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The Beatles' Stereo Vinyl Box Set

Meet The Beatles' Massive Vinyl Box Set

by Billboard Staff
September 27, 2012 10:45 EDT

eatles fans, dust off your record players. The band's original studio album remasters, which were released on CD and iTunes to much fanfare in 2009 and 2010, will make their stereo vinyl debuts on November 13 as part of an elaborate box set.

The titles include the band's 12 original U.K. studio albums, as well as the U.S. version of Magical Mystery Tour, and Past Masters, Volumes One & Two. The Beatles' first four albums have never been released in North America in stereo on vinyl.

Each 180-gram album will be available for individual purchase, or fans can own one of 50,000 copies of the box set, which will be housed in a retro travel case and include a 252-page book by radio producer Kevin Howlett. There will be chapters dedicated for each album, plus rare photos and audiophile-geared details about how the vinyl records were prepared.

The Fab Four's catalog of albums -- including those titles not part of the stereo reissue series -- sold a combined 626,000 units in the U.S. the first week they were reissued on CD in 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The biggest seller of the reissue series that week was 1969's Abbey Road, which moved 89,000 copies and debuted at No. 1 on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart. The "Stereo" and "Mono" boxed sets debuted at Nos. 15 and 40, respectively, on the Billboard 200.

In 2010, the band's catalog was released on iTunes. That year they sold a total of 1.7 million albums. In 2011: 1.2 million. Year to date 2012: 544,000.

The Stereo Albums (via Apple/EMI)

Please Please Me
"Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" are presented in mono (North American LP debut in stereo)

With The Beatles
(North American LP debut in stereo)

A Hard Day's Night
(North American LP debut in stereo)

Beatles For Sale
(North American LP debut in stereo)

Help!
Features George Martin's 1986 stereo remix

Rubber Soul
Features George Martin's 1986 stereo remix

Revolver
Original album

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Packaging includes replica psychedelic inner sleeve, cardboard cutout sheet and additional insert

Magical Mystery Tour
Packaging includes 24-page colour book

The Beatles (White Album)
Packaging includes double-sided photo montage/lyric sheet and 4 solo colour photos

Yellow Submarine
"Only A Northern Song" is presented in mono. Additional insert includes original American liner notes.

Abbey Road
Original album

Let It Be
Original album

Past Masters, Volumes One & Two (double album)
"Love Me Do" (original single version), "She Loves You," "I'll Get You," and "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" are presented in mono. Packaging, notes and photographic content is based on the 2009 CD release. 

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The Beatles let it be on vinyl once again
Marco R. della Cava, USA TODAY
2012/11/12

The Beatles are going back in time Tuesday, releasing all their remastered studio albums on vinyl, a testament to the medium's resurgence and sonic purity.

Story Highlights

- The vinyl reissues, which arrive Tuesday, come with original artwork
- They're available separately or as a box set with a hardcover book
- Next up: The Beatles in mono, the dominant '60s format

5:05PM EST November 12. 2012 - The Beatles are back! On vinyl, at least.

In a nod to rabid fans and the resurgence of old-school discs, Apple Corps and EMI are releasing all of the Fab Four's original studio albums (1963-1970), plus the U.S.-originated Magical Mystery Tour and a Past Masters singles collection, on 180-gram audiophile vinyl. They arrive Tuesday.

The albums, which include the original artwork, are available individually ($19.99 for single LPs, $29.99 for doubles) as well as in a limited-edition 14-disc package ($399.99). The boxed set includes a 252-page book by radio producer Kevin Howlett on the sessions, which "showcase the tremendous joy and energy of a band that was essentially playing live in the studio."

But coming on the heels of a Grammy-winning series of remastered CDs in 2009, why bother with vinyl?

"There's something comforting in the impreciseness of the (analog) medium that produces a more open and airy sound," says Sean Magee, the Abbey Road engineer who spent the better part of a year on the project. "A lot of modern CDs are engineered for loud. We went with clean."

A growing segment of music fans are appreciating vinyl's merits, as evidenced by surging sales (up 40% in 2011 to a still-small $3.9 million) and the reopening of record-pressing plants, says Robert Harley, editor of audiophile journal The Absolute Sound.

"Vinyl is exploding partly because the sound quality is noticeably more natural, but also because younger buyers realize that you can start a conversation over your record collection but not so much over MP3s," he says.

Beatles scholar Martin Lewis says the new release offers fans visual as well as sonic bliss. "The magnificence of the photos and artwork that graced these albums are lost on 5-inch (CD) squares," he says, noting that the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band disc will come with its original sleeve inserts. "They're works of art as striking as the music inside."

