When The Beatles devised a plan to bow out, hardly any of them knew they’d be writing the best songs of their career. Sure, they changed things up with an 8-track recorder, and yeah, each member claimed some real estate on record, but no, they never knew how important the end product would be. Not even photographer Iain Macmillan. It’s highly doubtful he recognized the power inside his camera while he stood just outside the now landmark zebra crossing. After all, it was supposed to be some epic photo shoot in the Himalayas, back when the record was tentatively titled, Everest. So, what’s the point? There is no point; instead, there’s a lesson. Predictability is void. Nobody back in April of 1969 knew the simple truth of today, which is this: Abbey Road is the greatest album of all time.
Everything about it is perfect. It sports the most iconic album cover to date, it’s filled with the band’s most phenomenal and realized work, and it’s the most cohesive album in The Beatles’ untouchable discography. Abbey Road set some precedents, too. Did you know it contains the first hidden track (“Her Majesty”) on an album? Pretty wild, inventive stuff. However, above all merits, Abbey Road successfully rounded out the career of thee most prolific and important band in music history. Not an easy task by any means… and only one that could have happened by mistake. That’s why it’s only even more perfect that Abbey Road hit the streets before Let It Be, which many still “incorrectly” believe to be the group’s concluding record. Oh, the fools!
The idea of remastering The Beatles sounds as perverse as reviewing them. It’s like what any ignoramus might say of our country’s health care system today: “Why fix sumthin’ dat ain’t broken.” Truth be told, The Beatles’ discography sounds better than ever. It’s clearer, it’s more pronounced, and it’s voluminous. That last word might be a little jarring, but it couldn’t explain the “overproduced” sound of Abbey Road any better. The album, which was recorded in stereo (a big no, no to Beatles enthusiasts at the time), envelopes you. Under the newly remastered production, songs like “Come Together” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” come to life. The former brings the trademark hook (“shoot me”) front and center, where it nearly slides down your back, and the latter accents the clumsy percussion that now reveals every ting, ping, and ding. It’s very hip.
Judging from some of the tracks, it is clear which of the four Beatles are still around. The aforementioned “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” stands out a little, in terms of reworking, as does “Octopus’s Garden”, where little things like water bubbles and, oh yeah, Ringo Starr’s voice feel more crisp. One can argue, too, that “Oh! Darling” received the star treatment, with Macca’s vocals sounding more raw and less produced. Then again, have you heard the work with John Lennon’s vocals on “Twist and Shout” off of Please Please Me? Simply amazing. Perhaps this argument is moot.
Moot indeed, especially when you consider the remainder of Abbey Road. Let’s just say, everything’s been improved. Some highlights include: the layered organ in “Something”, those heavenly acoustic notes in “Here Comes The Sun”, and pretty much every bass line on the album, though specifically in “Sun King”. There are some bigger jaw dropping moments, too. After all this time, you can finally hear all the instrumental madness behind “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, especially the phasing last two minutes. Don’t even try to comprehend the changes behind “Because”. The whole thing has always sounded like one clusterfuck of magnificent psychedelia. Now, between the harmonies and the multi-instrumentation, it’s just one crystallized example for how drugs can do good.
So, what about the album itself? Well, what else can be said that hasn’t been said half a million times, already? It’s the true Beatles album. Everybody shines. George Harrison turns in his best work (“Something”), Lennon goes absolutely nuts and has his last fuck you (“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and recording his vocals last in “Carry That Weight” — though only because of a car accident, but still), Starr finds the courage for a drum solo (“The End”), and McCartney pulls a quick one on Pete Townshend, assembling one hell of a closing medley (“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, and “The End”).
No, it’s not as poppy and fun as A Hard Day’s Night. Sure, there might be a stronger tune on The Beatles. And yes, you can argue that Harrison’s best work is actually “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (no, it’s not). But there isn’t a collective work by The Beatles, and probably any act out there, that is this perfect, this cohesive, and this iconic and lasting. How many times have we heard “Sun King” today in any indie act’s debut? Where would shoegaze be without “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”? How many secret tracks do we find on a weekly basis? Like it or not, scoff or smile, Abbey Road is hands down thee greatest piece of musical work on this godforsaken planet, and you know what, it actually makes us look like decent human beings. Hey, in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take. Or, wait…