The Beatles: White Album - Super Deluxe Edition review

The Beatles' White Album: celebrated, reimagined, reborn

The Beatles - White Album

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The featured element of this seven-disc celebration of the 1968 double vinyl White Album on its 50th anniversary is a remixed version of its 30 iconic tracks by original producer George Martin’s son, Giles. There are, of course, many Beatles purists who will only consider any such project sacrilegious. After all, this is The White Album we’re talking about. What was so wrong with it in the first place? Evidently, not much: 19-times platinum speaks for itself. 

Giles Martin’s got form for improving on Beatles perfection. From collaborating on Love to last year’s widely lauded 50th-anniversary remix of Sgt. Pepper, he’s a safe pair of hands. That Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr offered support and assistance to the project speaks volumes. 

So was all the effort worth it? Hell yes. 

Instead of losing intrinsic magic, Martin’s enhanced it. Drums are crisper, cymbal crashes shimmer off into infinity, the bass sound is thicker, its presence defined and accentuated. Vocals gain warmth, guitars chime and soar. Elements previously lost in ensemble murk re-emerge as independent entities, as fresh ears locate and open up airy space between blurred frequencies. Everything sounds more emphatic, more… everything. 

The White Album’s extraordinarily diverse content has been a constant presence in rock’s subconscious since the genre’s genesis. Reaction to its epoch-defining charms have dulled, familiarity has replaced visceral awe with cerebral respect, but now, sharpened and buffed, the likes of Happiness Is A Warm Gun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps shine brighter than ever. Some selections have been transformed by the process: Dear Prudence is a revelation. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da? You might even make it to the end. 

Disc Three is Esher demos. The band convene at Harrison’s to nail down working versions of material contrived in India. It’s Beatles unplugged, basically. Bin your bootlegs, it’s exceptional. But the gold for completists comes on discs 4-6: the sessions. Early takes, working versions, unfinished sketches; there’s intimacy (Lennon road-testing Julia for George Martin), revelation (13 minutes of Helter Skelter’s blues inception), surrealism (the unreleased What’s The New Mary Jane?) and fascinating insight into making-history’s humdrum side (Harrison ordering a cheese, lettuce and Marmite sandwich as Clapton prepares to render his Gently Weeps magical). 

There’s also a Blu-ray complete with 5.1 mix, but you should be sold already. So much more to say, but sometimes fine words just aren’t enough.

The Beatles White Album

Standard 2LP
White Album 2018 stereo mix on 180g vinyl in gatefold sleeve with replicated original artwork

3CD, 180g 4LP vinyl box set with digital audio collections pairing the 2018 stereo album mix with the 27 Esher Demos.

Super Deluxe
CDs 1 & 2: White Album - 2018 stereo album mix
CD3: Esher Demos: Tracks one through 19 sequenced in order of the finished song’s placement on the album. Songs 20-27 were not originally included.
CDs 4, 5 & 6: Sessions: 50 additional recordings, most previously unreleased, from the White Album studio sessions – all newly mixed and sequenced in order of their recording start dates. 

2018 album mix in high resolution PCM stereo
2018 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 album mix
2018 Dolby True HD 5.1 album mix
2018 direct transfer of the album’s original mono mix

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.