30 some years ago I first experienced most of the videos from this long-awaited Beatles BluRay on a washed out bootleg VHS tape. Although it was cool to see this footage back then, I held out hope that one day these classic films would see an official release in the quality they deserve. Better late than never, that day has finally arrived.
I bought the "1+" version which includes two BluRay video discs. What a complete thrill from start to finish. To see something like the Strawberry Fields video transferred from what is purported to be a 35mm film source is simply amazing. I first saw Strawberry Fields in the 1982 Compleat Beatles film, and based on what is seen in the movie I presumed the video quality was limited due to the original source. The Beatles Anthology featured nicely improved video quality, but nothing compares to this 1+ BluRay. Penny Lane appeared in the Compleat Beatles from a second-rate B&W videotape; here we have a high resolution transfer from the original color film. It's impossible to imagine Penny Lane existed in such fantastic quality. And those are just two examples. Until now, none of these videos have looked so good. Best of all, the restoration process was done with close attention to detail, so these films don't suffer the same sort of digital noise reduction and its undesirable side effects as seen on, for instance, the Magical Mystery Tour BluRay.
The surround mixes are equally well done. They're mixed to be true to the original records but the soundstage has more depth, width and height. As such, while there may be a few minor instances when you don't hear something in quite the same way as the old records, you're now hearing so much more of what always existed in the original tracks. Historically there's a trade off when bands go back to re-work their classic recordings, which is why I usually don't like the idea. Thankfully there's little to no compromise between the new and old here. The new mixes simply offer more of what we already know and love. The vocals on Lady Madonna's "see how they run" are almost like you're in the same room at Abbey Road while The Fab Four perform. Let it Be has a more organic feel than the original record during the verses but the orchestrations on the choruses and at the end of the song are deeper and more lush sounding. The low end - especially Paul's bass - has never had this kind of thump or presence, yet it doesn't adversely affect the other instruments. Overall the audio is slightly hotter than I would prefer, and there is a hint of digital processing to the sound, but none of this bothered me in the annoying way most sterile overbaked recordings sound today.
Bottom line - no Beatles fan should be without this release. And while you could save some cash and buy the regular "1" edition (which only includes one BluRay or DVD), I must recommend the expanded "1+" version for all the good stuff on the second disc. You won't get Strawberry Fields if you don't get "1+". Nuff said.
Now let's see Apple release a BluRay collection of Beatles concert films. The Shea Stadium excerpts seen in the Eight Days a Week video on 1+ is beyond comparison. I hope I don't have to wait another 30 years to see the full Shea concert film looking so good.