Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine

Xbox Freedom:

The Fab Four have made their way into the Beatles Rock Band the Video Game and now take another entrance into gaming with this fabulous Xbox 360 Mod created and painted in tribute to the Fab Four and the new video game.

Game Guru

Josh Hathaway at Blogcritics:

It’s Beatlemania one more time and I get to be a part of it. The New Album Releases column existed before I entered the picture and I’ve pretty much held to the format used by others since taking over, but I shall, from time to time, declare a special occasion and do something different. This week is one of those occasions.

Like Brian Wilson, I sometimes wonder if I was made for these times. I do know I’ve always wished I could have been a part of Beatlemania the first time. I hate how The Beatles are always going to be a bit of a history lesson for me. The Beatles broke up three years before I was born. My mom watched them on Ed Sullivan. I was seven when John Lennon was murdered. I didn’t get to experience what it was like when The Beatles ruled the world.

There won’t be a reunion tour to recapture the glory years, but there have been a few moments when the world turned their attention back to the best thing to come from Liverpool in history. I remember watching The Beatles Anthology documentary and going to buy the first 2-CD volume of the three-volume set. It was the first time I felt like I got to be part of the phenomenon in real time, even if it was a celebration of past glories.

Lawrence Bonk:

What’s not to like? It’s “Rock Band” mixed with the Fab Four. To the uninitiated, “Rock Band” is a series of video games that has you playing along on fake instruments to popular songs. It’s similar in form to the popular “Guitar Hero” franchise but incorporates singing and drums into the mix. People go gaga for it. This Beatles version goes several steps further than usual, allowing for three part harmonies and an interactive story mode.

The game’s developers boast that they worked hand in hand with the Beatles, which is surprising considering Ringo Starr constantly asks his kids if e-mail and the Internet are the same thing. Still, the attention to detail is fairly astounding. From a virtual Ed Sullivan to psychedelic dreamscapes, this game goes out of its way to provide a sense of realism that is usually lacking from the genre.

Rolling Stone:

When The Beatles: Rock Band really clicks — when you’re pounding out “Helter Skelter” hard enough to get blisters on your fingers; when you’re loping through the bass line of “Dear Prudence”; when it starts feeling like you are, in fact, the Walrus — the experience is almost eerie. It begins to seem like the Beatles didn’t write and record these songs so much as construct them — so sturdily that they translate with absurd ease to an interactive format that was four decades away. The Beatles’ musical development lends itself oddly well to a game — the songs become both more difficult to play and more rewarding as the band’s story moves along: It’s a lot more fun to play “And Your Bird Can Sing” than, say, “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

That said, unlike the Beatles’ music — and the original Guitar Hero and Rock Band games — there’s nothing particularly revolutionary here. Aside from the ability to sing in three-part harmony (a frippery that few users are likely to exploit), the gameplay is familiar: You hit the correct color at the proper time and score points. But thanks to richly detailed and artful graphics — highlighted by the psychedelic images that pop up once the Beatles quit playing concerts — it is the most refined music video game ever. From the Beatles’ facial expressions to the signs at Shea Stadium, there’s enough verisimilitude that it’s forgivable when no animated Eric Clapton turns up for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” or when cartoon Ringo is shown playing drums on “Back in the U.S.S.R.” (it was really Paul).

In any case, Starr may be the big winner here: Anyone who has questioned his chops will repent after failing for the 10th time to make it through “Birthday.”

But what about getting the Beatles on iTunes? Peter Kafka at All Things Digital:

iPods with cameras? Maybe. iTunes with new features? For sure. iTunes with Beatles? Nope.

I’m sure that Apple (AAPL) will indeed sell the Fab Four’s music via its digital music store one day. But it’s not happening at Apple’s keynote presentation tomorrow.

The Beatles estate, Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Viacom’s (VIA) MTV will be releasing a new version of “Rock Band” that features the band’s songs tomorrow. And on the same day, EMI Music Group will release all of the band’s music on remastered compact discs.

But that’s it, a source familiar with the band’s plans tells me. For now.

Harry McCracken at Technologizer:

I’m not going to entirely discount the possibility of a surprise tomorrow until the event (which I’ll be liveblogging) ends and Paul McCartney hasn’t emerged from behind the curtain. I’m not sure why I care, since I long ago ripped the music I wanted from CD. Like most Beatles fans who have gone digital. Perhaps the band and EMI wants us to buy the music one last time on CD in these new remastered versions before it gives us the chance to purchase it yet again in downloadable form.

