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THE BEATLES - FROM A STATESIDE PERSPECTIVE...,
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This review is from: The US Albums (Audio CD)
Undoubtedly, there will be those who believe that this boxed set of Beatles albums packaged together in their American configurations is a cynical attempt to eke out yet more revenue from one of the most prestigious catalogues in the history of popular music. It is also safe to assume that the majority of Beatles fans would agree with the viewpoint that these collections are artistically inferior to the original British editions upon which they were based and which, at the time of their original release, made The Beatles themselves become progressively more frustrated with the interference of their American label, Capitol Records, upon their ever-evolving sound. Nevertheless, as we look back over what is now half a century since The Beatles first landed on American soil, these albums clearly have their place in history and help to illustrate the true impact of Beatlemania, with six of these records finding their release during 1964 alone.
MEET THE BEATLES, THE BEATLES' SECOND ALBUM, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, SOMETHING NEW, THE BEATLES' STORY and BEATLES '65 were all greeted with rapture by an insatiable public hungry for product and released by a record company which was arguably trying to glean as much as possible from the Fab Four before this presumed fad would burn itself out and a fresh, new homegrown band would usurp The Beatles' popularity. Of course, hindsight informs us that this never happened, but it was undoubtedly the "game plan" discussed by Capitol Records' executives in the board room at the time. Indeed, it was remarkable how the label was able to stretch out four British albums and half a dozen or so singles in quite the way that it did. Of these, MEET THE BEATLES and BEATLES '65 are perhaps the strongest collections in this group, resembling as they do the UK releases WITH THE BEATLES (1963) and BEATLES FOR SALE (1964) respectively. However, the likes of SOMETHING NEW and the interview album THE BEATLES' STORY (originally a double album but compressed to a single CD here) were rather more blatant cash-ins. SOMETHING NEW was issued just a month after the A HARD DAY'S NIGHT soundtrack and, what's more, half of its contents was already available on A HARD DAY'S NIGHT! Speaking of which, this latter album was released in the States as a genuine film soundtrack, containing just the songs from the film (plus 'I'll Cry Instead') bolstered by a crop of orchestrally arranged instrumental versions of the film songs. As the essay contained within the booklet suggests, fans were no doubt beginning to feel a little short-changed by such releases and even Capitol were relieved when they could plunder BEATLES FOR SALE - the product of the band's latest recording sessions back home in London - to assemble a whole new album entitled BEATLES '65 and get it out to the shops just in time for Christmas.
The "exploitation" continued into 1965 with the release of the somewhat implausibly titled THE EARLY BEATLES, a grab-bag of 1963 Beatles leftovers (it's essentially the UK PLEASE PLEASE ME album with the tracks jumbled up) which had been the property of the band's original US label, VeeJay. With VeeJay's license to issue Beatles tracks having expired, Capitol eagerly reissued them to what was now a more receptive public. Next came BEATLES VI (by and large a mash-up of the rest of BEATLES FOR SALE and the UK non-soundtrack side two of HELP!) and then the HELP! soundtrack album itself, a lavish gatefold affair featuring once again only the actual songs from the film accompanied by incidental music laced with a then unusual Indian theme, all of which was scored by Ken Thorne this time around as opposed to the perhaps more expected George Martin. Nevertheless, the US edition of HELP! spent nine weeks at Number One.
It was the release of the American version of RUBBER SOUL in December 1965 which conceivably witnessed The Beatles frustrations with Capitol over the standard of their Stateside releases come to a head. This supremely pivotal album in the group's development had such gems as 'Drive My Car' and 'Nowhere Man' removed in favour of the HELP! leftovers 'It's Only Love' and 'I've Just Seen A Face'; the latter track was used to open the album in place of 'Drive My Car' and it sounds very odd in this context. Beach Boy Brian Wilson claimed that hearing RUBBER SOUL for the first time inspired him to write his band's masterpiece, PET SOUNDS (1966); if so, imagine what he may have come up with had he heard RUBBER SOUL in the sequence that British fans did!
