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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 11-13 of 13 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2014 21:41:41 GMT
John Doe says:
The American Beatle fans in the 60's were 12 to 14 years old (I was one of them). We had no knowledge of any UK albums. We had no internet to gain information of what was being butchered or who was unhappy with the American releases. The odd import from the UK was foreign to us and we thought they were the black sheep of the family. Hindsight is 20 20. Knowing what we know today the UK albums were the way The Beatles wanted it. I had no problem accepting the CD catalogue based on the UK Versions. Apple started the ball rolling by releasing history (what we thought was the originals) with the Capitol Albums Volume 1 and 2. I'd like to see them finish what they started. I don't think the new set does that. I and many North Americans don't feel that the American albums are artistically inferior. My reference to Rubber Soul was a dig at that statement. I would like to go on record to state that Mr. L. F. G. Ballinger Did Not refer to Rubber Soul as an artistic disaster, that was my literary contribution.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2014 20:11:07 GMT
Gerard Masters says:
So, the 2009 songs are 'wetter' sounding on this box compared to the 2009 stereo/mono boxes??? If so, that's a good thing.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2014 20:59:05 GMT
Bertram christmas says:
In most cases they are identical to the 2009 remasters, but perhaps just a bit louder. If wetter, it's usually one of the unique US mixes included.