Beatles 2012 Remastered Vinyl – Released (First Pictures)

Is Australia the very first country to see the new Beatles Remastered Stereo Vinyl Box Set delivered?

The new records aren’t due for release in the UK and the USA until next week (12 and 13 November respectively). However, today I got a call from my local record store in Sydney saying “Come on in – your order for the Beatles box set is ready for collection today“.  (That’s Thursday, 8 November)

Naturally I high-tailed it down there – and here are the first pictures of it being unpacked. It comes in a big protective outer box:

The large sticker declaring the contents is placed on both sides of the box:

The two shipping labels on the side. Both say “Deliver Thursday”:


When you open the box you see what looks like another box-within-a-box:

It is held in place by two thick white foam inserts that you usually see in packaging for large electrical goods like TV’s, etc.  At this point I should say this package is incredibly heavy. You actually have to lie it on its side to slide it out:

What initially looked like an inner box is actually a thick brown cardboard wrap around the main package (above). Once you take it off you see this:

It’s just like the Beatles Remastered Stereo CD box released in 2009. There’s a thin cardboard outer sleeve around the record box itself. As you can see above it has “The Beatles” and an Apple logo printed on the front. This is what’s printed on the rear:

The outer sleeve slides off to reveal the main, lidded box:

Opening the lid – there are two pieces of black foam and two large moisture absorbing packs:

The book and all the LPs are completely sealed in heat-shrink plastic:

“Let It Be” (below) has the green Apple on the rear:

The book is really heavy and looks amazing – even in its heat-shrink wrap:

It has black-edged pages:

One side of the outer sleeve has the record and book edges printed on it. I guess that’s so it’ll look good when sitting on a shelf with that edge facing out:

Well, that’s about it for now. Hope you enjoyed this. Haven’t had time to open up any of the records or the book. Just wanted to get this up quickly for all to have sneak peek at the new Beatles Remastered Stereo Vinyl Box Set. 

(Click on images to see larger versions)

The Beatles “1” – Remastered 2011

It was released today (Friday, September 2) in Australia:

This is the re-issue, in newly remastered form, of “The Beatles 1” compilation which first came out in the year 2000. As the sticker on the front cover says: “27 Classic Number 1 Singles – Remastered”. Here’s the rear cover:

These are the remasters done at the same time as the big release of all the albums back in 2009. It comes in a cardboard gatefold sleeve that’s in the same format as all the 2009 re-issues.

Below is the front cover of the booklet, which despite some speculation that it would be different, has exactly the same 30 pages and layout as the 2000 issue:

Each page is dedicated to a particular song and gives the recording place and date, chart information and full colour photographs of various record sleeves of that single from around the world.  Even the CD printing is the same as the 2000 issue:

(click on images to see a large version)

A bit disappointing really….

It comes out on September 13 in the US, on September 5 in the UK, and is also expected on iTunes as a digital download on September 6th.

See also:  The Beatles Number 1 Vinyl  and  The Beatles Number 1 – Taiwan Variation  and  Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

The Beatles official site has this promotional video for “1” now on the front page:

Beatles “Red” and “Blue” to be Remastered and Re-Issued

Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music have announced that The Beatles original 1973 compilations, “1962-1966” (‘Red’) and “1967-1970” (‘Blue’) have been digitally remastered for worldwide CD release on October 18 (October 19 in the USA).

Both will be 2CD packages and each will include expanded booklets with original liner notes, newly written essays by Bill Flanagan, and rare photos. However, in typical EMI/Apple fashion they will not have contain any bonus material, nor any bonus DVD discs 😦

Its the same team at Abbey Road Studios responsible for remastering The Beatles original studio albums remasters in stereo and mono last year who have carefully maintained the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings of the “Red” and “Blue” albums. The result will be the highest fidelity versions the catalogue has seen since its original 1973 release.

See the official Beatles news site (now with cover art) here, and the EMI Music press release here.

Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Two

This blog is sub-titled “Adventures in Collecting Beatles Music”, and this post continues an examination of some South East Asian Beatles releases purchased in Hanoi on a recent trip to Vietnam.

