Do you need to spend $50-$70 on Beatles CDs of songs you may already own? Take this simple test to determine whether you need to purchase the new four-CD box set The Capitol Albums Vol. 1.
1. Are you a hardcore Beatles fan that collects everything with the word "Beatles" on it? If yes, then go to 8.
2. Do you dislike the Beatles, especially the mop-top early Beatles? If yes, go to 7.
3. Are you a casual Beatles fan, who bought the collections "1" or "1962-1966"/"1967-1970" and are content with "just the hits." If yes, then go to 7.
4. Are you nostalgic for your old Beatles LPs, which lie scratched and unlistened in your attic? Do you bemoan Parlophone's decision in the 1980s to release the Beatles albums in their original British format? If you respond yes to either of these questions, go to 8.
5. Are you a casual Beatles fan who is looking to expand your collection? Are you a moderate Beatles fan (perhaps with a limited budget) that will research new purchases to see if it is worth your investment? If you respond to either of these questions with a yes, go to 6.
6. Congratulations. You are wondering if this box set is for you. Read the review below to help you decide.
By the time Beatlemania was taking shape in late 1963 in America, the Beatles had already released two 14-track LPs on EMI/Parlophone in England, Please Please Me and With the Beatles, and four singles. Parlophone had tried numerous times to get EMI/Capitol Records to release any Beatles product to the American audience, without any success. Instead, EMI gave certain singles and albums to independent labels Vee-Jay and Swan Records to release Beatles products to Americans. With Beatlemania beginning to sweep over America, Capitol finally decided to release the single I Want To Hold Your Hand and an album called Meet the Beatles. By the end of 1964, four Beatles LPs would be released in the U.S. (a fifth, A Hard Day's Night, is not included in this box set).
The decisions to cut-and-paste tracks from the U.K. albums into new albums in the U.S. engenders some debate about the reasons why. By the time worldwide releases were unified with Sgt Pepper, Capitol had released 10 albums to Parlophone's seven, suggesting to some Capitol was trying to squeeze more money out of the American record-buying public. Others argue that Capitol was trying to maximize the songs they felt would appeal to American audiences. A third argument is that the costs of royalities were so high in the U.S. that finances dictated only 11 or 12 tracks per album, as opposed to the 14 that appeared on the British albums. Whatever the reason, the Capitol albums provide a distinctly different look and listen to the Beatles legacy. They have been unreleased in this format in this country until now.
One of the earliest Beatles albums I owned was Meet the Beatles. Americans who purchased this as their first album in 1964 were given an entirely different perspective on the Beatles than their British counterparts listening to Please Please Me. Whereas Meet the Beatles had all but one song composed by the Beatles, Please Please Me had only 8 of the 14 tracks composed by Lennon/McCartney. Nearly all the songs on Meet the Beatles were upbeat (This Boy and Till There Was You being the exceptions), compared to a larger number of slower numbers on Please Please Me.
The Capitol Albums Vol. 1 features the four albums released during 1964 in America: Meet the Beatles, The Beatles' Second Album, Something New, and Beatles '65. Each album is released on a separate CD including both stereo and mono mixes of the album. An important element to Beatles collectors, the reason for the different stereo and mono mixes is unfortunately not explained in the booklet accompanying the box set. At the time of the early Beatles recordings, monophonic was still the industry standard, with stereophonic a relatively new format. Whereas care was taken to create the mono mix, stereo mixes were usually hastily put together, oftentimes with the vocals strongly in one channel and the instrumentation strongly in the other because of the primitive two-track recording equipment at the time. Sometimes different recordings were used to create the stereo and mono mixes, allowing for differences between the stereo and mono tracks. Many of these differences may be subtle, but some were less so. For example, the American version of Thank You Girl on The Beatles' Second Album has John's harmonica flourish present in the instrumental break, but absent in the UK version on Please Please Me. The tempo on the American version seems a bit faster, as well.
Comparing these remixed Capitol CDs to the mono versions originally released on CD in the 1980s by Parlophone suggests a richer sound, too. Whether this is because of the improved remixing and remastering technology existing now compared to twenty years ago when the Beatles' CDs were originally mastered is unknown. It would have been nice if the liner notes for this booklet, written by the undisputed Beatles Scholar extraordinaire Mark Lewisohn, could have discussed these differences. His notes for this collection, in comparison to those of the Past Masters collections, are uncharacteristically superficial in this respect.
The packaging to this collection is unique---you may either love it or hate it. The CDs are stored in cardboard slip cases resembling the original album work. The four slip cases then are stored in a long thin cardboard case that folds in half to fit on your CD shelf. This inner case then fits inside a flimsy outer case. I found it difficult to slip this inner case into and out of the outer case, at times. Also, make sure to hold the outer case level as you're pulling the inner case out, otherwise, the CDs could fall out.If this review still does not answer your questions, go to this link, http://abbeyrd.best.vwh.net/capitolalbumsdebate.html, where both sides of the debate over the merits of this box set can be heard.
7. Don't purchase this box set. Spend your money wisely on independent artists. Go to 9.
8. Purchase this box set. Enjoy! Go to 9.
9. Return to the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange to read more reviews.
All songs on all four albums are presented first in stereo, then mono.
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