Yet despite Capitol's seemingly rapacious quest for new Beatles music, even they only managed to cobble together two Beatles albums for 1966. The infamously packaged YESTERDAY... AND TODAY arrived in June, encased in that controversial "butcher" cover (impeccably reproduced here) and comprised from bits of RUBBER SOUL, yet more numbers from HELP!, the 'Day Tripper'/'We Can Work It Out' single and three newly recorded works from the forthcoming REVOLVER which, when released in the States just two months later, featured only 11 of the 14 tracks contained on the stellar UK original. By February of 1967, The Beatles had renegotiated their contract and (MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR aside) future Beatles albums released in America would mirror their UK counterparts.
February 1970's HEY JUDE compilation was the last assemblage designed for the American market, although it saw release in many other countries too - except Britain. Allowing fans the opportunity to buy the epic title track and a number of other non-album Beatles singles like 'Paperback Writer' and 'Lady Madonna' in both long-playing and stereo formats for the first time, HEY JUDE was a huge seller, bridging the gap between the sublime ABBEY ROAD (1969) and the shambolic swansong of LET IT BE (released in May of 1970).
Of course, on a personal basis, I would never claim that any of these American Beatles albums eclipse their original British editions. But it bears testament to the power and endurance of the band's music that they are all still thoroughly enjoyable. The packaging of this set is delightful, with all of the albums presented in replica sleeves which are also made from that thicker brand of cardboard typically used on American album covers of the period. YESTERDAY... AND TODAY also comes with a stick-on replacement "packing case" cover shot which you can paste over the "butcher" sleeve if you wish (although quite who will want to risk doing this, I'm not really sure), while the box itself sits nicely alongside THE BEALTES IN MONO set.
Finally though, and with what will undoubtedly be greeted with a certain amount of controversy by the purists, we move on to the sound quality. By and large, the albums sound rich and weighty, with each one (with the exception of THE BEATLES STORY and HEY JUDE) being presented in both its mono and stereo editions and although the original Capitol master tapes have crucially NOT been used in reconstructing these albums (the 2009 remasters have been employed), the variant mixes and edits of certain tracks which were prepared in London by George Martin have, however, been utilised in order to preserve the qualities which made The Beatles' US albums unique (like, for example, the false start which occurs on the stereo version of 'I'm Loooking Through You' from RUBBER SOUL but which was absent from the UK stereo master, as well as the considerable amount of echo which is present on both 'I Feel Fine' and 'She's A Woman' from BEATLES '65). The booklet explains that the decision to not go with the original Capitol tapes was taken due to the presence of such things as "duophonic" (false stereo) tracks on a number of the original albums, along with the fact that some songs on the US LPs were apparently mastered from as much as fourth-generation tapes. Ultimately, it was felt that the Capitol tapes would not deliver the best possible listening experience and that, back in the 1960s, Capitol had also quite pertinently altered such things as the bass frequencies in order to take into account the household playback equipment of the time, along with generally doctoring The Beatles' sound with added reverb in an effort to make the band sound "more American".
True, this boxed set is pretty expensive and it is probably aimed largely at The Beatles' completist. However, these albums are unquestionably a part of Beatles history and provide us British fans with an idea of how The Beatles slammed head-on into the American consciousness. It is nice to see them available again.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Feb 2014 17:05:01 GMT
Mr. D. T. Edwards says:
Excellent, informative review. Still debating whether to buy this or not. You've given me much food for thought. Thanks.
Posted on 2 Feb 2014 16:34:42 GMT
John Kelly says:
A great overview..I'm still sitting on the fence as to whether to buy the set...we'll see..
