Producer Giles Martin recently oversaw the release of a number of remixed and expanded box sets dedicated to some of the Beatles’ most popular later albums. But don’t expect him to fall back on four track-era gems like Rubber Soul from 1965 or Revolver from 1966 anytime soon.
The technology is not there yet, he says.
“This is a good example of ‘How do we do this?'” Martin told Rolling Stone. “How do I make sure John [Lennon] or Paul [McCartney]’s singing is not only in the right speaker, but also making sure that his guitar doesn’t follow him when I put it in the middle? “
Martin began experimenting with new software at Abbey Road Studios that could help complete the 2016 remix of The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The original tapes that Giles’ late father George Martin cared for for release in 1977 included guitars and voices on the same track. The noise of the crowd was also mixed at distractingly high levels.
The younger Martin used this emerging technology to basically reconstruct a new stereo mix by decoupling the individual elements on the old audio tracks with multiple participants. Unfortunately, the process is not yet ready for Martin to feel comfortable making similar breakups in the quieter, more controlled environment of a studio recording.
“I took the crowd with me [noise] and then I sort of turn the crowd back on, “said Martin.” With source separation software, I have to make absolutely sure that it doesn’t damage the audio. With things like the Hollywood Bowl, the tone is pretty shabby anyway, to be honest. So it actually made the tone sound better because I reduced the screaming. I think if you compare it to the Hollywood Bowl release my dad had to go through in the ’70s, it’s a lot better. “
The first Beatles sessions were recorded the same way, with studio performances mixed onto a single track to take advantage of the then limited space on the tape. For example, on George Harrison’s “Taxman”, “guitar, bass, and drums are all on one track,” noted Martin. “So basically the plate is on the left, and then there’s a shaker in the middle right.”
Top-down remixes of Rubber Soul and Revolver would have to wait, he said, until each of these things could get its own individual platform.
“Despite the constant requests I get on Twitter or whatever to do these albums,” added Martin, “I want to make sure we can do a good and useful job of doing things at the right time for the technology. “
In the meantime, Martin is updating the Dolby Atmos version of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which debuted on Apple Music in June. This particular mix was created as part of a theatrical presentation and Martin would like to adapt it for listening at home and through headphones.
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