This whole saga is as old as the iTunes Store: It began with the news that the Beatles were suing Apple over iTunes and the lads’ Apple Corps trademark, segued into musings on whether digital Beatles were in the offing after the spat was settled, and in recent years has involved repeated rumors that a deal had already been struck and was about to be announced. After the jump, a recap of the last six years of developments.

Anthony DeCurtis in Rolling Stone on the remastered albums:

As you probably know by now, the remastering of the Beatles catalog was carried out with the caution of translating the Dead Sea Scrolls. Happily, the results justify the obsessive care. These 14 stereo remasters — from Please Please Me (1963) to Let It Be (1970), with a two-disc Past Masters added for good measure — make the original recordings sound newly invigorated and alive, whether you’re listening on standard earbuds or a high-end system.

An enormous effort was made to stay true to the original mixes, so there aren’t going to be any easy revelations for Beatles fans. Instead, these albums sound deeper, richer and fleshed-out. The buoyancy of “Something” becomes more comprehensible when you hear clearly Paul McCartney’s nimble bass line. You knew that “Twist and Shout” featured one of John Lennon’s most visceral performances, but here you can feel his vocal cords shred. The horns on “Good Morning Good Morning” roar, driving the song in a way you may not have noticed before. Lennon and George Harrison’s guitars on “You Can’t Do That” sharpen to a gleaming edge.

One tip for deep-pocketed fans: The 12-CD The Beatles in Mono box set is more than a collector’s indulgence. The warmth and punch of early albums With the Beatles and Beatles for Sale evoke the experience of first hearing songs like “All My Loving” on the original vinyl. But in stereo or mono, these albums have finally received the treatment they deserve.

Tony Sachs at Huffington Post:

This isn’t for those music fans who pre-ordered the newly remastered Beatles CDs the instant they were offered. It’s not for the people who have double-checked their stereos to make sure they’re properly wired to capture every nuance of newly-tweaked sound. And it’s certainly not for the folks who, when they heard that the Fabs’ catalog was going to be reissued in both stereo and mono, didn’t think twice about buying both boxes.

No, this is for that small but stubborn minority of naysayers who rolled their eyes when they heard that the Beatles’ recorded legacy was being given a state-of-the-art sonic overhaul for the first time in more than two decades. “Ripoff artists,” they snorted. “They keep repackaging the same music over and over again.”

Well, you know what, naysayers? You’re wrong.

Let’s look at it by the numbers. In the CD era, EMI has released 14 Beatles albums, not counting the straight CD reissues of the original British LPs in 1987. Of the fourteen, five consist partly or entirely of previously unreleased music (Live At The BBC, Anthology 1, 2, 3, and Let It Be… Naked). Two are collections of singles and rarities that weren’t included on the British albums (Past Masters Vols. 1 & 2). Three are well-thought out, fairly comprehensive greatest hits collections (the CD versions of the classic “red” and “blue” LPs, which were originally released in 1973, and 1).

Which leaves a grand total of four questionable Beatles releases over more than a quarter century. These include:

The Capitol Albums Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, featuring the American mixes, sequencing and artwork of the early Beatles’ LPs in both stereo and mono, which American fans had been requesting for years;

Yellow Submarine Songtrack, which jettisoned the incidental music from the 1968 film in favor of more Beatles songs;

and Love, the inessential but interesting 2006 mash-up collection with absolutely stellar remixing and remastering.

And not a skimpy, ten-song compilation in the batch. By comparison, in the ’90s alone, RCA released over 50 Elvis CDs, a good chunk of ’em short collections of random hits, and Frank Sinatra’s various labels put out over 30 “new” collections of his — some essential, many pointless. The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers has, by my count, been issued on CD a half dozen times with assorted packaging and remastering variations since the mid ’80s.

In Entertainment:

It looks like the Beatles Remastered box sets are proving very popular amongst the fans at the moment, as according to reports from latimes.com, both the mono and stereo box sets were sold out at Amazon.com, a day before their official release.

Although reports say, that the online retailer is still taking orders for individual CD reissues and they will be restocking on the box sets soon. Amazon’s sell out just proves that the band’s tradition of topping the charts is still alive after 39 years.

UPDATE: Farley Katz in the New Yorker

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