Could the Beatles ever have dreamed when they first set foot in an EMI recording studio in 1962 that one far-off day half a century later, their music not only still would be enjoyed by fans young and old, but that their recordings would be available on vinyl?
OK, so there is a bit of a full circle aspect to Thursday’s announcement from EMI and Apple Corps Ltd. that the Fab Four’s entire catalog of studio albums is being released once again on vinyl LPs, just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season.
It’s the dropping of the other shoe that began in 2009 when the catalog was brought up to sonic speed with the remastering of the Beatles’ 13 original studio albums, and the two “Past Masters” compilations of non-album tracks, which entered the digital realm a year later on iTunes.
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At the time, audiophile and vinyl-loving fans asked whether the core catalog would surface on the original medium with which the world first fell in love with the Beatles. They were told, teasingly, “It’s a matter of when, not if,” by Apple Chief Jeff Jones.
“When” has officially become Nov. 13 in North America, and Nov. 12 for the rest of the world. The new vinyl versions will feature the stereo mixes of each album, which means the group’s first four albums will be available for the first time in stereo on vinyl in their original U.K. packaging and sequencing.
The EMI/Apple announcement also noted that the often significantly different mono mixes of the Beatles albums up through 1968’s “The Beatles” double album, aka “The White Album,” will be issued on vinyl next year. Both configurations were released in 2009 on CD and digitally, individually and in box sets.
Likewise, the vinyl versions, which are pressed on 180-gram audiophile-quality vinyl, will be available individually and in a deluxe limited-edition 16-LP box set of which 50,000 copies will be pressed. That set will include a 12-x-12-inch, 252-page hardbound book with extensive photos and liner notes with back stories on the creation of each album and information on the restoration of the recordings for the vinyl pressings.
The announcement had no information about list price for the albums, but Amazon has the box set priced at $399.99 for pre-order. Individual titles are likely to sell for $25 to $30 each.
EMI and Apple took care to note that the vinyl albums are pressed from the full 24-bit, 192KHz digital masters created in the 2009 remastering process, rather than the 16-bit masters used in production of the CDs, meaning the vinyl versions will be drawn from the full-spectrum source material. Until now, the only way fans could hear the 24-bit, 192KHz versions was from the Apple USB flash drive also released in 2009, and which sold for about $300.
For "Help!" and "Rubber Soul," however, the vinyl versions will use remixes created in 1986 by original Beatles producer George Martin to rectify complaints he had about the original stereo mixes.
Additionally, engineers working on the vinyl pressings used remasters that used no “limiting,” or compression, as had been employed for the CDs. That provides for wider dynamic range on the vinyl versions.
So far this year in Beatles land, "Yellow Submarine" and "Magical Mystery Tour" films have been restored and issued on DVD and Blu-ray and a new digital compilation "Tomorrow Never Knows" was posted on iTunes.