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 17:32:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2014 21:17:44 GMT
What is not mentioned in your review, and a key factor at that, is that the Capitol Records Master tapes were NOT used for this production. This is causing quite a bit of furor over here in the USA. For the most part, the 2009 Re-masters have been used. Duo-phonic US mixes have been replaced by UK mixes, much echo and reverb is gone and so on and so on. What is in this box bears little resemblance to what 1st and 2nd generation US Beatles fans actually heard on those US pressed albums. Many are buying the set not realizing this, only to become later disapointed, especially if they already own the 2009 Re-masters. It was wrong to ship all those copies out without a disclaimer stuck on them. Without such disclaimer on the box, the sets actual title really should be: The US Albums ... Naked OR The Alternate US albums.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2014 19:41:15 GMT
Mr. D. T. Edwards says:
Thats handy to know. It's a real shame that these are not the original American mixes as that really would have made the set worth buying. As it is we're getting nothing new, just exactly the same songs all over again, only arranged in a different order. Can't really justify spending £150 just to get some nice alternative sleeves and a box!
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2014 21:28:56 GMT
There are about 22 unique US mixes to be heard on this set (mostly Mono, but a couple of Stereos) which were prepared by George Martin. All else is 2009 Re-Masters. For the true US Capitol mixes, you can have the first eight Capitol albums in Mono and Stereo on the now withdrawn Capitol Albums Volumes 1 + 2 sets. There are also the excellent Dr. Ebbett's pirates, which one can get as individual Mono or Stereo issues, or via the Dr. Ebbett's American Archive series with both genuine Capitol Mono + Stereo mixes on one disc. Dr. Ebbett's also has both Stereo versions of Yesterday + Today available. The first Stereo version has the 3 Revolver songs in Duo-phonic, the second true Stereo version arrived some years later. If you want Ebbett's Y+T Stereo original, order the butcher cover version, for the true Stereo order the white trunk cover version. Same formula applies to the individual and American Archive editions. Same original Capitol Mono Y+T mixes on all. Dr. Ebbett's can be gotten from jagamart dot com They are all 1st rate vinyl transfers, from previously unplayed vinyl. They do sound warmer and somewhat less digitized officially released Capitol Albums Vols. 1 + 2.
Posted on 4 Feb 2014 22:11:48 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Feb 2014 00:34:14 GMT
John Doe says:
"The majority of Beatles fans would agree with the viewpoint that these collections are artistically inferior to the original British editions upon which they were based and which, at the time of their original release, made The Beatles themselves become progressively more frustrated with the interference of their American label" Your quote Mr. L. F. G. Ballinger "luke78ashleydrve". Now I'd like to add, yet these frustrating and artistically inferior Capitol albums brought The Beatles to the attention of millions of North American Beatle fans. Like they say and the rest is history. Oh yeah the American Rubber Soul, what a artistic disaster. Not.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2014 23:30:32 GMT
I PREFER THE CAPITOL MASTERS!! THEY ARE WETTER - DUOPHONIC OR NO!!! The earlier recordings just sound SO dry in the original UK versions. Most would agree that the US Rubber Soul is superior to the UK, despite fewer songs.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2014 23:58:07 GMT
John Doe says:
Hey Bertram I hope you're not yelling at me, I agree with you.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2014 00:45:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Feb 2014 00:46:44 GMT
No not yelling. Should have remembered the internet rule. Sorry.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2014 20:28:42 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Feb 2014 21:34:14 GMT
Mr. L. F. G. Ballinger says:
I am not suggesting that the American RUBBER SOUL is an "artistic disaster" (your words, John Doe, not mine). If you continued to read my review, you will notice that I pointed out that it says much about the quality of The Beatles' music that these US albums are still thoroughly enjoyable. However, you've got to admit that if the band had wanted 'It's Only Love' on RUBBER SOUL they would have held it back for a later date. Its writer, John Lennon, never did particularly like the song, by all accounts, and so for him to have seen it on the US version instead of his newer composition 'Nowhere Man', he may well have felt understandably peeved at "Capitol's interference".