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Beatles Catalog Sounds Great

Do the newly remastered Beatles albums live up to the hype?

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Fans who have waited 22 years for the overdue and long-rumored sonic upgrade of The Beatles catalog won't be disappointed when the months of promotion, speculation and anticipation end with Wednesday's arrival of the new discs.

Get ready to re-meet The Beatles. Oh, you've heard it all before. The music is reassuringly familiar and as grand and timeless as ever. But it's never sounded this stunningly clear, spacious and organic.

A sampling of the cache offers an illuminating reintroduction to the Fab force of nature that first gripped the globe in the early '60s. "Twist and Shout" rings out with thrilling, shiny clarity. "Eight Days a Week," one of many tracks that lost punch in the 1987 transfer to CD, sparks again. "In My Life" blooms with greater definition and breadth. All of "Abbey Road" shimmers with aural magnificence. It's like standing inches from van Gogh's Starry Night after squinting at it for years through a dirty window.

Four years ago, a small team of longtime "Abbey Road" engineers was handed a ticket to right the wrongs left by the initial CD process. Clearly, great care was taken in remastering to ensure that results didn't veer significantly from the sound Beatlemaniacs initially heard pounding from turntables and radios. While preserving the music's integrity, tinkerers removed imperfections, murk and haze, unleashing original beauty and bounce.

The masses will gravitate to the more widely available stereo versions, which are substantially superior to their '87 forebears. But the real ear-opening delights await in the cleansed mono works, particularly "Please Please Me," re-invigorated by a livelier bottom end and the heart-stopping crispness of "I Saw Her Standing There," and "With the Beatles," vibrant with rejuvenated bass and harmonies.

The trippy, trailblazing "Revolver," arguably the band's finest album, is likely to kindle the loudest debate among stereo and mono enthusiasts. Good news: It's massive and smashing either way.

Cynics may shrug at another round of Beatles for sale some 40 years after the band's split. Unlike cheesy repackaged oldies dispensed with annoying regularity by rock vets, these spine-tingling remasters constitute page one of a vital chapter in pop history: The Beatles as you were always meant to hear them.

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