The Beatles never sounded so good

With the recent remastering of the original 13 Beatles albums, the collection got a nice, candy-coated crunch.

I've been a dedicated Beatles listener since 1977, and I've never heard them sound this good. At first I wondered, "How much better, could they be?" I mean, the Beatles are the most famous rock 'n roll band of all time, so everything associated with them should be top-notch to begin with.

Not so. At first, I thought would have to compare the new versions with older releases to notice the improvements. That was just not the case. Upon hearing the sampler of the collection, I immediately picked up on the differences in the first few bars of "I Saw Her Standing There," noting the crystal-clear separation of sounds. The song was recorded in 1963, basically a live performance on an ancient four-track machine.

Paul McCartney's bass is in your face, driving the song, and George Harrison's guitar accents, normally trebly, never rang so clear. A feature of most of the early tracks was the often muddled background, and one was hard-pressed to identify John Lennon's rhythm track, McCartney's intricate bass lines and Ringo Starr's drum fills. This is not the case anymore; all aspects are easily identifiable, uncovering things you may have never heard before. You can even hear McCartney's finger slips on his Hofner bass and Ringo's notoriously squeaky bass drum pedal.

The clarity of Harrison's guitar is best heard on tracks such as "Lovely Rita," and "It's Getting Better," from the album "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and on the famous lead from "Nowhere Man."

Upon hearing these things, I realized Ringo wasn't as bad a drummer as people make him out to be, and Lennon's voice is one of the most identifiable and classic in rock history, especially on the bridge of "This Boy."

The Beatles' master tapes were well taken care of.

The re-released versions of the Beatles albums feature deluxe packaging and a bonus mini-documentary, each pertaining to the individual recordings. They were released Sept. 9, in tandem with the Beatles' version of the video game "Rock Band." Stores were issued a sampler CD of about 25 songs, giving a taste of tracks from all the albums.

Local merchants reported brisk sales of the albums: both sold out of the sought-after box sets. CD or Not CD received two box sets from the distributor. Both were sold before they even arrived. Music Coop received five sets and reported the same.

"It's been selling consistently, but the Beatles always sold good," said Doug from CD or Not CD. "Someone actually came in and bought all 13 albums at once. People who already own all the recordings are buying them to replace the collection they already have."

Doug was pleasantly surprised when he finally heard some of the re-mastered tracks.

"You can tell right off the bat, especially the clarity," he said. "I think it's great."

John Brenes of the Music Coop also likes the collection and reported that sales were strong.

"I think they are real good; the sound quality is much better." Brenes said. "Beatles fans say there is definitely a difference, and these are people whose opinion I respect more than mine."

Brenes said this is the third time the albums have been re-mastered, and that the difference from the '80s versions is "huge." He is glad that technology is being used to improve the quality.

Both merchants said more box sets will be available by mid-October, and are slightly pricey, at around $280. Doug said it is actually cheaper to buy the albums separately, with a savings of around $50.

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