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.
On November 9, Apple Corps will release a 50th anniversary version of The Beatles’ 1968 ‘White Album.’ The album’s original 30 tracks are newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, joined by 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most of which are previously unreleased in any form.
It was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper and Beyond is a new documentary film celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. It serves as a complement to the Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary from 1992 and also the recent PBS documentary, Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution. While those films offer more of a focus on The Beatles’ recording process, It was Fifty Years Ago Today gives a more cultural context to the Sgt Pepper album.
This film was not officially sanctioned by The Beatles, and therefore no Beatles music was included. Instead it offers interviews with many people who were in the Beatles inner circle and also famous Beatle biographers. They all have some great insider stories and details to share.
Another plus is all of the rare historical footage of The Beatles that you don’t often see in “official” documentaries. However, the flow of the film is at times disjointed with one interview popping up in-between two other unrelated segments.
Also, the film title and DVD cover text leads you to believe that the focus is mainly on Sgt. Pepper. The film starts in August 1966 giving the background of why The Beatles stopped touring which led to their unlimited time in the recording studio. However, the film goes on for 2 hours, and covers material way past the release of Sgt Pepper in June 1967 to include the Beatles trip to India in 1968.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the film was about 30-40 minutes too long and all of the information about what happened after the death of Brian Epstein in August 1967 should have been omitted. The fact that it continues through 1968 leaves you to wonder where this “Sgt. Pepper” documentary is headed and wondering when it will end.
With that said, the interviews are very intelligent and interesting. There is also a second DVD of bonus extra footage of extended interviews with a few people featured in the original film. Highlights are the in-depth interviews with former BBC radio host, Andy Peebles, who interviewed John Lennon two days before he died, and Pete Best. Also included is a brief visual tour of Beatle-related sites in Liverpool and London, with a special stop at 34 Montagu Square, which has a special connection to John, Paul and Ringo.
For Beatles fans who like to get their hands on rare footage and interviews of The Beatles, then this DVD is for you. – T.Y.
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“Sgt. Pepper – Wow! Was it really 50 years ago today? Can’t be true…”
– Paul McCartney in April 2017
Mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, this is a vast improvement over the 2009 remastered Beatles CD version. This is the first time the album has been remixed. The original four-track session tapes were the source and Giles Martin used the original mono mix produced by his father, Beatles producer George Martin, as a guide.
When comparing the 2009 remastered Sgt. Pepper CD to the remixed 2017 version, it’s like going from black and white to color. The 2009 remastered version almost sounds muted when compared to the 50th anniversary remix due to the fact that the sound of the vocals, guitars and drums are all brought to the front.
Paul McCartney commented on the remix in a recent Q&A with Japanese fans: “It’s very clear. So whereas the old mix was just sort of a general mix, this time you can hear every little instrument. And it was quite surprising to hear, ‘Ooh, I’d forgotten we did that.'”
The sound is so clear and enhanced that you can even hear McCartney shouting in the background at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise).” You’ll also hear an unexpected addition to the end of “Within You, Without You.”
Ringo Starr also raved about the new remix. A friend of Ringo’s reported that “it originally was recorded on a 4-track with a lot of overdubs, which buried the drums. Now, the drums have been lifted and come through as they should. He was pleased.”
The remixed Sgt. Pepper CD is definitely worth getting, no matter how many previous versions you have. While you can just get the remixed CD by itself, here’s why you should get the Super Deluxe edition.
If you love to hear outtakes and get a glimpse into how The Beatles’ song process took place, you’ll especially enjoy Disc 2 of the Deluxe package. Here you get 18 tracks including five takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and five takes of “A Day in the Life.” These outtakes include an alternate attempt at creating the dramatic piano sound at the end of “A Day in the Life”, instead with all of The Beatles humming in unison. Note that Disc 2 on the Super Deluxe version is different from the outtakes included on Disc 2 of the 2-CD Deluxe set.
Disc 3 offers 15 additional outtakes for the diehard Beatles fan. Disc 4 offers the entire album in the original mono mix, along with 6 additional mono tracks including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”
If you are not that interested in outtakes, the Super Deluxe package is still worth the money because of the lavish hardcover book and The Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary was made for the 25th anniversary of the album’s release and contains great interviews with Paul, George, Ringo and George Martin. The highlight is watching George Martin sit at the engineering controls in the recording studio and isolate either the vocal or instrumental tracks on several of the songs and discuss The Beatles’ recording process.
The six-disc Super Deluxe set comes with a 144-page hardcover book the size of an album. The book includes chapters written by different writers on various aspects of the album. Topics include the design of the cover, the album’s musical innovations and its historical context by Beatles historian, author and radio producer Kevin Howlett; composer and musicologist Howard Goodall; music producer and writer Joe Boyd; and journalists Ed Vulliamy and Jeff Slate.
– Trina Yannicos