The Abbey Road 2019 remix by Giles Martin is excellent, but if there’s a Beatles album that didn’t really need remixing, this is it. The album was recorded on new equipment with eight tracks instead of four. The result was higher quality audio than previous Beatles albums.
It’s the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road (1969), and Apple has given it the special treatment they gave Sgt. Pepper and The White Album. Too bad they didn’t start the 50th anniversary series earlier. We’d have Rubber Soul and Revolver remixes by now. Next up should be Let It Be, which was released in May of 1970. (Update: The new The Beatles: Get Back soundtrack is apparently taking the place of the Let It Be remaster. The film is scheduled for an August 2021 release.)
I bought the 2-CD Abbey Road Anniversary Edition as shown above, and have done a lot of A-B comparisons with this and the 2009 Remaster. The new remix has better depth and clarity. If you have a good stereo system, it’s the one to go with. More casual listeners will not notice a major difference between the mixes.
So what about the extras? There’s a nice 40-page booklet with added information and many photos like those above, mostly by Linda McCartney. The second CD contains an alternate version of each song. Even though they’re interesting, there’s not a must-have track.
Also available is a Super Deluxe version with more alternate takes which I listened to online. The only track I decided to purchase was George Martin’s instrumental accompaniment for “Something”. He was brilliant at adding instrumentation that enhanced a song without overpowering it.
Other reviews of the remix have also been positive, but mostly they just talk about Abbey Road as one of The Beatles’ best albums.
The top four songs being downloaded from the remix on iTunes are “Come Together”, “Here Comes The Sun”, “Something”, and “Oh! Darling”. Good choices. John Lennon’s “Come Together” has a great groove, and is a reminder of how well The Beatles played together as a band. “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” may be George Harrison’s two best Beatles’ songs. Paul McCartney sang a soulful “Oh! Darling” that has held up well. Add in “Because”, and you have a list of the best individual songs on the album.
But, it’s the medley of songs on side-two of the album that sets it apart. Cynically, one could look at the medley as a way for The Beatles to simply use up some song fragments. The reality is, the arrangement is rather brilliant. It’s similar to classical music with recurring melodies and themes. They got great help from George Martin, who orchestrated “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” perfectly. The remix of the medley sounds great.
If there’s a weakness to the medley, it’s that the songs have many lyrics that are light, or even non-sensical. Had the songs included more relatable and serious lyrics, the medley would have elevated Abbey Road even higher.
The medley has a strong finish with “The End”. It’s the last full song on the last album The Beatles recorded. It has short but rocking guitar leads by John, Paul, & George, and a solid drum solo by Ringo. The last line is… “And In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” That’s the way to go out.
Interestingly, they debated having side-two be side-one. And in the end, they made the right decision.
It was recently revealed that The Beatles were heard on tape discussing the possibility of doing another single and another album after Abbey Road. Even though that’s true, it’s very likely The Beatles still worked on Abbey Road as if it could be their last album.
Bonus: Cover Story
Iconic covers for The Beatles’ albums didn’t just happen. The Beatles always trusted artists to help them. The art director for Apple in 1969 was John Kosh, seen below with some other covers he helped develop through the years.
The photographer for Abbey Road was Iain Macmillan, who said the idea for the photo came from Paul McCartney. Once Macmillan had taken the photos and helped select the best one, it was turned over to John Kosh to finalize the actual cover. In an article in U.S.A. Today, Kosh says he touched-up the sky to be bluer than it was, and then decided the album cover should not include the title or the name of the group.
As the album was about to be printed, Kosh says he received a call at three o’clock in the morning. It was from the Chairman of EMI, Apple’s parent company. Kosh, who was just 23 at the time, says the call included yelling about how the album wouldn’t sell if The Beatles’ name wasn’t on it. Kosh said he was shaking after the call, and was worried as he went into Apple the next day. He told George Harrison about the problem. According to Kosh, George said…“Screw it. We’re The Beatles.”