Further investigation of these hasn’t categorically ruled out their legitimacy but it seems more likely that they’re actually illegal fakes that someone (in China) has taken a lot of time and trouble to manufacture to make them appear very much like official releases…..

In Part One I wrote about the 5 DVD “Anthology” box-set I found in Hanoi.  This next post is about a series of six double CDs called “The Beatles Double Golden Collection”:

It’s a series where two Beatles albums have been released in one CD box, each with an outer cardboard slipcase. The ones I was able to purchase were:

Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine

Please Please Me and Sgt Pepper

Revolver and WIth the Beatles

Help and Rubber Soul

Abbey Road and Let It Be

Hard Days Night and Beatles For Sale

Each CD has the same documentaries as those found on the recent stereo “Beatles Remastered” discs. So, its clear that these CDs came out following the October 2009 release of those new “remastered” CDs.

If that’s the case then I can only assume that there must be at least two more titles in the “Beatles Double Golden Collection” series. There should be one that has the 2 CD “The Beatles” (White Album)”, and one for the 2 CD “Past Masters” release.  These would then fill out the catalogue. The shop in which I purchased the CD’s above mustn’t have these two titles in stock at the time – so I was able to get only these six.

These releases are interesting for a couple of reasons. As you can see above, they have a large logo at top left of the packaging for something called SHM-CD or “Super High Material CD”.  According to the internet this is “…an advance in the materials used in the production of Compact Discs that uses super quality, enhanced transparency polycarbonate material in the manufacture of CD’s”. The aim of this is to improve the sound. A Google search reveals what looks to be legitimate information about SHM-CD . It says it was invented by Universal Records and the Japanese electrics company JVC – both well-known and respected companies. This official-looking website has more information about the technology and some of the releases on SHM-CD. The rear of the slipcase also has some detailed information (in Chinese) about SHM-CD – see the top right-hand side of the image below (click on the image to make it larger):

Slipcase for Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine, with panel about SHM-CD

There’s also a panel showing what looks like very official logos for Apple Records, QuickTime, Enhanced CD, and Compact Disc:

I’d really love to hear from anyone out there who can read Chinese and can shed some light on what the small print says, or who knows if these are legal Chinese copies of Beatles discs.

As to the contents of each CD, they appear to be exactly the same as the recent Beatles Stereo Remastered series – and the quality of the recordings is first rate. The 2-CD jewel cases are not of a standard size but larger in every dimension. You can see this clearly below when they are placed side-by-side with a standard CD jewel case:

Standard CD jewel case (top) compared to Double Golden Collection jewel case (below)

The spines are also wider than standard:

Spine of a standard CD (right) compared to the Double Golden case (left)

Inside there are two CD’s on a swinging inner “door” with CD disc “A” on one side and CD disc “B” on the other:

The booklets in the “Double Golden Collection” contain lots of photographs of the Beatles. There is no text in the booklets at all. All the photos are exactly the same as those found in the booklets which come with the latest official Beatles “Remastered” series:

"Please Please Me" and "Sgt. Pepper" booklet

"Please Please Me" and "Sgt. Pepper" booklet

Here’s a closer shot of one of the CDs in the set:

"Please Please Me" and "Sgt. Pepper" CD 1

The rear cover of the jewel case details all the songs on the two albums. Notice the reference to the the special mini-documentaries. These were produced by Apple and accompany each album in the “Remastered” series as well:

Rear cover of the CD jewel case for "Please Please Me" and "Sgt. Pepper". Notice the last track for each title is the "making of" mini documentary for each album - just like in the official "Remasters" series

Again, the official logos (including Apple) and even a bar-code appear, making it tough when you are standing in a Hanoi record store trying to decide if these are indeed legitimate releases sanctioned by the Beatles and their record company Apple Records. If these are fakes whoever produced them has gone to extraordinary lengths to make them appear to be legitimate Beatle releases.

The other thing is – since returning home I’ve researched these titles fairly extensively on the web and can find nothing about them. I think that this post may be the very first to detail them.

See also Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part One, and also Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Three

Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items….Part One

OK. I’m going to preface this first post on some unusual CD and DVD items I acquired in a South East Asian country with a statement that I don’t collect Beatles bootlegs and I don’t support or promote piracy in the music business. All my collection to date has been made up of legitimate, officially released discs – that’s CDs, LPs, singles, books, DVDs, magazines and other printed items.

