It was 50 years ago that the world listened to one of the greatest albums ever recorded. On Sept. 26, 1969, the Beatles released their 11th studio album, “Abbey Road.” It holds a unique title as the final Beatles album ever recorded, since John Lennon privately quit the band mere weeks before its release. For many, “Abbey Road” encapsulates the last moments of harmony before a bitter end — an end not only to the Beatles’ career but also to the idealism and collectivism of the 1960s. The fact that the final full-length track of “Abbey Road” is titled “The End” is one of the many poetic coincidences of the band’s mythic history.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Abbey Road,” the group released the “Super Deluxe Edition.” This reissue, which includes new stereo mixes of the original 17 tracks and 23 outtake/demo tracks, is the latest Beatles album remix by Giles Martin, son of famed Beatles producer George Martin. Similar to the anniversary remixes for “The White Album” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Martin’s ambition was to bring a vibrancy and a definition to the iconic songs that could only be achieved through the mixing of the technology of the 21st century with that of the ‘60s.
Martin’s new mixes for “Abbey Road” bring out an aural detail in the tracks lacking in the originals that audiophiles will gush over, highlighting McCartney’s bass lines and intensifying Starr’s kick drum. Martin’s work especially shines in tracks like “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” with the high-definition sound quality deepening the impact of the song’s slow build. “The End” is also a standout of the remix. The album’s magnificent grand finale packs an even greater punch thanks to the remix’s enhanced sound. As many Beatles fans will be glad to hear, however, the remixes do not deviate from the original tracks in any significant way, categorizing Martin’s efforts as preservationist rather than revisionist.
Of course, that means that it is highly unlikely that the “Super Deluxe Edition” will change your opinion of any of the seventeen original “Abbey Road” tracks. If you are a fan of “Something,” you’ll probably love the way the 2019 mix brings out the sweet tones of Harrison’s guitar solo. Conversely, if you always skip “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (as many of us do), this new mix won’t change your feelings on the song.
It’s hard to imagine any of the 23 new studio outtake tracks being significant to anyone other than hardcore Beatle fans. It is very clear why some were left off the original album. For example, Lennon’s vocal performance on “Come Together (Take 5)” is so poor that the only enjoyment gained from listening is the comfort that even the biggest rock stars are imperfect sometimes. For Beatles fans, however, listening to the band jam on outtakes like “The Long One” provides intriguing insight into the process behind a masterwork.
Unlike the original “Abbey Road,” the impact of the “Super Deluxe Edition” will not stretch far beyond classic rock fans. However, the album’s 50th anniversary, provides a welcome excuse to listen to its 17 groundbreaking tracks again – whether they be the original or the new mixes – and revel in a masterpiece that is both a snapshot into the world of 1969 and simultaneously timeless.