The Best Immersive Audio category of the Grammys is certainly exciting, and can throw up a few surprises or reward hidden gems of albums. In 2008, however, there was absolutely nothing hidden about the winners. It did not come as a surprise to many people that Love, the reimagining and reworking of The Beatles’ back catalogue for a Cirque du Soleil show, won the award.
Love is a concept originally talked about by the great George Harrison before he passed away. His vision was brought to life by the legendary producer who worked with the Beatles first time around, George Martin, and his son Giles, with the immersive audio expertise of Paul Hicks and Tim Young.
The album is remixed, and over 130 demos and recordings were turned into an incredible mashup. Unapologetically showy, fast moving and joyous, the album is a true celebration of The Beatles’ work. The songs are combined and reworked in ways you perhaps wouldn’t have imagined, and this is facilitated in no small part by the surround sound mix. Iconic orchestral swells, vocal lines and riffs jump out at you from all corners of the room, sometimes in a track where you don’t expect them at all!
Songs are given new life, with small treats for Beatles fanatics coming in the form of never-before-heard recordings and versions of songs. Ringo Starr described the album as "really powerful for me and I even heard things I'd forgotten we'd recorded." For these new versions never to have seen the light of day would have been a crying shame, and it was only right that the production genius of George Martin was steering the ship as this immersive audio experience was incredibly weaved together.
The album opens with the spine-tingling version of “Because.” Chillingly beautiful vocal harmonies are no longer accompanied by guitar, and though this is one of the less “mashed-up” versions of the songs, it truly brings something new to a classic and grabs your attention, with the wonderful layers of vocals bringing back emotion for those who were there the first time, and never thought they’d hear the godfathers of rock and roll in a new way again.
Other highlights of the album include the impressive Indian verve on the “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows” mashup, capturing a period in time for the band when their experimentation would forge the foundations of decades’ worth of music to come from bands under the influence of the new ground that The Beatles were treading. The eastern-inspired tracks somehow mix together in fluency and fluidity and show all the skill of the engineers working on this album.
A stripped-down version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” is another track to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. A raw, demo-style recording, the newly unearthed track shows how many equally beautiful versions of these classics could have graced the world, and how many directions each of these hits could have gone in.
Rock out to “Revolution,” zone out to the trippy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” or get your best singalong voice out for “Hey Jude.” This album includes a little of every ingredient we all adore about The Beatles, explored in the fidelity of a multi-dimensional stereo scene and given true color and excitement for the 21st century. Bravo to this triumphant celebration of true legends.