'Beatles 1/1+' Deserving of an Ovation

Randy Lewis
Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The Beatles' 1/1+ repackages 1 with performance footage and films for each of the Fab Four’s 27 No. 1 hits on the album.

More Beatles?

That’s the question a skeptic might reasonably ask at the recent announcement of a new version of the group’s 2000 “1” hits compilation that became the biggest-selling album of the decade, the new edition being packaged with performance footage and films for each of the Fab Four’s 27 No. 1 hits on the album.

In fact, one of the prime movers behind the new “The Beatles 1/1+” project, which will be released Nov. 6, initially had the same reaction.

“My first question about it was whether this might be just a ‘ka-ching!’ prospect,” Jonathan Clyde, Apple Corps Ltd.’s director of production and producer of the “1/1+” told The Times. He conducted a playback session in West Hollywood of several of the videos for about 50 music writers and a few VIPs, including Doors drummer John Densmore and filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the Beatles’ cinematic swan song, “Let It Be.”

“But the more we dug into the archives, the more I realized how much great material hasn’t been made available before,” he said. “And more than just visuals to accompany the songs, a story begins to emerge that demonstrates how the Beatles approached audio-video with the same sense of adventure they brought to their music.”

Clyde said despite all the archival footage used in the massive 1995-96 “Anthology” documentary, of the 50 selections in the deluxe edition of the “1+” release, only 10 were featured in full in “Anthology,” 18 were sampled in edited form or edited with other material, 13 were not shown in any form and nine are newly discovered or created since the ‘90s.

It’s coming in several configurations: “Beatles 1” will be a single CD/DVD or CD/Blu-ray version with the 27 audio tracks and 27 videos; “Beatles 1+” will have a second disc with 23 additional videos with alternative versions for several of the songs; there’s also a two-LP, 180-gram vinyl edition coming.

This writer’s initial take is that it does, indeed, contain much revealing material. Not that we didn’t long know that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were charismatic individuals who genuinely enjoyed creating music together.

But to see them virtually giggling their way through a performance for “Rain,” watching Starr peddling mightily on a stationary bike and Lennon attempting to lip-sync while gobbling down a sandwich during “I Feel Fine” — Clyde pointed out that was shot during their lunch break — or fitfully attempting to ride massive horses through busy city streets in the “Penny Lane” film, is to feel anew how much fun they had together, and how that joy, and sense of limitless possibility, was transmitted to the world through their music.

Before-and-after comparisons of restoration efforts on half-century-old films gave a dramatic look at how even the Beatles archive has not been immune to the ravages of time. But with analog and digital restoration technology now available, these films now look strikingly crisp and newly vibrant.

The other key aspect of the “1+” project is the audio. The group’s entire catalog went through a meticulous remastering process in 2009 for the latest round of CD releases, and for the 2012 reissue of all their studio albums on vinyl — in both mono and stereo versions.

For the new “1,” producers Giles Martin and Sam Okell have been cut loose to actually remix tracks from the master tapes, as Giles and his father, original Beatles producer George Martin, did for their mash-up for Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” show in Las Vegas.

Martin and Okell have concocted new stereo mixes for most of the songs — the televised version of “Revolution” remains in the original monaural mix because, Clyde said, Martin felt that was the best way to present it — and new 5.1 surround-sound mixes.

Comparisons of the 2009 remasters and the 2015 remixes generally indicated the new versions gain clarity, punch and presence and also benefit from more thoughtful stereo imaging than most of the Beatle’s pre-“Sgt. Pepper” records.

Applause from close to 50 people at Clyde’s 70-minute presentation suggested that the reaction to this latest window into the world of the Fab Four from those who were at the preview had morphed from “More Beatles?” to “More Beatles!”

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