Today I skimmed through the new mixes from the Red and Blue album and it’s definitely a mixed bag. First the good:
Magical Mystery Tour sounds AMAZING! They’ve actually opened it up enough to hear a guitar part that I’ve never noticed before! Fool on the Hill sounds pretty good, too, though I think I prefer the Love mix. With this release, almost all of the MMT album has been remixed so it’d be kinda cool if they did an EP of Flying, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know, and Baby You’re a Rich Man if they’re not going to do a full box with outtakes.
Other highlights of the new mixes are Hey Bulldog and Walrus. The Rubber Soul and Help material sounds very nice, too, though I disagree with some of Giles’ panning choices. The early stuff is hit or miss. For some reason, Giles insists on hard panning instruments and almost never centers the bass. I think he does this to avoid drowning the bass out with the vocals but if that’s the case, a soft pan of the vocals would solve that issue.
Sometimes I think he wants to make sure we know it’s stereo and the mixes come out as difficult to listen to on headphones as some of the early stereo mixes from the 60s. You don’t have to use the entire stereo field to make a good stereo mix and on some of these early tracks where there’s not a ton of instrumentation, a clean stereo (almost mono) mix with limited field spread would be my preference. Also, if the technology to isolate parts is so good, maybe pull apart Ringo’s drums and give more spread to those parts. All in all, there’s some nice moments on the red album and there’s some tracks that may sound great in the car but I won’t revisit on headphones.
The worst of the new mixes has to be Old Brown Shoe. That song is a great little rocker and could have really benefitted from a good remix but Giles destroyed this one. For starters, you’ve got the bass loud and heavy over in the left channel so it’s a little irritating on headphones. Then one of the guitar parts is virtually deleted. I’m not convinced that what’s left isn’t just tape echo. On a song where two guitar parts alternate and interplay with one another, losing half of the guitar is really bad. I can’t believe this got all the way to mastering.
There’s also a great deal of studio “noise” on this track that was previously buried. I wouldn’t mind the hollering and yelling if the energy of the mix matched it but by panning the bass so much, dropping the organ, and losing a bit of the piano, it just doesn’t “feel” like a live-in-studio recording so that extra noise is a bit more distracting instead of energy boosting as I assume was the intent.
Pepper, White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be remixes have become my defaults and I imagine a remixed MMT would also become my default but I really didn’t like Revolver and find that everything before 1967 is real hit or miss in quality. Maybe the technology, as impressive as it is, isn’t quite to the level needed to do these mixes right. Maybe Giles has to hide digital artifacts or inaccuracies in the extraction and that’s why some mixes sound fantastic and others sound unfinished or rushed.
I’ll keep listening and doing A/B comparisons and listening on speakers instead of headphones but my initial reaction isn’t as excited as I’d hoped it would be.