Customer Review

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessarily imperfect, 19 Feb 2014
This review is from: The US Albums (Audio CD)
First of all, let's clarify what this collection is NOT:

1) This is NOT a complete box set of the Beatles' output in America, and contains no material from 1967 onwards.
2) The mixes contained on here are those approved by The Beatles and George Martin in the 60s, and NOT the butchered, fake stereo, reverb-laden... etc... tracks issued by Capitol without their consent.
3) Aside from a few unique mixes and quirks preserved for this box (see below), there is no new music on here that you won't find in either the Stereo or Mono boxes released back in 2009 (Apart from a few instrumental tracks on the 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help!' soundtracks, that is)

To state the obvious, your interest in this set will largely depend on the level of your interest in The Beatles. This US Albums box is aimed squarely at the completist / collector audience who wants / needs it all.

If you haven't got anything by The Beatles, buy the Mono boxset first, and then get 'The White Album' in stereo, 'Let It Be... Naked' (instead of the original), the 'Yellow Submarine Songtrack' (again, instead of the original), the 'Past Masters' compilation and 'Abbey Road' to complete your collection. This box is just a happy bonus for Beatle nuts who can't get enough of them.

However, this is what you DO get with this set:

1) Well-crafted replica sleeves of the (cheesy) original US Albums listed above, sequenced as per the original Capitol releases, with all the surprising / baffling tracklisting choices associated with them.
2) Mono AND Stereo mixes of almost all of the band's material up to and including Revolver, together with the odds-and-sods, contract-fulfilling, stereo-only compilation 'Hey Jude', released in 1970.
3) Unique US mixes of tracks like 'And I Love Her' (Paul's vocal is single tracked), 'I'll Cry Instead' (20 seconds longer), 'Help!' (with Bond-style intro), 'I'm Looking Through You' (false-intro on stereo) and versions of 'She's A Woman' and 'I Feel Fine' that sound like they were recorded in an aircraft hangar.
4) Mono mixes that sound even better than those released in 2009. Certainly louder and (to my ears) perhaps a little bit punchier, too.
5) 'The Beatles Story' - only available with this set. This is an audio biography of the band released by Capitol at the height of Beatlemania. It often gets criticised by fans for being a bit lame (factual errors, overly sanitised, PR-friendly... etc...), but it's not intended as a rival to the Anthology films, and should be enjoyed as a piece of history.

This collection has been released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 'Beatlemania' sweeping America, but you have to understand that this almost happened in spite of Capitol, and not because of them. As the American arm of EMI, they had first refusal on the band in 1963, but seemingly had no faith in their music, leaving Brian Epstein having to arrange deals with small independent labels to get the boys' material released in the US.

However, when the band finally did hit America by storm, Capitol went into overdrive, repackaging the band's UK material, and releasing them all out of sequence, against the artistic decisions made by the band and their producer, even going so far as to rush-release tracks in fake stereo (yet to be finished in London), or adding echo to appeal to a US audience. John later said that the infamous butcher sleeve on 'Yesterday... and Today' was a comment on Vietnam, but it also (arguably) sums up Capitol's treatment of the band's art.

One of Brian Epstein's last acts as their manager was to renegotiate their EMI contract in 1967 so that the same albums went out everywhere from Sgt Pepper onwards. (Ok, so the Magical Mystery Tour album was a US creation, and is now recognised as part of the UK catalogue, but that's the exception).

However, Capitol still churned out Beatles compilations into the 70s and 80s (Love Songs, Rock'n'Roll Music, Reel Music... etc...), to the point Ringo complained at the time "Please let us know what you're doing with the records we made. We'd like it done, how do I say... nicely!". It wasn't until they struck a deal in 1989 that the surviving Beatles gained control over their own music, and could govern future releases.

In some instances, the crazy sequencing by Capitol works to the music's favour (eg. 'The Beatles' Second Album' is a revelation), whereas the needless chopping of 3 Lennon tracks from the US 'Revolver' album is barbaric by comparison. But this is how America experienced the band, and it's a fascinating history lesson for anyone who cares.

The decision NOT to remaster the original Capitol mixes marks the necessary imperfection of this set in my title. It won't please the purists, but this is the band preserving their art and their legacy by taking a stand and saying "THIS is the music we made and how we wanted it to be heard", correcting the historical wrongs carried out against their will.

This 2014 set is what Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia signed off on, like it or lump it. Volumes 1 & 2 of the Capitol Albums are still available, and these albums are available individually if you want to complete your set. They probably should have put out a Volume 3, but since that didn't happen in 2007/08, it probably never will now.

