1964, what a great year for music!
I remember it well.
Well actually I don’t remember it at all since as I wasn’t born until 1966 but it was a great year for music nonetheless.
Even looking back through the mists of time I can see The Beatles’ music to this day feels like a jolt of dynamite compared to what music was popular before them especially in the few years right before they broke in America.
Ah, America. Now we’ve come to the point of this particular post – The Beatles American albums.
Love ’em or leave ’em, The Beatles U.S. Capitol albums tend to generate a lot of heated discussion for fans all over the Net as those who love them are really passionate about them.
I, for one, grew up listening to the American albums and loved them at the time. I’m a second generation fan who first got the Beatles bug listening to the The Beatles 1962-1966 set (the “Red Album”) in 1975 a couple of years after it was released.
Shortly thereafter my grandmother bought me a copy of “The Beatles Second Album” (a copy on the Apple label lol) in a Sears store no less because I was fascinated by the cover that was filled with photos from The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show from February 1964.
Now, fast forward to 2014 and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles landing in America.
Capitol Records and Apple (The Beatles company Apple, not the computer company) decided to commemorate the event by issuing “The Beatles U.S. Albums” box set with the CDs also available to purchase separately.
“The Beatles U.S. Albums” set comes in a study box with a slip out tray to hold the CDs and includes a nice, thick booklet that’s chock full of good information (and photos) about the U.S. Beatles Capitol album.
The box set has the added draw of the exclusive appearance of “The Beatles Story”, a somewhat cheesy audio documentary of the group that was issued on Lp in 1964.
Of course most Beatles freaks have a soft spot for the album and Capitol wanted to entice them into buying the whole box – bingo, it worked lol!
Anyway, there was a lot of buzz on music Internet sites about the fact that instead of making direct transfers of the Capitol albums from the American Capitol master tapes, Capitol and Apple decided to mostly use the 2009 UK mono and stereo remasters and only use the unique Capitol mono and stereo mixes where appropriate.
There were a few songs mixed especially for Capitol that only exist on the U.S. album masters – thus that is what I refer to as being unique Capitol mixes.
You see the American Capitol albums were vastly different to the UK Parlophone issues. The UK albums mainly contained 14 songs and almost never had the hit singles on them. Singles were considered a separate thing in Britain, at least by The Beatles.
The U.S. albums usually had 11 or 12 songs and always contained the hit singles on them to entice buyers.
Capitol, or Dave Dexter who was assigned by Capitol to oversee The Beatles U.S. albums, had a tendency to add echo to the albums as well and make mono tracks that weren’t available in stereo into fake stereo or Duophonic as they called it.
The Capitol albums also had vastly different lineups than their British counterparts. The different lineups and shorter song selections created much more product for Capitol as there are many more U.S. albums than what The Beatles issued in the UK.
Having said all that, there is a place for the U.S. albums as they are historic artifacts of the time and valuable to go back to as that is how The Beatles broke in the U.S. and it is the way U.S. fans were introduced to The Beatles work.
Over time I have come to be more a fan of the original UK releases as I believe that is what The Beatles and their producer George Martin had intended at the time and it is how the remaining Beatles feel their legacy should be viewed or enjoyed.
A lot of Beatles fans are still, over three years later, really miffed that Capitol didn’t use the exact tapes that originally generated these U.S. Capitol albums.
For me it’s not a big issue and I’ll tell you why.
Firs off, Capitol and Apple DID release the first eight U.S. Capitol Beatles albums in 2004 and 2006 in two box sets called “The Beatles Capitol Albums” Vol. 1 and 2 which DID use the exact Capitol tapes with all the echo and fake stereo in all its glory.
And I’m so glad they did as those sets are a great timepiece and the Capitol albums are a fun listen especially “The Beatles Second Album” where the added echo actually works to make the songs really pop out at you and rock a bit harder.
Some of the Capitol albums – Meet the Beatles, The Beatles Second Album, Rubber Soul -work quite well in their Capitol forms.
Most of the time though the Capitol albums feel like the hodge podge collections they are and I prefer the clean, crisp sound of the original UK versions. The U.S. albums were a few generations removed from the original UK tapes and you can tell it by the sometimes muffled and distorted sound of the Capitol tapes.
BUT for the first time with the 2014 “The Beatles U.S. Albums” set I feel like I have the best of both worlds – great UK sound with the unique Capitol lineups. The sound of this new set is impeccable!
“The Beatles U.S. Albums” includes both mono and stereo mixes on one CD and has fantastic mini cover reproductions of the Capitol albums in sturdy cardboard as well as reproductions of the groovy Capitol inner sleeves.
Plus the mono mixes are true mono now as many of the early Capitol albums used a process where they folded down the stereo master to create fake mono and then added echo on top of that – jeesh.
To me this new set is just an extension of Capitol using the best sources to compile new immaculate versions of these historic albums.
Throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s Capitol often upgraded the sound of the Capitol albums by substituting better sources than they originally used.
Some purists vehemently hate this set but remarkably I’m not one of them. I love everything about this set and now it is my go to for listening to the Beatles early music.
Most of the unique Capitol mixes (mixes only available in U.S. and not on UK albums) are here and sound great. They missed three unique stereo mixes from the “Yesterday and Today” album but those stereo mixes were upgrades that didn’t appear until the late 60s or early 70s and weren’t available on original pressings.
Sure I’d love to have them but I can see the reasoning for making these albums represent the mixes of the first issues, well mostly.
One note: they did use the 1987 stereo remixes George Martin did for the “Help!” and “Rubber Soul” CDs which IS one of the flaws of this set. Thy should have used original stereo mixes but the new CDs sound great despite that mistake.
The 2009 masters also sound better on this set as I read that they were re-transferred from directly from the HiRez source and the mono and stereo are the same volume which gives a nice edge to the mono versions, I feel anyway.
Truly superb is how I would rate this set!
If you buy the titles individually, you may note that the labels on the individual CDs are a bit different. The CDs in the box have the original vinyl album catalog numbers on the discs where the individual ones don’t (see photos below).
The publishing info is a bit different on the labels as well between the box and individually. Nitpicky I know but that’s the kind of stuff collectors love to know. Trust me.
Oh and you also get a cool “Butcher Cover” (a story for another day) and a trunk cover sticker for the “Yesterday and Today” CD. This CD is like that whether you buy the box or individually (again, see photo below).
You’re never going to convince the naysayers, who do have a valid point, but for the novice fan or someone who bought these albums in this form originally these recreations will surely please, please.
It’s probably the obsessives anyway that even remotely care that the original vinyl had extra echo, etc.
Have a gander at the set below as well as the single releases with the black Japanese obi looking strips (yes, I couldn’t resist owning both, it’s a sickness lol!) and the promo CD for the set to boot!
It will take you back in time or let you experience another era from bygone days.