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Hearing familiar voices on new Beatles box set

The Beatles

Stereo Vinyl Box

Posted 7:04am on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012

Dropping the needle on any one of the 14 newly reissued vinyl Beatles albums is like slipping into a warm nostalgia bath.

Working from the same remastered tracks found on the wildly popular, Grammy-winning 2009 CD reissues, the Beatles have once again delivered a handsome, limited edition package designed to make music fans salivate. (Only 50,000 copies are being made.)

The drop-dead gorgeous box set of stereo remasters on 180-gram vinyl -- the original, mono albums are due for a box set of their own next year -- doesn't come cheap (list price is $449; Amazon has it for $319) but for Beatlemaniacs and pop aficionados, it's well worth the investment.

Apart from the meticulous vinyl transfers -- after restoring the songs, new lacquer discs were created to manufacture this re-release -- there's also, exclusive to the box set, a 252-page hardbound volume collecting previously unreleased photographs, information about all of the albums and details about the vinyl remastering process. It's a fascinating read, albeit one filled with information most diehard fans already know, but nevertheless, a beautiful addition to the set.

The indelible songs, exquisite packaging and fond memories of yesteryear aside, this new box set (the vinyl remasters are also available separately) underscores pop music's last (final?) truly aspirational era. The hunger to innovate and outperform their contemporaries is evident from the opening shouts of I Saw Her Standing There through the final, elegiac notes of Let It Be.

Viewed through the lens of YouTube hits, evanescent fame achieved through reality television and an industry fixated on maintaining its profit margins, what the Beatles accomplished in less than 10 years becomes even more remarkable. Can you imagine any modern-day act cranking out even one album on par with the Beatles, let alone four or five -- or 10?

These full catalog releases every few years provide fresh opportunities to reassess and more fully appreciate a band's particular artistic accomplishment. It's a welcome byproduct of the music industry's downward spiral -- milestones seem to be marked far more regularly and lavishly than even 20 years ago -- that listeners unfamiliar with an oeuvre can effectively embark upon crash courses, rich with context, and understand why a band like the Beatles endures nearly 50 years after its debut album.

There are, of course, skeptics who argue that the Beatles and the caretakers of their estates are merely wringing every last dime out of every conceivable format (note that A Hard Day's Night and Help! have yet to materialize on Blu-ray, for instance). But hearing the gnarly crunch of Revolution, the gauzy instrumental Flying or the sharp harmonica of Please Please Me slice out of the speakers, it's hard to argue any charges of crass commercialism.

The songs are eternal, and proof -- in an era scarce with genuine creative ambition -- of pop music's potential to endure.

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