Friday, October 2, 2009

B: The Beatles

10-2-09 B: The Beatles

Ah, yes…Dear Beatles,

I happily bought your US albums when they all came out – almost all of them – certainly everything from “Something New” forward. Of course, I had to buy them again as British import LP’s – for the superior track listings and craftsmanship of the cover printing and construction. In the 70’s & 80’s, I had to buy Japanese pressings of your LP’s, too – Toshiba Japan really does fine work, don’t they?

The 70’s brought those collection LP’s that didn’t really interest me – “62-66” and “67-70”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”, “Love Songs” etc.

The 80’s brought compact discs…had to get those, too. Mostly English / European ones, but a few Toshibas as well. All of them. “Past Masters” were really rather good, and very good sound too. Perhaps the earliest example of “brick-walling” that comes to mind. And then the “BBC Recordings” and “Anthology” CD volumes – the remixed “Yellow Submarine”, “Let It Be…Naked”, “1” etc.

Ooh, 2009 brings us 2 slightly different box sets – mono and stereo. The mono one has fewer CD’s and is more expensive – if you can find a copy for sale! Um, I don’t like the digipaks, folks. If the spokes break, you’re up the proverbial creek minus a paddle. I also just played my not-re-mastered CD’s (or, rather, CD-R’s made from them) in the car and they sounded, er, just fine. Besides, I would want Toshiba copies of the new boxes, as they are the only people who could conceivably print them close-to-correctly. And they’re f**king expensive, mate.

But I do still like The Beatles, and I keep all my nice vinyl LP’s in trust for a future generation. These days, I primarily listen for the sidemen on Beatles’ songs – Ronnie Ross on “Savoy Truffle” – was he also on “Lady Madonna” or was that Tubby Hayes? And how did Alan Civil get that credit on “Revolver” (English horn on “For No One”)? Ooh, and what did Mal Evans do here, and George Martin there? What is “not Beatles” on The Beatles’ records?

Still, The Beatles are the blue chip stock of the collectible world. Those YEX-1 matrixes will raise some eyebrows in a few short years. “Ooh, never seen one of those before!”, I can hear the voices from the future cooing. Yep, “White Album” is pretty good – whichever version you are used to – vinyl, mono / stereo…Toshiba or Odeon…did your copy come with the poster and the photos?

Beatles – good. Rolling Stones – good. The Who – good. British 60’s music – good. Bob Dylan – good. Old guy music – good. Old guy – good. Old – good. And The Beatles prove this theory.

- Ron


Jim said...

Amazingly, there is a technical reason why our Japanese friends have such stellar printing for CDs and other music carrier formats. The Japanese care enough about printing to have developed small web offset printing presses that are vastly smaller than such typical commercial web offset presses worldwide.

Press jobs are ganged to take advantage of paper real estate on large presses. This means that one job is nested as close as possible to another and everything is die cut at once once the sheet has been fed through the printer. Paper is saved but color shifts occur in 4-color jobs that are tweaked to optimize color for certain uses at the expense of others. Efficient but this is hardly going to win press awards.

Even worse, offset web presses have a certain amount of registration shift. As the 4 colors get printed it's not inconceivable to have plates shift registration a few mm in one direction or another. For big jobs this is negligible. For small jobs, it's catastrophic. This, by the way is the reason why the matchbook covers of the 20th century you may remember from your youth looked so awful. A tiny job that's 2-3 square inches can easily get seriously off register when press ganged as is the norm.

The Japanese developed 4 color presses that were tabletop size! This means small jobs that were printed were subject to far less registration shift than would be common with such jobs gang printed on a web offset press anywhere else.

The Japanese excel at printing tiny jobs like no other culture! This is why those snap-pack CD-3's looked much crisper than even US 7" single covers. Why is this so? They bothered to care about something other than money.

chas_m said...

I happened to have an opportunity (courtesy of a local record store owner) to take a good (big headphones) listen to both the "old" CD issues and the "new" stereo remaster of "Sgt. Pepper" and I can definitely hear the difference.

If I were to buy these things at all, I would get half the mono set (up to "Rubber Soul" or possibly "Revolver") and then stereo for the rest, as that's how I always heard Beatles albums growing up and the mono versions (particularly these new ones) sound "right" to me.