Reissue Review: The Beatles, “The U.S. Albums”

Written by Music, Reissue Reviews


As a lifelong Beatles obsessive, I could ruminate and pontificate about the various permutations of Beatles albums.  As we all know, Capitol Records in the U.S. saw fit to reconfigure the band’s U.K. output to fit the American market.  They also gave them a different, more radio-friendly mix – more reverb and echo to suit A.M. radio.  To a degree, it worked, because these are the albums I grew up with as a child and know from memory (until I grew older and sophisticated enough to hunt down all the “proper” British releases).  In many ways, I preferred the Capitol releases because they sounded better; the British versions always sounded dry and flat; they didn’t have that boisterousness I loved in the American versions.

And that’s the problem with this new boxset.  I give Capitol full marks for the presentation – a magnificent job done on replicating each of the original album covers, with the “File Under:” tabs in the upper right hand corner; the “stereophonic” marking on the spine – even the generic Capitol sleeves inside.  They are exact.  The fact that the legendary “butcher” cover of Yesterday…  & Today is given an official release makes it worth the price of purchase.  Even seeing the old United Artists Records label for the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack brings back a flood of happy childhood memories.  But that’s where it stops.  With the visual presentation.

This boxset predominantly uses the mixes already employed in the complete Beatles box that was released in 2009 – both  stereo and mono versions.  So all you really have here are the American configurations.  In this respect, the two boxsets that were previously issued by Capitol are the superior versions for the sound (Capitol’s old “duophonic” stereo) – it is on those editions, you hear the American mixes – the most obvious is on the Beatles ’65 album – the sonic quality of “She’s A Woman” and “I Feel Fine”.  There are moments here, though – the “American” version of “I’m Only Sleeping” on Yesterday…  & Today; to me, the “proper” opening for “I’m Looking Through You” on Rubber Soul; there are some points of interest.

All in all, it’s really only for the collector or Beatle-phile (like me).  And it does include the long-deleted The Beatles’ Story documentary album, which will not be available commercially.  If you don’t know The Beatles as well as you should, this is an excellent primer.  If you do know them, I would say seek out the first two Capitol U.S. albums sets (note:  those do not include A Hard Day’s Night, Yesterday… & Today, Revolver or Hey Jude).