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I.B. BAD: THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED
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Critics' Choice
SGT. PEPPER REMIXED AT 50:
AN HOMAGE TO MONO
5/1/17

Billy Shears has handed his center stage spot to Giles Martin in the act you’ve known for all these years. It’s Martin’s taste, technical skills and echoes of his father’s instructions that have guided him in creating a new version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  that Apple Corps/Capitol/UMe will release 5/26 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles landmark album.

He and Apple Corps CEO Jeff Jones are traveling with the music, visiting New York last week and Los Angeles now, explaining motivations and techniques used during the 18 months the new Sgt. Pepper came to fruition.

“The new mixes are an homage to what they did when they mixed the mono version. The stereo [mixes] were a throwaway,” Martin told a New York gathering old enough to remember what the album sounded like on transistor radios.

Giles has the upper-crust air of his father George, whose euphonious speaking voice gave every subject he discussed an air of worthy intellectual pursuit. Martin's speech is so dignified, so scholarly, it helps sell the idea that a sacred artifact can indeed be improved, a fact some Beatles fans may find hard to swallow.

Giles became George’s ears in the mid-1980s when his father’s hearing started to deteriorate, and he has played a central role in executing the wishes of his father as well as those of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. With Steve Berkowitz, he artfully restored The Beatles mono catalog on LP and at the time, was able to often retell the story of how the mono versions were the ones that mattered to the boys; he had his chance to go off-roading with the Cirque du Soleil show LOVE, breaking down every original tape and reassembling them to create wholly new music. The new Sgt. Pepper relies on the spirit of the former and the technology of the latter.

The result is a brighter, cleaner, more-defined edition of The Beatles’ classic 1967 LP. Martin returned to the original tapes of each instrument and vocal and remixed  according to instructions John, Paul, George, Ringo and his father had left when the album was first mixed in mono. (The Beatles did not attend mix sessions for their stereo albums).

Martin mixed first generation recordings, actual drum, bass and vocal parts—or as he put it, we’re now listening to Ringo hit a drum as opposed to a second or third generation tape of Ringo hitting a drum.

Most important in “paying homage to the mono”: Position the vocals in the middle.

Before playing the album in full on McIntosh’s highest end equipment through Sonus Faber speakers that sell for five figures, Martin presented a few A/B examples of the stereo album available now and the new mix.

He noted the separation between Paul’s voice and the cello on “She Leaving Home” in the current version and how the upcoming release will place McCartney’s voice in the center and leave the cello in the left channel.

“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” was selected as an example of better overall clarity of the instruments; “Lovely Rita” is a prime example of Starr’s presence having a greater impact; and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” has a double-tracked vocal effect on it that was previously only on the mono edition.

Martin said there were two troublesome tracks: “A Day in the Life,” which he remixed seven times, and “Fixing a Hole.”  He also played outtakes that will be on the deluxe version including a few that reveal how “A Day in the Life’s” final chord came to pass.

The album will sit side-by-side on streaming services for at least a year at which point it will replace the older version as the new, definitive Sgt. Pepper