BEATLES Rubber Soul LP
Released in 1965, Rubber Soul signified a sea change for the Beatles. The record marked the emergence of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s distinctive identities as songwriters. It featured an original (“Nowhere Man”) that went beyond the band’s commonplace love themes. And its sound departed from the echo-laden nature of its predecessors, an intentional move that offset it from the multiple bands that had been copying the Beatles’ style. Still, Rubber Soul retained a constant: It was yet another watershed collection of pop and rock by a group that redefined the genres as it went along.
Part of Capitol/Apple’s quintessential Beatles catalog masters series on LP, Rubber Soul has been remastered by a dedicated team of engineers that includes Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, and 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 stereo glory with unprecedented clarity and transparency.
Hence, the definitive aspects of Rubber Soul are enjoyed like never before in stereo. Take George Martin’s piano solo on “In My Life,” half-speed overdubbed to make it sound like a harpsichord. Does it ever. Or Lennon’s pronounced intakes of breath during the choruses to the sweet “Girl.” You can practically feel the air moving into his lungs. The inimitable ringing of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood” becomes life-size. The unique tonalities of George Harrison’s newly acquired Fender Bassman amplifier are seemingly visceral in appearance.
Sonically, Rubber Soul claims a much drier sound, as the band elected to refrain from utilizing echo chambers and minimized the amount of reverb present on its earlier albums. The decision further distinguished the Beatles from their peers. And contributed to the impact of the music. Acoustically based, Rubber Soul is identified by hard-panned left-to-right channel production, which on this pressing throws the group’s instrumentation and vocals into greater relief.
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 Rubber Soul Track Listing:
1. Drive My Car
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won't See Me
4. Nowhere Man
5. Think For Yourself
6. The Word
8. What Goes On
10. I'm Looking Through You
11. In My Life
13. If I Needed Someone
14. Run For Your Life