Lewis adds that listening on vinyl also requires listeners to hear songs in the order the artists intended: "None of that was incidental; everything the Beatles did was for a reason."

Among the vinyl release highlights are a 24-page color book tucked inside Magical Mystery Tour (which bumps its price to $24.99) and the double-sided photo montage/lyric sheet and four solo color photos that come with The Beatles (commonly known as 1968's groundbreaking "White Album").

"Anything Beatles is in high demand by their fans, folks who want every German import," says Andy Greene, associate editor at Rolling Stone. "But these sort of releases are for that small minority of people who still pay for albums" as opposed to streaming music subscriptions.

And for that hardcore crew, more Beatles treasure is being dug up. Engineer Magee is midway through a transferring the band's mono recordings to vinyl. "Up until 'The White Album', the guys were focusing all their creative energy on what their songs sounded like in mono," he says. "So they're just awesome."

But that's still not the holy grail. "That would be a DVD release of the movie Let It Be," Lewis says of the breakup-era artifact. "We're still waiting on that one."

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The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box
By Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency
November 24, 2012

If any band truly belongs on vinyl, it's The Beatles.

Granted, The Fab Four weren't the first group to make LPs. But during their brief but ridiculously prolific tenure, they arguably did more for the format than anyone. Not only did they pioneer the notion that a vinyl record could be an artistic entity unto itself -- as opposed to just a cobbled-together catch-all of singles -- but they effectively epitomized the medium with unprecedented creations like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Even to this day, they remain leaders of the pack: Abbey Road was supposedly the best-selling LP in the U.S. in 2011.

So naturally, there's plenty of fanfare surrounding the release this week of the lavish Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box. The 20-pound behemoth -- roughly the size of a small desktop computer tower -- includes remastered LPs of their entire core catalog, pressed on 180-gram audiophile-quality vinyl and encased in replicated packaging complete with original posters, photos, cutouts and inserts. It comes with an exclusive, magnificently designed 252-page hardback coffee-table book brimming with photos and essays about the creation of each album. Of course, as with all things involving John, Paul, George and Ringo, it also arrives accompanied by grousing and griping from the purists and audiophiles.

Before you invest big bucks -- and a day in your life -- on the box, here's what you need to know:

DISCS: 16 LPs containing The Beatles' 12 original U.K. releases from 1963 - '70 -- Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, Beatles For Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles ("White Album"), Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and Abbey Road -- along with the U.S.-originated Magical Mystery Tour and the Past Masters rarities set. The first four albums are making their North American stereo vinyl debut. Cause, you know, better four decades late than never.

DETAILS: If you believe liner notes -- which, admittedly, should always be read with a grain of salt -- this project was only slightly less complex than the Moon landing. Armed with the digital mixes from the 2009 Beatles CD remasters, experts at Abbey Road Studios put themselves through umpteen quality-control hoops -- blind listening tests to decide between metal or lacquer masters; subtle tweaks and 'surgical EQing' to fix minor sonic issues; mechanical and electrical tests to ensure various machinery was properly calibrated; and multiple test pressings to spot last-minute defects. If that's not enough, they even recreated the gobbledygook on the inner locked-groove at the end of Sgt. Pepper. Guess love isn't all you need.

DISPUTES: Speaking of love, you'd think all the above would make Beatlemaniacs universally and unconditionally delirious. But no. As always, purists are ticked. Mainly, they seem unhappy the albums were cut from the 2009 digital mixes instead of original master tapes. Near as I can tell, they aren't quibbling about creative choices but sonic reproduction. Are they right? Well, yes and no. I randomly compared the vinyl side-by-side with CDs. As you'd expect, the latter deliver far greater clarity, separation and frequency range, while the LPs sound warmer, blended and more like a real band. So yeah, they sound different. But better is in the ear of the beholder.

DECISION: Obviously, the box is aimed at collectors and Fab Four fanatics -- ironically, the same people most likely to quibble. But here's the deal: If you're a person who memorizes the specs of audio equipment and nitpicks every recording, you'll probably be disappointed (as you likely are with most contemporary music). But if you're a fan who just wants to enjoy the tactile sensation of putting LPs onto the turntable and listening to The Beatles the way they were originally heard, you'll likely see this as money well spent -- especially when you get your paws on that awesome book, which is almost worth the price on its own.

DAMAGE: The Beatles don't come cheap; the box goes for a hefty $319 at one major online retailer. For those on a tighter budget, the albums are also available individually for about $24 (the 2-LP "White Album" and Past Masters are $33). Finally, for those who prefer their Fabs in mono, that vinyl box is due next year. The long and winding reissue road continues.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)







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