Recently I was able to spend some time on holiday in Vietnam. Like most Asian and developing countries there are many opportunities to buy fakes – everything from Louis Vuitton luggage and Gucci handbags to Ray Ban sunglasses and Tag Heuer watches. Of course there are lots of stores, markets and street vendors selling illegally copied DVD films as well. There are not so many places to buy music – but they’re there if you seek them out. In the central Vietnamese city of Hue I walked into a store selling mostly fake DVDs and a bit of music on the side and saw a copy of Paul McCartney’s latest 2 CD release “Good Evening New York City”. It was easy to tell it was a fake. It came (like all the cheaply copied DVDs do) in a flimsy clear plastic bag (i.e. no hard jewel case or Digipac cardboard). The artwork was all there ready to put it into a CD jewel case, but it looked like a cheap photocopy. The discs had rudimentary labels printed on them but clearly looked fake. No catalogue numbers, copyright info, not even the title of the disc. One disc had the words “Paul 1” printed roughly on it, the other “Paul 2” and that was it. It was selling (in the local currency) for 20,000 Vietnamese Dong – that’s US$1.03, or $1.17 Australian. And that’s even before any bargaining over the price. I decided I really didn’t want to buy a copy – even for the novelty value.

At the other end of the scale are those CDs and DVDs where its obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into producing what looks to be an absolutely legitimate release. Standing in a shop in Hanoi (which I did last week) it becomes really hard to tell. Is what I’m looking at the version sanctioned by the artist and record company as the official release for China and South East Asia?

Take this example of the Beatles “Anthology” 5 DVD box set. I got it from a shop in Hanoi that was filled with what looked like official releases. All movie stock was in standard DVD packaging with proper labels. It was not one of the shops dealing in fakes.

It looked like this. Here’s the front of the box:

Chinese Beatles Anthology - front

This copy still has the shrink-wrap around the sturdy cardboard box, though the opening has been cut by me so that the DVDs can be removed. The sticker is attached to the shrink-wrap.

Compare this to this official release purchased in Australia:

Official Beatles Antholgy DVD - front

Again, the shrink-wrap is still around the box. The sticker is also on the shrink-wrap.

Here are the Chinese DVD spines:

The five Chinese DVDs

Compared to the official release:

The official release

The number “12” in the pink circle on each refers to the censorship rating in Australia. Apart from that, not a lot of difference….Here is the sticker on the base of the Chinese version:

Sticker on base of Anthology DVD box - Chinese

As you can see, the Apple word is written but the Apple logo itself is missing. Also, apparently common with cheap copies, there are small spelling mistakes. Notice in the centre box of the sticker the words “Doldy Digital 5.1 surround sound”. It should be Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This sticker appears to be stuck over the printed label actually on the box. You can faintly see the bar code, etc. underneath. Otherwise the Capital, Abbey Road, DVD Video, Dolby Digital and DTS logos on the right-hand side all look legit. Compare it to the Australian official release, where the label is printed onto the box:

Official Anthology DVD box - sticker on box base

Notice the official release has a Parlophone logo instead of Capitol which is just a territory thing (Parlophone seems to get half the world, and Capitol the other half!). There’s also a Region 1 DVD symbol, and a bar code.

Inside the individual DVD containers the story is similar. The actual discs in the Chinese version are very well-printed and look very official:

Chinese DVD disc

They even say “Printed in the USA”. Compare this to the official release:

Anthology DVD - official release

However, the Chinese stuff up the sequencing of labels on the DVD discs.

Disc One, as you can see above, has Episodes 1 & 2 on it and correctly contains those episodes. Sadly, Disc Two is also labeled Episodes 1 & 2, but actually has Episodes 3 & 4.

Disc Three is incorrectly labeled Episodes 3 & 4, but contains Episodes 5 & 6. And Disc Four is incorrectly labeled Episodes 3 & 4, but correctly contains Episodes 7 & 8.  The “Special Features” 5th disc is incorrectly labeled Episodes 5 & 6 but contains the correct Special Features material…….so, all the contents is there across the five discs. Just a severe lack of attention to detail on the part of the counterfeiters. However, they all play well and the quality of the video looks perfect.

