Music, Audio, and Other Illnesses

The Revenge of The White Album

By now, you know whether The White Album re-issue is for you. 

I’m happy to go on record, so to speak, as saying that most of these Fabs reissues aren’t meant for me. They’re meant, I suppose, for a medium-to-upper-level fan, but not an obsessive like me. I gotta know everything, including listening to the albums as they were intended. Like a trip to the past, preserved in amber. 

So most of the content that these reissues have, I’ve had for years — I know people WAY more nuts than me, and they make sure I have everything. And the remixes to make the records sound more contemporary — a bit of EQ and compression — don’t add anything, except EQ and compression. They’re just different, and who needs the Mona Lisa presented as anything else? What — more vivid color? 

I also love Sgt. Pepper as a stereo album, and always have, despite the “authenticity” of the mono LP. The Sgt. Pepper re-release, in its ne plus ultra release last year, at least added a few tracks I hadn’t heard; nothing revelatory, but decent. The album mix itself was still kind of meh though. I prefer (by a long way) the MoFi UHQR, or the off-the-stereo-master CD copy I’ve had since the mid-90s. 

That’s a lot of words to say why I shouldn’t like this new record. So what’s coming next is obvious, right?

I think this new release is fantastic.

First of all, the basic tonal character of the album: The Beatles always sounded, I don’t know, a bit lifeless to me. At last by comparison to the previous two records. And I mean going all the way back to the original Capitol LP release and even including the MoFi box set. I’m tempted to call it dark, but not dark in the sense of EQ: dark as in lifeless, colorless.

Take “Martha My Dear”, maybe McCartney’s best track on the album, and one of my daughter’s favorite Fabs songs. There’s a complete absence of recording hiss, which usually I don’t like, but it stands out here. Maybe the technology has improved (after only 30+ years…). And the instruments and voices have a slightly greater presence — all of them. (The album is mastered very slightly hotter, but it’s not in Loudness War territory.)

Things are bit different on the album’s (slightly) arguably best track, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, too. For one thing, the vocals on the original sound, again, lifeless by comparison. The new release sounds as if they have some of the actual top end restored, and the level makes a bit more sense in the track. The bass has greater punch, and a bit more depth, and the hi-hat that introduces Ringo on the track is a little quieter than on the original and a bit more to the right. The whole track has more power — and amazingly enough I prefer it. 

It’s tempting to pass judgment on the original mastering as being inadequate, but if that were the case, surely one of the many subsequent masterings would have corrected that. And the MoFi box set does, a very tiny bit. 

Anyway, this will give an idea of the new mixes, but most people will want it (if they do) for the unreleased portion. I’ll pick out a few exceptional tracks from each of the four records. 

The entire third disc is made up of the Esher demos, of course: the four Fabs hanging out at George’s swinging pad (his home studio) demoing the album (and then some). Of which I have personal favorites:

1) “Revolution”: an acoustic-guitar rave-up, with hand-percussion. 

2) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

3) “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “I’m So Tired”: the way these two tie together is pretty fascinating; a section from one ends up in another. 

4) “Mother Nature’s Son”: the other great McCartney track. (Not appreciably different, just enough to make me want to hear it.)

The other three discs are from the album sessions, and offer a mixed bag. In particular, I question the inclusion of the version of “Hey Jude” that’s here (disc 5, track 3). There’s so much better a version to be had:

 

There’s a 10 and-a-half-minute version of “Revolution” that sets up “Revolution 9” perfectly. And the version of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on the first studio session disc is surprisingly groovy, for one of Paul’s “Granny tracks”. There’s a pretty heavy “Yer Blues” (disc 5, track 7) that will give the lie to those Stones partisans who think these guys couldn’t rock. Likewise with the fragment of “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” that leads them into “Helter Skelter”. And a throbbing and slightly slower instrumental “Back In the USSR” (disc 5, track 10).

The overall sense from these four “in-process” discs is how much fun they were all having together. This is notoriously the album when they began to fracture, and Ringo DID quit the band for a couple weeks, but listening to it, not a trace of that is audible. This is the Fabs, still at the peak of their ability, and having a great time together.