Personally, I really enjoyed this set, and it compliments the 2009 stereo and mono boxes well.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Feb 2014 14:14:14 GMT
A really good overview of this set. I read so much on forum after forum, with purists not happy, etc. I haven't heard the Dexter versions but do have all the other vinyl and cd remasters. I bought this because the replica sleeves are just beautiful and at 106, seemed too good to not go with it. Thanks again for such a clear, articulate review. Really enjoyed reading it.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Feb 2014 20:19:43 GMT
Paul F says:
Hey David

Thanks for that - I'm glad you liked my review. I just wanted to do a positive piece that celebrates what IS in the box, rather than moaning about what isn't. What kind of world do we live in where Beatles albums are getting 2/3 star reviews? Madness!

To be honest, I also don't have the Capitol albums. I'm British, and grew up with the 1987 CDs, so they're 'my' Beatles... though I can't listen to Rubber Soul, Revolver or Pepper in stereo anymore, since the Mono box came out in 2009.

I know what you mean about the negativity on forums, and I sympathise with the old school US fans to an extent, as I've also been angry with remasters of other albums I love, for not faithfully recreating the sound I remember.

For example, the original mix of The Stone Roses' 'She Bangs The Drums' from their 1989 debut has never been used in any of the subsequent re-releases on CD, most glaringly in the 2009 anniversary edition remastered by the original producer and lead singer. The tinny update simply isn't in the same league.

And it's the same with Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols. I have a great remastered version of Anarchy In The UK from 2001 on a soundtrack album, but the recently remastered album (from the original tapes, apparently) sounds leaden and dull by comparison. And I've not heard it, but many critics say the EQ on the 20th anniversary edition of Nevermind by Nirvana is a poor 2nd to the original.

But the words "rip-off" in this instance are ironic, given fans are upset that Apple have failed to faithfully remaster their beloved rip-off albums from the 60s! The band didn't authorise those mixes, and they were as much of an historical wrong as Phil Spector's meddling with Let It Be, or the decision to make only the stereo albums available for individual release in 2009, given Mono was king until at least 1968.

But I digress. It's a excellent box, and for those of us who love those little details like the miniature sleeves and booklet, it's a must have. And for any interested (but financially sensible) fans, not bothered by such things, they can just take their 2009 tracks and create playlists in the order of the American albums.

On a final note, I'm all for hearing a Yellow Submarine Songtrack-esqe remix of the whole back catalogue ("Baby You're a Rich Man" was elevated to classic status on that album), but that got slated by the traditionalists on release, so I'm not sure if it will ever see the light of day.

It's ridiculous how a trailblazing band like The Beatles have such a conservative fanbase, unable to tolerate any perceived tampering with history. About 150 tracks were mixed in 5.1 when the Anthology DVDs came out, but will they ever get released? That should be the next project. The Brian Wilson-approved remix of Pet Sounds was amazing.

Posted on 22 Feb 2014 16:56:31 GMT
BB says:
Paul F "paulpot",

Thank you for a complete, spot-on, superb review of The Beatles U.S. Albums box set that came out January 21, 2014. I am from the States and am SO HAPPY to have an obviously very knowledgeable individual on the Beatles ( and their recording history ) speak up and REALLY TELL IT LIKE IT IS. That is refreshing. Some here in the States revere Capitol Records like they are a God or something, and it is just wonderful to read a very FAIR & HONEST review on this particular Beatles box set, The U.S. Albums. Thank you very much for posting!

Posted on 22 Feb 2014 23:27:39 GMT
John Doe says:
OK I'll play the devils advocate.
1) "Well-made replica sleeves of the (cheesy) original US Albums listed above, sequenced as per the original Capitol releases, with all the surprising / baffling track listing choices associated with them". What do you expect, it's the American Albums do you want the UK covers and track list?
2) "The mixes contained on here are those approved by The Beatles and George Martin in the 60s, and NOT the butchered, fake stereo, reverb-laden... etc... tracks", sounds like you're describing the British versions, it's supposed to be the American tracks hence the name U.S. Box Set.
"correcting the historical wrongs", correct history! you can't change it. Pretending to make the American albums something they're not is what this set does. It's not a question of being a purist, it's called the U.S. Albums not the U.K. Albums so make it the U.S Albums. For the record, the 2009 re masters do sound great and that's what we have on CD(another box set). We don't need it twice.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2014 14:13:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2014 14:17:40 GMT
Paul F says:
Hey John

1) The sleeves ARE cheesy, but I also qualified that "this is how America experienced the band, and it's a fascinating history lesson for anyone who cares". I also added in my follow-up comment that "for those of us who love those little details like the miniature sleeves and booklet, it's a must have". I LIKE the cheesy sleeves!