The other noticeable difference to the official release is that the Chinese versions don’t have the small booklets inside each DVD box outlining the contents of each episode. These are in official release and look like this:

DVD Booklet - front - from episodes 1 & 2 in official release

Anthology booklet (rear) - inside each DVD box of the official release

So, you can see that standing in a shop in Hanoi, deciding if this is official or not (especially while it’s still sealed up in its shrink-wrap) is very tricky. The price might have been a give-away: this 5 DVD box set cost 250,000 Vietnamese Dong. That’s around US$12.80 or AUS$14.80. Very cheap. It also doesn’t help if you don’t read Chinese. Here’s a close-up of the sticker on the front:

Sticker on the front of the Anthology DVD box set

Vietnam is actively cracking down on pirate or illegal copies of DVDs, CDs, clothing and watches. While there I read an article in one of the national papers that police are actively trying to break up the flow of counterfeit goods from across the border in China. When departing the country via Ho Chi Minh City airport all travelers bags are X-Rayed separately to the usual security check specifically to identify and confiscate goods, or to fine travelers for having fake DVDs. A New Zealand family in front of us were caught. They had in their bags over 60 copied DVDs they’d bought on the street. They were given the option of handing them over, or keeping them and paying a fine of US$50.00 (at first they were asked to pay a US$100.00 fine, but talked the official down…interesting). They decided the pay the fine and keep their DVDs. All the CDs I had purchased, plus the Beatles “Anthology” 5 DVD box above were in our suitcases and were also X-Rayed. We were not stopped by the airport officials. I’ll detail some of the Beatles compact discs I purchased in the next posts. Again it was confusing and difficult to pick the real from the fake.

See also Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Two and Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Three

Beatles Stereo Remasters and USB Unboxing

There seems to be a LOT of interest in the unboxing pictures I posted of me opening up the Beatles In Mono remasters.

There’s also been a steady stream of people looking at the pics of the packaging for the Beatles “Apple” USB posted a while back.

So that left the Beatles Stereo Remastered box set still to do as an “unboxing”.

Instead of me doing it in still photos, I thought I’d have a quick look around on YouTube to see if there was a decent video example of the Stereo Box set being opened so you can see what it contains, and also to see if there was anything on the little Beatles USB that contains all the CD remasters in both MP3 and FLAC 24-bit quality, plus all the mini documentaries and the artwork for each album.

Turns out there is one video that does both the Stereo Box and a really detailed look at the packaging for the USB and the little Apple USB itself. Two for the price of one:

In searching for these I also found a guy who shows the user interface for the USB once it is plugged into your computer. You get to see what he’s seeing as he moves around the menus:

Thanks to Ian C. Rogers and zenkenobi.

More on the Beatles 2009 “Christmas Pack” – Another Variation Exists

Before Christmas I wrote about Apple/EMI putting together a small box set containing four of the most popular of the new stereo remasters.

I decided as it was a variation in an officially produced box that it’d be worth having in the collection. I found a place in the UK on Ebay that was selling them for a reasonable price (quite a bit cheaper than my local record shops) and so I got one. Who knows, maybe one day it might become a collectable because these were only produced in limited numbers as I understand it.

It arrived the other day – here’s the front view of the box:

Beatles "Christmas Pack" Box Front

And here is the rear:

Beatles "Christmas Pack" Box Rear

I can’t show you the CD’s inside because I’m going to keep this one sealed.

Well, the other day I was in the city and called in to one of the best independent record shops going around – Red Eye Records. They’re great and stock a wide variety of hard-to-get music from around the world. If they haven’t got it they’ll search for you and order it in too. Anyway, while there I saw that they had quite a few copies of what at first appeared to be this same box set up on the shelves behind the counter.

Just out of curiosity (I guess to confirm that I’d got a good deal!) I asked what the price was. The assistant said “Those? Oh, they’re just empty boxes. The record company gave them to us to give to people who bought a few Beatles stereo remasters as something to put them in as gifts. We’ve got a lot of them left over. You can have one if you want.” I thought, well one might be handy to have in case any other remasters come my way, or it could store any Beatles CDs really.

