as always, is the music itself, and The Beatles never falter when it comes to delivering those goods—after all, they created the blueprint for what popular music could achieve, both sonically and culturally. Putting one’s mono-centric aural proclivities aside, it’s quite clear that experiencing the full, fabulous glory of 1+ in 5.1 on Blu-ray is as good as it now gets. In fact, it’s way beyond compare.

Blu-ray & CD
Label: Apple/Universal
Audio Format: 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, 96-kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo (Blu-ray); 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD)
Number of Tracks: 50 on 2 Blu-rays, 27 on 1 CD
Length: 2:05:19 (Blu-ray), 1:19:16 (CD)
Producers: Jonathan Clyde, Martin R.Smith (box set); Giles Martin, Sam Okell (2015 audio restoration and mastering); George Martin, Chris Thomas, Phil Spector, Terry Henebery (original material); Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, Allen Rouse (2003 material); Jeff Lynne, The Beatles, Steve Jay (“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”)
Engineers: Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Eddie Kramer, Ken Scott, Barry Sheffield, Glyn Johns, Jeff Jarratt, Phil McDonald, Peter Bown, Jon Jacobs

jaybird100's picture

I purchased the DVD/CD version of this album and was grossly disappointed with the surround mix of the music. It sounded as if all they had done was add delays, grossly misset, and was, in general, quite unlistenable. It sounded like very poorly done "duophonic", only in 5.1. Is the surround version on the BD version different than what was on the DVD?