Here’s a tracklist:

Disc 1:
01 – Back In The U.S.S.R. (2018 Mix)
02 – Dear Prudence (2018 Mix)
03 – Glass Onion (2018 Mix)
04 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (2018 Mix)
05 – Wild Honey Pie (2018 Mix)
06 – The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill (2018 Mix)
07 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (2018 Mix)
08 – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (2018 Mix)
09 – Martha My Dear (2018 Mix)
10 – I’m So Tired (2018 Mix)
11 – Blackbird (2018 Mix)
12 – Piggies (2018 Mix)
13 – Rocky Raccoon (2018 Mix)
14 – Don’t Pass Me By (2018 Mix)
15 – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road (2018 Mix)
16 – I Will (2018 Mix)
17 – Julia (2018 Mix)

Disc 2:
01 – Birthday (2018 Mix)
02 – Yer Blues (2018 Mix)
03 – Mother Nature’s Son (2018 Mix)
04 – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey (2018 Mix)
05 – Sexy Sadie (2018 Mix)
06 – Helter Skelter (2018 Mix)
07 – Long, Long, Long (2018 Mix)
08 – Revolution 1 (2018 Mix)
09 – Honey Pie (2018 Mix)
10 – Savoy Truffle (2018 Mix)
11 – Cry Baby Cry (2018 Mix)
12 – Revolution 9 (2018 Mix)
13 – Good Night (2018 Mix)

Disc 3:
01 – Back In The U.S.S.R. (Esher Demo)
02 – Dear Prudence (Esher Demo)
03 – Glass Onion (Esher Demo)
04 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Esher Demo)
05 – The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill (Esher Demo)
06 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Esher Demo)
07 – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Esher Demo)
08 – I’m So Tired (Esher Demo)
09 – Blackbird (Esher Demo)
10 – Piggies (Esher Demo)
11 – Rocky Raccoon (Esher Demo)
12 – Julia (Esher Demo)
13 – Yer Blues (Esher Demo)
14 – Mother Nature’s Son (Esher Demo)
15 – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey (Esher Demo)
16 – Sexy Sadie (Esher Demo)
17 – Revolution (Esher Demo)
18 – Honey Pie (Esher Demo)
19 – Cry Baby Cry (Esher Demo)
20 – Sour Milk Sea (Esher Demo)
21 – Junk (Esher Demo)
22 – Child Of Nature (Esher Demo)
23 – Circles (Esher Demo)
24 – Mean Mr Mustard (Esher Demo)
25 – Polythene Pam (Esher Demo)
26 – Not Guilty (Esher Demo)
27 – What’s The New Mary Jane (Esher Demo)

Disc 4:
01 – Revolution 1 (Take 18)
02 – A Beginning (Take 4) Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7)
03 – Blackbird (Take 28)
04 – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey (Unumbered Rehearsal)
05 – Good Night (Unumbered Rehearsal)
06 – Good Night (Take 10 With A Guitar Part From Take 5)
07 – Good Night (Take 22)
08 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 3)
09 – Revolution (Unumbered Rehearsal)
10 – Revolution (Take 14 Instrumental Backing Track)
11 – Cry Baby Cry (Unumbered Rehearsal)
12 – Helter Skelter (First Version Take 2)

Disc 5:
01 – Sexy Sadie (Take 3)
02 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Acoustic Version Take 2)
03 – Hey Jude (Take 1)
04 – St Louis Blues (Studio Jam)
05 – Not Guilty (Take 102)
06 – Mother Nature’s Son (Take 15)
07 – Yer Blues (Take 5 With Guide Vocal)
08 – What’s The New Mary Jane (Take 1)
09 – Rocky Raccoon (Take 8)
10 – Back In The U.S.S.R. (Take 5 Instrumental Backing Track)
11 – Dear Prudence (Vocal, Guitar & Drums)
12 – Let It Be (Unumbered Rehearsal)
13 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third Version Take 27)
14 – (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care (Studio Jam)
15 – Helter Skelter (Second Version Take 17)
16 – Glass Onion (Take 10)

Disc 6:
01 – I Will (Take 13)
02 – Blue Moon (Studio Jam)
03 – I Will (Take 29)
04 – Step Inside Love (Studio Jam)
05 – Los Paranoias (Studio Jam)
06 – Can You Take Me Back (Take 1)
07 – Birthday (Take 2 Instrumental Backing Track)
08 – Piggies (Take 12 Instrumental Backing Track)
09 – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Take 19)
10 – Honey Pie (Instrumental Backing Track)
11 – Savoy Truffle (Instrumental Backing Track)
12 – Martha My Dear (Without Brass And Strings)
13 – Long, Long, Long (Take 44)
14 – I’m So Tired (Take 7)
15 – I’m So Tired (Take 14)
16 – The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill (Take 2)
17 – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road (Take 5)
18 – Julia (Two Rehearsals)
19 – The Inner Light (Take 6 Instrumental Backing Track)
20 – Lady Madonna (Take 2 Piano & Drums)
21 – Lady Madonna (Backing Vocals From Take 3)
22 – Across The Universe (Take 6)