The Beatles Help! on 180g LP
Sourced From the Original Master Tapes: Features George Martin's 1986 Stereo Mix
Cut at Abbey Road Studios by a First-Rate Team of Producers and Engineers: Stringent Procedures and Safeguards Ensure Optimum Sound
On the surface, Help! was the soundtrack to the Beatles’ second feature film. Yet the 1965 record marked the emergence of several new directions for the band—and benefited from the biggest strides in production technology yet. Thematically encompassing mature sexual longing, uncertainty, estrangement, infatuation, and innocence, the group pounced on an armada of available instruments—acoustic guitars, bongos, electric pianos, flutes, and even strings—to deliver one of the greatest pop albums time has ever known. And now, it finally sounds like it always meant to sound in stereo—bloody brilliant.
Part of Capitol/Apple’s quintessential Beatles catalog masters series on LP, Help! has been remastered by a dedicated team of engineers that includes Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee. Proper care and a painstaking series of steps were taken to ensure that music lovers would hear the Fab Four in all their glory with unprecedented clarity and transparency.
Yes, that means the timeless poignancy of “Yesterday” comes across with truly unimaginable heartbreaking sincerity. It means that the volume pedal George Harrison uses for the first time on “I Need You” and “Yes It Is” is fully discernible. It means that you can hear the woody cavity of he back of the acoustic Gibson guitar Ringo beats to add percussion to “I Need You.” And yes, the fuzz-pedal bass track Paul McCartney added to the original on “Think for Yourself”—his first overdub on record—is preeminent. As is the soulfulness of the falsetto voices.
The advances in sonics were largely made possible by new Studer J-37 four-track recorders. Not only does this new LP pressing present the enhancements like never before, it adds to our enjoyment and insight of the music, allowing listeners to sense get as close to what went down as possible. So, and the 1:10 mark of “I Need You,” the moment when Lennon hits the rim of the snare drum comes alive, the happy accident possessing the same amount of body, richness, detail, and depth as the rest of the landmark music on this set. Capitol has outdone itself.
With EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studios providing the backdrop, the four-year restoration process combined veteran expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, vintage studio gear, and rigorous testing to net what is without doubt the highest fidelity possible and authentic, jaw-dropping sound guaranteed to rival the original LPs. There is no longer any need to pay hundreds of dollars for Japanese pressings.
At the start of the restoration process, engineers conducted extensive tests before copying the analog master tapes into the digital realm using 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and a Prism A-D converter. Dust build-ups were removed from tape machine heads after the completion of each title. Artifacts such as electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance, and poor edits were improved upon as long as it was determined that doing so didn’t at all damage the integrity of the songs. Similarly, de-noising technology was applied in only a few necessary spots and on a sum total of less than five of the entire 525 minutes of Beatles music.
In cutting the digital masters to vinyl, stringent safeguards and procedures were employed. After cutting to lacquer, determined to be warmer and consistent than cutting to DMM, the next step was to use the Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe at Abbey Road. Following thorough mechanical and electrical tests to ensure it was operating in peak condition, engineer Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that were required for CD production. It was also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone ‘limiting,' a procedure to increase the sound level.
Having made initial test cuts, Magee pinpointed any sound problems that can occur during playback of vinyl records. To rectify them, changes were made to the remasters with a Digital Audio Workstation. For example, each vinyl album was listened to for any ‘sibilant episodes.' vocal distortion that can occur on consonant sounds such as S and T. These were corrected by reducing the level in the very small portion of sound causing the undesired effect.
Similarly, any likelihood of inner-groove distortion was addressed. As the stylus approaches the center of the record, it is liable to track the groove less accurately. This can affect the high-middle frequencies, producing a ‘mushy’ sound particularly noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as ‘surgical EQ,’ problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.
The last phase of the vinyl mastering process began with the arrival of the first batches of test pressings made from master lacquers that had been sent to the two pressing plant factories. Stringent quality tests identified any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place. If this happened, it was clear that the undesired sounds had been introduced either during the cutting or the pressing stage and so the test records were rejected. In the quest to achieve the highest quality possible, the Abbey Road team worked closely with the pressing factories and the manufacturers of the lacquer and cutting styli.
For this project, there was no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. Yes, it took a village to get it right.
The Beatles Help! Track Listing:
2. The Night Before
3. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
4. I Need You
5. Another Girl
6. You're Going To Lose That Girl
7. Ticket To Ride
8. Act Naturally
9. It's Only Love
10. You Like Me Too Much
11. Tell Me What You See
12. I've Just Seen A Face
14. Dizzy Miss Lizzie