Insider with Robert Harley – The Beatles as You’ve Never Heard Them
I recently had a mind-blowing listening experience I’d like to tell you about. No, it doesn’t involve hearing a high-resolution disc on mid-six-figure stereo system, but rather a 40+ year-old recording reproduced by a sound-reinforcement system in a large space.
The experience was Love, the new Cirque du Soleil show at The Mirage in Las Vegas. The show is based on the music of The Beatles, and features a 95-minute soundtrack of Beatles music restored, remixed, and compiled by George Martin and his son Giles. George Martin, of course, produced all The Beatles records, and is known as “the fifth Beatle” for his creative input, particularly his string arrangements.
Seconds into the first track (“Because”), I experienced a cognitive disconnect; I was hearing this familiar song that was unmistakably The Beatles, but the sound quality was in many ways better than what I hear from modern recordings played on mega-buck playback systems. Song after song of classic Beatles sounded stunningly great, with none of the congestion, glare, or thinness we’re used to hearing on these recordings. The sense of space around the instruments was nothing like the original LPs. It was hard to believe I was listening to 40-year-old recordings in a large space.
The liner notes on the CD release of the show’s soundtrack explained how George and Giles Martin revisited the original multi-track elements to create the show’s soundtrack. Not just a series of songs, Love’s soundtrack intermixes different tracks, segues songs with transitional elements, and takes liberties with the mix. It’s important to note that the project was originally conceived by George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr endorsed the concept. In addition, Paul, Ringo, Olivia Harrison, and Yoko Ono Lennon heard and approved work-in-progress mixes during the two-year endeavor. Giles Martin likened his job to “painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa,
” and was acutely aware of his responsibility to The Beatles’ original artistic expression.
I was curious as to how much of the great sound I was hearing was a result of the reworking of the original elements and how much to the theater’s sound system. Listening to the CD of Love at home on Wilson MAXX 2s
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor
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