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Breaking down The Beatles new Abbey Road 50th anniversary CD sets

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The Beatles, Tittenhurst Park, August 22, 1969; © Apple Corps Ltd.

Many Beatles fans may ask themselves regarding the new Abbey Road 50th anniversary release whether to buy the Super Deluxe 4-CD boxed package or to just let it be with the 2-CD set? But help is on the way – we won’t let you down. Here is a breakdown comparing the 3 CD + 1 Blu-ray (audio) Super Deluxe package (approx. $90) versus the 2-CD Deluxe set (under $20).

On September 27 (one day after the actual 50th anniversary of the original album release), The Beatles released 50th anniversary editions of Abbey Road which include new stereo mixes and additional session recordings and demos in vinyl, CD, digital and streaming formats. Since CDs are still outselling vinyl, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of the two deluxe CD sets since the price differential is approximately $70.

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Abbey Road’s Super Deluxe box set (pictured above) includes the stereo remix of the original album on one CD and also on one Blu-ray audio disc. The other two CDs contain the session outtakes and demo recordings. Demo recordings include “Goodbye”, a song written by Paul McCartney for Mary Hopkin, and “Come and Get It”, a song that later became a hit for Badfinger. In addition to outtakes of every track on the original album, studio outtakes also include “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, “Old Brown Shoe” and “The Long One” which is a trial edit of the famous medley on Side 2 of the original Abbey Road album.

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The 4 CD covers in The Beatles “Super Deluxe” 50th anniversary Abbey Road set

“The Long One” is basically an almost-finished version of the final medley. You will notice the instrumental jam section of “The End” without the voices singing “Love You” that were overdubbed on the final version. It is also strange to hear “Her Majesty” inserted in the middle of the medley between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” – it definitely seems out of place, interrupting the flow of music. It was a great decision for The Beatles to ultimately put “Her Majesty” after the end of the medley.

Meanwhile the 2-CD set contains the stereo remix and one CD of session outtakes. Like the Super Deluxe set, the 2-CD set contains alternate takes of each of the 17 songs on the Abbey Road album. However, while these outtakes are spread out over 2 CDs in the Super Deluxe set in no particular order, the single CD of outtakes on the 2-CD set includes the 17 songs in the same order as the songs on the original album.

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While it may seem like you are missing out on a great number of outtakes, what you are mainly missing are the “extra” songs that weren’t on the Abbey Road album as listed above, along with two instrumentals and “The Long One” as described earlier.

Those Beatles fans on a budget may ponder: Is it worth paying $70 more for “The Long One” and a few other non-album demos/outtakes, as well as the hardbound book?

The 12″ x 12″ hardbound book in the Super Deluxe package includes the four discs housed in the inside front and back pages of the book. The 100-page book includes many  photographs of The Beatles taken by Linda McCartney. Other never-before-published images include song lyrics, sketches and Beatles correspondence.

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Reproduction of “Oh Darling” lyrics in the 100-page book of the “Super Deluxe” CD set

Many interesting facts are presented in the “Track by Track” chapter by Kevin Howlett, who has written the bulk of the chapters in the book. One lesser-known fact is that John Lennon was not at the sessions in early July 1969 for “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” because those songs were recorded by Paul, George and Ringo when John was in the hospital recovering from a car accident in Scotland. And if you ever wondered why Paul played drums on “The Ballad of John and Yoko” – not Ringo – it was because Ringo was busy filming The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers.

In the hardbound book, while there are a few pages dedicated to the cover photo of the album, they could have definitely included more of the alternate takes of the Abbey Road crossing photo shoot. Meanwhile, the Deluxe 2-CD set comes with a 40-page CD booklet, so you still get lots of photos.

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In this reviewer’s opinion, the Super Deluxe set is a great purchase if you want all the photos and information provided in the 100-page book. However, if are more interested in the studio outtakes (and you are on a budget), the Deluxe 2-CD set will definitely satisfy your need for extra Abbey Road material. Plus, it will leave you with some money in your pocket to buy some more Beatles CDs!

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The Beatles, Tittenhurst Park, August 22, 1969; © Apple Corps Ltd.

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