Also, something about the box looked a bit different, though I couldn’t figure out what straight away in the shop, and so I took up the offer. It wasn’t until I got home and compared it to the box above that I realised it was quite different. Here’s the front of the free box:

Beatles "Gift Box" Front

Notice just an Apple logo instead of the four small stereo remasters cover images on the other box. And the rear is different, too:

Beatles "Gift Box" Rear

All the cover images for the entire remasters series are shown.

So, a genuine little gift box that can be used for multiples of any of the new re-issue series. And another collectors item?

Stereo/Mono Remastered – Revisited

In an earlier post I included an audio extract from a US National Public Radio podcast featuring Beatles historian and writer Kevin Howlett. He was talking about some of the fascinating differences between the  Stereo and Mono versions of the Beatles Remastered CDs.

Then the  other day I stumbled across this website where a guy called Jake Brown has gone to a lot of trouble to detail a lot more.  He’s spent time cutting together actual audio examples and palcing them side-by-side so we can all quickly hear what differences are. He’s also detailed in text form some other variations.  Have a read and a listen.  Thanks Jake!

Beatles Remastering Process & Mono v Stereo – Discussion

In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that the official Beatles radio special released to promote the new Remastered discs didn’t go into very much detail at all about the actual process of remastering, nor the differences between the Stereo and the Mono box versions.

Well, just after that I discovered the sort of detail I was looking for in a podcast from America.

It’s a weekly show called All Songs Considered. Produced by the National Public Radio network (NPR), the program looks at all aspects of newly released music – and they have over the last few weeks (perhaps understandably) run a couple of shows about the latest Beatles releases.

One of them features a lengthy (22 mins 32 secs) and very interesting interview with Beatles historian and writer Kevin Howlett.

Howlett is the man responsible for all the words in the new booklets that accompany the new remastered stereo discs, and he wrote the essay that appears in the booklet that can be found in the Mono box set.

So, he’s an insider who knows what he’s talking about!  The All Songs Considered podcast goes into quite a lot of detail and gives frequent audio examples of the remastering process AND the difference between the stereo and mono versions.

Here’s Kevin Howlett talking specifically about the differences between mono and stereo in Sgt Pepper – an album he says was made to be heard in MONO:

Beatles historian Kevin Howlett there talking to NPR’s Bob Boilen.

If you’d like to hear the whole NPR podcast click here.

Beatles Radio Special – The Beatles Remastered

A mate in the music business this week sent me a burn of an official Apple/EMI radio special produced for distribution to radio stations to promote the new Beatles Remastered box sets.

Its pretty interesting and is narrated by a cockney-accented Gary Crowley whom, from what I can gather from the web, usually works as a DJ and interviewer at the BBC Radio in London. The program runs 1 hour and 48 minutes in total, and is split into 6 segments. Crowley works his way though each official album release chronologically and the program uses interviews with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and George Martin to  paint a picture of how each record came about and in particular how the Beatles music changed and matured with each release.

Here’s how Gary Crowley opens the radio special, and the band talks about the early days, recording their first outing “Please Please Me”:

While there’s a lot of good stuff, the two main disappointments for me are that the program just looks at the albums, and doesn’t go into the singles that can be found on the “Past Masters” discs.  It also doesn’t go into any detail about the remastering process itself or how the whole 4 year project of painstakingly remastering each disc was run – which is a pity because I for one would have liked to have heard a bit about this aspect from those involved.

Anyway, its still a good addition to the collection and contains some really great interview extracts. One very interesting thing is that some of the music tracks are preceded by original studio banter by the band that I can only presume comes from the The Beatles Rock Band game, also released on 09.09.09.  I don’t have the game, but I’ve read that they use previously unreleased studio chat and out-takes extensively to make the experience of playing it more realistic. The makers had ready access to all the original master tapes and lifted off quite a lot of unique material. Some short grabs of that are used here I think.

Well, I guess if you are a mad keen collector you’d like to hear something else from the show.

This second extract brings us up to the “The White Album”, and the song “Helter Skelter”: