Abbey Road 50th Anniversary
To quote the overused adaption of The Beatles lyric – “It was 50 years ago today…” – that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and the crucial inclusion of George Martin released Abbey Road. To celebrate its 50th anniversary Giles Martin (George Martin's son) has remixed the album releasing it alongside outtakes and demos. Following the success of two previous remixes, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017) and The Beatles (2018), Giles has reinvigorated the seminal album for future generations to experience in all their sonic splendour.
The Abbey Road sessions, like the majority of latter Beatles recording periods, are often overshadowed by inner turmoil leading to the eventual dissemination of the band (although recent discoveries show it may not have been as bitter a period as previously thought). The last recorded album by the band, but not the last released, is an artistic high of their discography and an emotional trip for any Beatles fan. For an album, many consider perfect in its existing form Giles rises to challenge of remastering it with resplendent care.
Although this isn’t Giles’s most striking remix of the band’s work, that accolade undoubtedly goes to his work on Sgt. Pepper, it has the ability to carry its weight through the contemporary digital audio landscape. This is exemplified in Ringo’s sensational ‘Octopus’s Garden’, presented by Giles in its never before realised complexity. Crisp guitar lines combined with boosted harmonies and cleaner vocals give the illusion that it was recorded only last month not 50 years ago. ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ benefits from brisker hi-hats and kick drum, while ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)' gains extra determination from amplified organ and ‘Carry That Weight’ is beautifully invigorated by the promotion of the horns in the mix. Giles is also able to bring attention to beautiful moments that otherwise have been lost in the mix. ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is clarified by the elegance of a synth line that combined with the opening guitar riff will never fail to bring a smile to the listeners face. Admittedly the part would benefit from being dumbed down in the mix, however, the song is improved from its enhancement.
As much a Beatles album, Abbey Road, should also be attributed to the artistic ambitions of George Martin. Martin’s mastery plays throughout the album like an additional instrument complimenting the group’s talents. The medley on the second side of the album exemplifies his ability to complete the Beatles dynamic. Arguably the highlight of the album the melding of ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘Sun King’, ‘Mean Mr Mustard’, Polythene Pam’, ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, ‘Golden Slumbers’, ‘Carry That Weight’, ‘The End’ and ‘Her Majesty’ is an excellent conclusion to an era of astonishing creative output. Giles honours his father’s artistic construction superbly and we finally get a playlist worthy 16-minute edit, ‘The Long One’, comprising of all the above-listed songs (positioning ‘Her Majesty’ in its original context). In addition, Martin’s orchestration is also showcased similarly to previous releases (à la ‘She’s Leaving Home’ from the Sgt. Pepper outtakes) in ‘Something – Take 39 / Instrumental’ and ‘Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight – Take 17 / Instrumental’.
And in the end, the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road may be the least infatuating of the Giles Martin remixes so far produced. This is in part due to the expert craftsmanship of the original sessions, which unlike Sgt. Pepper and The Beatles had more scope for modification. However, Giles has again created the definitive version of the album. I feel obliged to leave the finishing statement to the Beatles themselves and their last message as a group…
“In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”