It will be 50 years ago on February 7th that The Beatles landed in North America and life, as it was then known, changed forever. We should party, celebrate and renew our interest in The Beatles.
The iTunes version of “The Beatles US Albums” caught my eye. The collection is an odd one and unless you listen to all your music on an Apple portable device, it’s not the best choice. The Beatles US albums were sub-standard to the UK albums and iTunes Mastered sound is lower quality than an average CD.
There are two better choices for Box Sets that give you the complete collection of The Beatles and have more extras: The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) and The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings). I will cover them in separate stories. While I am tempted as a completeist to buy “The US Albums”, it offers less than I already own.
Whatever you do, enjoy your memories of the greatest rock and roll band. They were awesome and the songs hold up very well 50 years later.
Capital Records and The Beatles
Capital Records controlled the US/Canadian releases for The Beatles, who were on EMI/Parlophone in England. Capital was late releasing albums, had lower sound quality and fewer songs than the EMI releases. Capital actually remixed the music adding layers of reverb, compressed the sound, and lowered the bass content destroying what The Beatles and George Martin created. That aside, getting less for our money was a big irritant.
The Beatles spent considerable effort to release their albums they way they wanted them and Capital just ignored all that.
It took The Beatles fans and collectors a few years to discover the Capital problem. Those who could and cared replaced all their Capital Record Albums with the imports from EMI /Parlophone. I checked this week and all of my vinyl albums of The Beatles are EMI except the last album. That being said, there is a certain charm to the US versions.
So if you want the real Beatles releases, skip Capital Records and go right to the UK originals. Almost all the modern re-issues are made from the original UK versions with the 2009 re-masters considered the best.
The Beatles US Albums Box-Set
Amazon.com have the The U.S. Albums Box Set which includes 13 CDs from the 2009 UK re-masters, the gold standard. There is a bit of discussion on Amazon.com from people who prefer one version to the other. Some people are not happy that the Capital mixes have been ignored.
What they have done with this box set is re-assemble the UK masters in the same sequence the US Albums, but not all the albums. You get the UK versions packaged as the US albums. That’s an odd duck eh? No doubt they know people don’t pay attention to details and will just snap this up in a moment of nostalgia.
If you want a partial collection of the original US mixes, they were released as 2 box sets in 2006: The Beatles the Capitol Albums Vol. 1 (Brick Edition) and The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 (Brick).
Of course, you can rip the CD’s to your computer in any format you like once you own them. Sometimes if I really like the music, I’ll rip MP3s for mobile and WAV lossless for listening around the house.
The packaging is what I call miniature collectible. Everything fits into a nice little box.
“The CDs are packaged in miniature vinyl sleeves that faithfully recreate the original U.S. LP releases down to the finest detail, including the inner sleeves. 11 original U.S. albums presented in both mono and stereo. Hey Jude and The Beatles’ Story are in stereo only. A Hard Day’s Night [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], The Beatles’ Story, Yesterday And Today, Hey Jude and the U.S. version of Revolver are presented on CD for the first time. Yesterday And Today features the original album cover of The Beatles posing with raw meat and baby dolls. The package also comes with a collectible sticker of the subsequent Yesterday And Today cover art. Also included is a 64-page booklet which includes a new essay examining the U.S. albums and their historical significance, written by American author and television executive Bill Flanagan.” Amazon.com
There are obvious gaps in this collection like The White Album and Sgt. Peppers.
- (Disc 1) MEET THE BEATLES!
- (Disc 2) THE BEATLES’ SECOND ALBUM
- (Disc 3) A HARD DAY’S NIGHT [ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK]
- (Disc 4) SOMETHING NEW
- (Disc 5) THE BEATLES’ STORY
- (Disc 6) BEATLES ’65
- (Disc 7) THE EARLY BEATLES
- (Disc 8) BEATLES VI
- (Disc 9) HELP! [ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK]
- (Disc 10) RUBBER SOUL
- (Disc 11) YESTERDAY AND TODAY
- (Disc 12) REVOLVER
- (Disc 13) HEY JUDE
Mastered for iTunes
The Beatles US Album is also available on iTunes for $119.99. It seems like a waste of money to downgrade your music to lower quality like Mastered for iTunes but people do it. This would appeal especially to people who don’t collect CDs anymore. For something I don’t care about, MP3s are fine but for The Beatles I want the best I can get.
MP3′s are notoriously bad for music lovers and Apple does their best to make the format bearable, mostly by remastering the music to emphasize enough bass, mids and highs to trick the ear into thinking the music sounds great.
Some people don’t mind that. The loss of musical information is a trade-off for portability. Other people don’t like MP3 sound quality. Even with my hearing loss from age I can hear that MP3 sound is rough, edgy and not as musical as a CD.
I compared “Hey Jude” Mastered for iTunes and the Mono CD for this story. Mastered for iTunes seems pinched and the snare and cymbals and punchy with no detail. Paul’s voice lacks warmth and timber on the iTunes song. But I’m an old-timer right?
iTunes includes a digital booklet but no other packaging. As a nice touch, Apple will upgrade any music you purchased before of The Beatles to the new Mastered for iTunes format.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network