The Beatles Vinyl Remasters: #2 With The Beatles

The Beatles / With The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Remasters
With The Beatles / Stereo Vinyl Remaster

If evidence were ever needed of The Beatles‘ total dominance on the UK pop scene in 1963, then it can be found in the British album chart.

Until May 1963, the upper reaches of the LP ‘hit parade’ were taken up with soundtrack albums, such as South Pacific and West Side Story, and music from the likes of George Mitchell Minstrel’s Black and White Minstrel Show. Elvis‘ movie soundtracks were starting to appear regularly, and The Shadows and Cliff Richard were also becoming familiar names to record buyers.

However, when The Beatles’ debut LP Please Please Me hit number one in May 1963, it stayed at the top spot for an incredible 30 weeks! The only release capable of dislodging that album’s vice-like grip on the top spot was the their very own follow-up album, With The Beatles – a feat achieved in December 1963.

The band’s sophomore offering would itself stay at number one for a further 21 weeks, giving the band an unbroken run of 51 weeks at the top of the UK album charts. In fact, The Rolling Stones‘ eponymous Decca debut (which enjoyed a 12-week run at the summit in April 1964) was the only non-Beatles album in the 91 weeks between Please Please Me in May ’63 and their fourth album Beatles For Sale in late January 1965.

With The Beatles was of course re-issed back on 12 November 2012 on remastered stereo vinyl, along with the 13 other (including the US Magical Mystery Tour LP and the Past Masters collection) that make up the official Beatles’ output. Everything is available separately or in a limited edition box set.

The iconic Robert Freeman black and white photo of the boys on the front of With The Beatles looks superb – distinctly better than the stereo CD cover which suffers from too much contrast resulting in a lack of detail on the faces of the fab four. The CD cover on the mono CD (available only as part of the The Beatles in Mono Box) also looks very good, but you cannot beat the larger size of the vinyl presentation.

As far as the music is concerned, The Beatles cleverly extended their trademark ‘yeah’ motif (established with She Loves You the previous year) into the opening number, It Won’t Be Long. Dramatically blasting right in with the chorus, there is no messing around with this Lennon-McCartney masterclass in the two-minute pop song.

The new vinyl remaster sounds superb on this song, although not massively different from the stereo CD. The next tracks All I’ve Got To Do and All My Loving sound very ‘warm’ indeed compared to the CD. One key difference is between the vinyl and CD is when you come to crank up the volume. The CD has a tendency to become quite harsh when turned up very loud particularly with the guitars and rhythm tracks in the left channel. The record is much more forgiving, and Paul’s velvety tones on All My Loving sound distinctly better on the vinyl.

Unlike its predecessor, With The Beatles contains no UK singles at all – although three 45s were released between the record and Please Please Me. These were From Me To You, She Loves You and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Those enormous hits with their high quality B-sides (Thank You Girl, I’ll Get You and This Boy respectively), coupled with The Beatles’ punishing touring schedule (they played over 150 dates in the UK between the two albums) go some way to explaining why six of the 14 tracks are covers and not original compositions. Of course, in those days that was par for the course, and not unusual at all.

The band had a broad repertoire of covers going right back to the Hamburg days, indeed the Meredith Wilson song Til There Was You (from The Music Man) is steeped in Beatles legend, having been played at the infamous Star Club in Hamburg, included on the failed Decca audition tape in early 1962, and performed on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964.

Smokey Robinson’s You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me has always sounded great, as performed by The Beatles, and John’s voice and the harmonies sound superior on the analogue vinyl than the digital CD. This is a critical difference, and broadly speaking, is the case throughout the album. If you want only one reason to choose vinyl over CD then this is it – the singer of the song sounds better on vinyl.

As far as stereo versions of With The Beatles go, the new remastered vinyl is probably as good as the record can sound, unless you are lucky enough to have access to an original UK edition in very good condition, or until Apple authorise the issue of them in hi-res formats. Like Please Please Me, With The Beatles is an album that sounds best in mono, rather than stereo. The vocals hard panned to the right channel is rather tiring and until the mono versions are remastered to vinyl, the 2009 remastered mono CD is still prefered to the vinyl from the 2009 stereo remasters.

Order The Beatles in Stereo Vinyl box set below

Order With The Beatles on remastered Stereo Vinyl

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Rob Deighton

When are we going to see the next installment of these reviews?