And Capitol's practice of mixing up tracks from different albums WAS surprising/baffling, but I'm commentating from 2014. I didn't buy the box and think "woah, what the...?" when I opened it. Like I said, it's fun to view their history from a different perspective.

2) They used the UK 2009 remasters as a starting point, but the unique mixes of And I Love Her, I'm Only Sleeping, I'm Looking Through You... etc.. mentioned above are preserved for this set. It's the additional editing by Capitol (reverb/echo) that's not been included (rightly or wrongly). The band reclaiming their history, or their US fans being denied it? A bit of both.

The other main change is they've replaced the 'duophonic' (ie. fake stereo) and 'Type B mono' (ie. fake mono) mixes with the true ones.

Type B mono means folding the stereo channels into one, and Duophonic' stereo is just the mono track split into two channels. Since this box includes the original mono mix AND the proper stereo tracks on the same CDs, does that mean you get extra value for money? Or is it further evidence of Apple tampering with history? I honestly don't know.

I probably shouldn't have described Capitol's work as an "historical wrong", granted. As you say, that's what happened. But the 2004/2006 Capitol sets are still out there for comparison.

Like I said, I really like the box but I never described it as an essential purchase, partic if you already have the 2009 boxes. I also said that less spendthrift fans might just want to fiddle with the 2009 remasters, and make up American playlists of their own.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2014 14:28:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2014 14:32:42 GMT
Paul F says:
Hey BB

Thank you. I just wanted to spell out what this box is, rather than what it isn't. Personally, I think the mono tracks here have never sounded better, but that's not enough for everyone.

I've seen some very negative appraisals by people who obviously loved those original Capitol albums, and I can see why this set would be something of a disappointment for them. But the 2004/2006 boxes are still out there, and they can fill their boots with the individual releases of 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Hey Jude', 'Revolver' and 'Yesterday and Today' not included with those sets.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Feb 2014 03:38:47 GMT
John Doe says:
Buying A Hard Days Night will get you the correct mono album. Since no true stereo exists for the original Hard Days Night UA they made fake stereo back in the day. They replaced all but one fake stereo with the 2009 UK true stereo. I'll Cry Instead mono is on twice. It's on the stereo portion to mimic the longer fake stereo and of course the mono side.
Hey Jude and Revolver can simply be made using the 2009 UK Set(the originals were pretty much identical to the UK). Paperback Writer's channels were reversed on the US and The Ballad of John and Yoko had a different fade out.
Yesterday And Today is mostly correct in mono, Dr. Robert mono fades out early and two other mono tracks are not the original US versions. The Stereo is a mess, eleven songs stereo and only two are correct(original). The four Rubber Soul songs and the two Help songs are remixed(not original) and the three Revolver tracks are UK stereo mixes not original US mixes.
As you can see only A Hard Days Night is worth buying.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2014 22:13:24 GMT
Paul F says:
I can appreciate why a lot of American fans might see this set as a disappointment, but I didn't grow up with those old Capitol albums, so I'm only seeing it for what is here, rather than what isn't.

If nothing else, the dynamic mono mixes here make the same tracks on the 2009 Mono box seem quite flat by comparison, hence why it's proved to be a worthwhile purchase for me. I've made a few CD-Rs using the tracks from this boxset, but re-sequencing them into playlists per the original UK albums, and they definitely sound better.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2014 22:48:56 GMT
John Doe says:
What's funny is while growing up, me and a million of other North Americans thought the UK albums were the "bastardized" versions. I'm not knocking the 2009 mixes(I own them and they sound great), it's just for the new set a lot of it is not authentic. If I were from the UK I would like to hear The Beatles from an American perspective so I understand the interest in the American versions. You are getting the packages and the track listings but you're missing out on what we heard. Us over here (North America) feel with the 2009 sets we can make our own versions for the most part(90% at least)hence the disappointment.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Feb 2014 18:51:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Feb 2014 18:51:28 GMT
Paul F says:
Hi John

This link is quite useful for confirming which mixes they used, and how they differ to the 2009 remasters:

http://store.universal-music.co.uk/restofworld/rock/the-beatles-the-us-albums-cd-box-set/invt/0602537614127?gclid=CNfckbL77LwCFSEHwwodGCkAlQ

For example, I've found differences like John's double-tracked vocal on the stereo version of 'The Word' since reading this.

What's the sound quality like on the 2004/2006 Capitol boxes? Do they match the records you grew up with?
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