The Beatles, ‘Live At The Star Club (Executive Version)’ (No Label)
Disc 1 – Be-Bop-A-Lula / I Saw Her Standing There / Hallelujah I Love Her So / Red Hot / Sheila / Kansas City / Shimmy Like Kate / Reminiscing / Red Sails In The Sunset / Sweet Little Sixteen / Roll Over Beethoven / A Taste Of Honey / Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees) / I Saw Her Standing There / To Know Her Is To Love Her / Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby / Till There Was You / Where Have You Been All My Life / Lend Me Your Comb / Your Feet’s Too Big / I’m Talking About You / A Taste Of Honey / Announcement (62:19)
Disk 2 – Preamble / Road Runner / The Hippy Hippy Shake / A Taste Of Honey / Matchbox / Little Queenie / Roll Over Beethoven / Announcement / I Remember You / Ask Me Why / Besame Mucho / Mr. Moonlight / Falling In Love Again / I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) / I’m Talking About You / Long Tall Sally / Twist And Shout / Bonus: Hully Gully (Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers)(39:05)
In the pantheon of ‘Holy Grail’ works, the unfettered Beatles Star Club recordings ranks as one of the top searches that we look forward to – So many of the other bootleg or grey area releases come from futzed, muddy dubs of n’th generation tapes that sound like they were recorded from the back or outside of the club.
In early 2018, Lord Reith, champion of desktop bootlegging and one of the best sources of new Beatleg material in the past few years, updated his previous release, ‘Mach Shau’ to ‘The Star Club: Executive Edition’. Remodelling and de-compressing these tapes to the best of his command. Such is the attention to detail, one assumes that if you have a CDR copy of ‘Mach Shau’ or the pressed variants, you can swap them up for this release. The turn around was that quick for me, the last Star Club releases that were in my collection were the Yellow Dog release from 2013 and the Ox Tango (RIP) label release from 2014, part of their definitive remaster series (I haven’t picked up Moonchild’s recent Star Club CD and, after this release, I don’t plan to) These were my comparison for this review through which I could compare and contrast.
From Lord Reith’s originals notes; “This is a new version of my previous Star Club Set “Zu Laut Special Edition”. The principle difference has been the use of new technology to lessen the cavernous reverb inside the club. Because The Beatles played so loud, the reverb is frequently as loud as the actual band itself and the louder they get the more muddy the sound becomes. The reflections blur the sound in the same way multiple exposures on a camera blur an image, with Paul’s bass and Ringo’s drums suffering the most. Removing the excess reverberation effectively places one closer to the stage with a consequent improvement in clarity. To hear the difference most dramatically, compare a loud track like “Sweet Little Sixteen” to previous versions.
“I hope this new version brings you a little bit closer to The Beatles at a time when they were relatively ordinary people. The Star Club tapes are an incredible stroke of good fortune, because without them we would never have guessed just how raucous and wild The Beatles could be. Even in their best BBC broadcasts, they never reached the fever-pitched intensity of these performances. They really were a fantastic live band.”
To my mind, there are few people with seemingly better contacts or much better ears than Lord Reith – He does have a way of digging up these rarities and scarcities that no-one else has offered, his treatment of previously issued work is delightful and, best of all, he offers it for free, disregarding the fact that he will be bootlegged. At the very least acknowledging the fact and while not so much giving his blessing, saying ‘C’est la vie’ if his works do end up on silvers.
So, the sound. You have never heard the Star Club recordings sound this good. Honestly, despite the brushing up that YD and Oxtango prepared for their releases, nothing compares to the sound that the lord has managed for these recordings. My first listen was on my in-ear headphones on my commute to work, fairy impressively, the club gig sounded good enough here, upon setting in to comparing this remaster to the silvers I had in my collection, I used a more substantial pair of cans. The sound is, as the good Load pronounces, stripped of the echoing residue that masked or layered previous releases – Sure, this collection is quieter – but in terms of un-brickwalling a CD, it’s far healthier a listen. The drums and bas are certainly a lot easier a listen, far less booming and over embellished, in this instance. My metaphor was going to be that they’ve moved the clarity to the front row, the bass to the cloakroom (If that works for you.) This being a Lord Reith presentation, we don’t miss any chatter either, the speech, being what there is of it, is nice and clear. Who doesn’t want a bonus from Cliff Bennett and The Rabble Rousers too – At least in context, they were on the same tapes.
While the PC disk that included photos, essays, video, etc wasn’t included, if you’re looking for it, you or a downloading capable friend will find it on the internet somewhere. The original covers are pretty much retained, if tweaked slightly. The only thing that’s missing and would have been nice to have had included are the recording dates. Everything else is left in it’s wake, the Executive Edition is the executive choice.