The Beatles
Yellow Submarine Reissue

As I brought the digitally scrubbed and remastered Yellow Submarine home I thought to myself, "Fool! You've been suckered into the hype! They convinced you to buy a CD of songs you already own!" My head low in shame, I played the CD anyway. The CD started with "Yellow Submarine" and through the verse I thought it sounded a bit cleaner and brighter but not much else. When the song came to the bridge with all the sound effects, however, I heard things I had never heard before, things that had been buried for twenty-five years under the noise of 1968 technology. By the time the first verse of "Eleanor Rigby" was past, I was a true believer. The strings are clear and individually defined with the cello especially being deep and rich. And so it went through each of the fifteen songs, hearing the bright glissando of Harris' sitar on "Love You To", the full horns on "All You Need Is Love", each song revealing nuances that were previously hidden. Through the process of tearing the music down to the original tracks the engineers have been able to bring these songs out of the comparative shadows of 1968 and into the digital brilliance of 1999. The instruments no longer sound muddled together but rather each one rings out with distinct clarity. With the success of this CD, I would not be surprised to see such treatment given to each Beatles album, with the appropriate fanfare, of course.

Not that everything is all roses with this release. Missing is the orchestral music that appeared on the first Yellow Submarine release, music which for myself and many others was an imaginative introduction to the orchestral world. While the songs are cleaner, they have been remixed, sometimes altering the balance of the instruments (McCartney's bass on "Hey Bulldog", for example, is now almost inaudible), something which might offend purists. For all the richness of this new release, the changes are mostly subtle nuances, a fuller guitar or a more velvety organ, things that are barely noticable except in a side-by-side comparison. The rabid fan like myself will buy the CD and spend many enjoyable hours with headphones intimately dripping the songs into their heads, noting the brilliance of the instruments and the vocal harmonies, but the average fan may wonder is he has been suckered into buying another copy of Anthology 1.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 1999.