What a transporting musical experience for any combination surround sound and Beatles fan! It’s a unique take on the familiar catalog of the Beatles, making even the standard stereo CD a wild mix of Beatles tunes that you have never heard together before, and with different accompaniment (or none) than was heard on the original track. But the 5.1 surround options on the separate DVD bring us The Fab Four in discrete six-channel surround sound for only the second time in history. (The first was the 5.1 soundtrack to the DVD release of Yellow Submarine in 1999.)It was the amazing matrix-derived surround that it was possible to tease out of the original stereo Beatles albums that got me hooked on the attractions of surround sound in the 1960s. They worked in the studio with their producer George Martin, using only four-track tape decks and dubbing back and forth plus overdubbing. It was truly amazing the results they got with their experimentations. (They also liked to run some of the tapes at different speeds and occasionally play them backwards – those old tricks are used several places in this new Beatles mix.) The resulting stereo LPs – especially on the high-quality European or Japanese pressings – were full of L-minus-R difference/ambient information that could be decoded simply by hooking even a single efficient speaker to the two + terminals of your amplifier and placing the speaker at the back of your listening room. The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills & Nash LPs also worked well with this setup. It’s how I’ve been enjoying Sgt. Pepper in all the years since! – more so now with Dolby Pro Logic II.
But “Love” is a whole new ball game because Martin and his son Giles went back to those four-channel original tapes and remixed them into genuine six-channel versions for this unprecedented Beatles reissue. In some cases they dropped out the original instrumental backing completely; on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the elder Martin arranged a backing of a string section – the only completely new music heard on the disc. Parts of some songs were used, flowing smoothly into another song that suddenly becomes closely connected, as though they were written together in the first place. Small sections of some songs are used as transitions to a different song. In the middle of the list of tunes is one titled “Gnik Nus.” My first thought was “What in the world? Don’t remember that song!” Then I heard it, realized it was a reversed tape, and the bit of John Lennon-style humor became clear. Some of the added sounds are part of the two producers’ effort to give the impression that the mix is one long Sgt. Pepper album – in other words, all a live recording. There’s a sizeable note booklet with an introduction by the Martins plus plenty of psychedelic-era Beatles artwork.
The project began some years ago thru the friendship of George Harrison with Guy Laliberte, the founder of the Cirque du Soleil. They explored some sort of collaboration between the Beatles’ music and the Cirque performances. More recently Paul and Ringo, along with Yoko and Olivia Harrison, talked to George Martin about doing some experimental remixes from the original Beatles master tapes. The whole thing came together in “Love” and is being used for some of the Cirque shows in an hour-and-one-half surround version. It’s a sort of an alternate-universe Beatles soundscape, which should captivate almost any listener – especially when heard in the hi-res DVD-Audio format. I can’t imagine any Beatles fan being offended by it.
Eleanor Rigby/Julia (Transition)
I Am The Walrus
I Want To Hold Your Hand
Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing
Something/Blue Jay Way (Transition)
Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)/Helter Skelter
Strawberry Fields Forever
Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Here Comes The Sun/The Inner Light (Transition)
Come Together/Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry (Transition)
Back In The U.S.S.R.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
A Day In The Life
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
All You Need Is Love
— John Sunier