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Review: For the Super Fan: The Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album ‘Super Deluxe’ edition

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The Beatles White album color inserts

Number 9…
Number 9…
November 9 – the day of the 2018 release of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ ‘White Album.’ Apple offers several new remixed CD and vinyl packages with the most elaborate being the Super Deluxe edition, which includes a lavish 168-page hardcover book. This set is truly for the hardcore Beatles fan. You’ll feel like you’re a fly on the wall listening in on The Beatles as they record their only double-LP studio album.

The Beatles white album super deluxe packageWhen I first heard that the super deluxe set contained 6 CDs and 1 Blu-ray, I mistakenly thought the Blu-ray would contain some unreleased video of The Beatles. However, the Blu-ray is actually an audio version which contains stereo, HD and mono mixes of the original album.

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The first two discs are the original album in a new stereo mix. The album’s 30 tracks were newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell and sourced from the original four-track and eight-track session tapes.
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“Many have assumed that there was a weakening of the bonds between The Beatles during the making of ‘The White Album’… This is simply not true,” explains Giles Martin in his introduction for the new White Album releases. “It is clear from listening to the tapes that their collective spirit and inventiveness were, in fact, stronger than ever.”
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Discs 4-6 contain 50 outtakes from the recording sessions including a few songs that are not on the original album – some aren’t even Beatles songs. For example, “St. Louis Blues” is a fun studio jam although it only lasts 50 seconds. And Paul McCartney is captured singing a hard rockin’ version of Elvis Presley’s song “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care.” Unfortunately this song only lasts 42 seconds and at times the lyrics are hard to understand.
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Some surprises in the session outtakes include an instrumental backing track of “Back in the USSR,” a bluesy version of “Let It Be,” and an alternate version of “Don’t Pass Me By” which features an elaborate orchestral opening, which was ultimately deleted from the final version.
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You really feel like you’re behind the scenes in the recording studio with The Beatles on the tracks where they are talking to each other. Ringo does a comical version of “Good Night” where he’s speaking the lyrics and then joking about them in a short 37-second clip. Also, after singing a shortened version of “Blackbird,” Paul McCartney starts analyzing which voice he should use when singing it. He favors singing it in a “quiet” voice, and an unknown woman can be heard agreeing with him.
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My favorite part of the new 6-CD collection are the unreleased recordings included on Disc 3, referred to as The Esher Demos. In May 1968, after The Beatles returned from India with a whole bunch of new songs they had written during their trip, they went to George Harrison’s house in Esher, Surrey. It was there that they recorded acoustic demos for 27 of these new songs. Tracks 20-27 didn’t make it onto the White Album.
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“We had left Sgt. Pepper’s band to play in his sunny Elysian Fields and were now striding out in new directions without a map,” writes Paul McCartney in his introduction in the new hardcover book.
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It’s interesting to hear that two songs from the future Abbey Road album were written during this period. “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” were both written by John Lennon and did not change much in their final form on the Abbey Road album one year later.
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Four of the songs, including “Junk” by McCartney, and “Not Guilty” and “Circles” by Harrison, were released in later years on the ex-Beatles respective solo albums. The most intriguing is John Lennon’s song “Child of Nature.” The lyrics of this song were inspired by one of Maharishi’s lectures about nature.
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“I never did anything with it,” Lennon recalled about the song. “But I always liked the melody. The words were silly, anyway… I decided to change it – and, with Yoko’s help, I did.”
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The melody of “Child of Nature” would be paired with new lyrics and became Lennon’s song “Jealous Guy” which was later released on his 1971 Imagine album.
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The unique hardcover book in the Super Deluxe package also serves as the CD holder case for the White Album. The first two and last two pages of the book use sturdier cardboard-type pages which hold all of the discs in built-in pockets as well as a folder which contains a full-size reproduction of the original album poster and four color glossy photos of each Beatle.
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The back-side of the White Album poster includes the lyrics to all the songs on the album. The poster is a type of home-movie set in photos of The Beatles. Female fans may be intrigued by the small shot of Paul McCartney in the bathroom almost naked (not the large pic of him in the bathtub) hidden discreetly in the collage.
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Watch the “Glass Onion” (2018 mix) video and you’ll see the almost-naked Paul!
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Interestingly, John Lennon also has an almost naked photo in the collage, as he is sitting in bed with his legs crossed. [Note: John and Yoko’s Two Virgins album was coincidentally released the same month as the White Album so the naked theme seemed to be popular in that time period.]
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The plastic protective cover of the book, featuring photos of The Beatles and the track listing, is transparent and slides off of the book, leaving a blank white cover just like the original album. Early copies of the White Album were individually numbered on the front, and this feature is also included on the front of the book in the Super Deluxe package.
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The book contains seven chapters written by various music historians and two brief introductions from Paul McCartney and Giles Martin. The chapter of handwritten lyrics is printed on different paper (matte) than the rest of the book, which is glossy, for a more authentic reproduction of the historic lyric sheets.
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One chapter features a track-by-track description for each song on the album plus the Esher demos. Other chapters collectively trace the White Album from beginning to end including details on the recording process, the design of the poster, a musical analysis and the release and reception of the album.
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Special rare photos are included as well as original ads for the White Album. There is also a chapter on the Beatles “Mad Day Out” photo session around London from July 28, 1968.
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All in all, the 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe version is a treat for the hardcore Beatles fan. It includes practically everything you could ever want to know, see and hear about the making of the White Album.
Trina Young
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Note: For a detailed track listing of each White Album CD/Vinyl package, click here

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