April 11, 2006

Album Review

The second installment of Capitol's long-awaited, ongoing series of reissues of the Beatles' American albums covers the four Fab Four albums Capitol released in 1965: The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help!, and Rubber Soul. The first of these, The Early Beatles, was a quick roundup of all the material from Please Please Me that hadn't been put on an American LP and it appropriately plays like a truncated and jumbled version of their debut; it's fun, but lacks the momentum and punch of their British debut. Beatles VI, whose very title suggests the ferocity of Beatlemania, since it's their sixth LP in just over a year, relies heavily on their fourth British LP, Beatles for Sale, pulling six songs from that album ("Kansas City," "Eight Days a Week," "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," "Words of Love," "What You're Doing," "Every Little Thing"), adding to the mix a couple of new songs that would later show up on Help! ("You Like Me Too Much," "Tell Me What You See"), a pair of Larry Williams covers ("Bad Boy," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie"), and "Yes It Is," originally released as the B-side to "Ticket to Ride." Since it's culled exclusively from late 1964 and early 1965 material, the album winds up holding together better than some of the grab bags from 1964, and since the newer material is lighter than the excised material from Beatles for Sale -- "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" may be weary, but without the gloomy opening triptych of "No Reply," "I'm a Loser," and "Baby's in Black," the remaining songs from this album don't quite feel as dark -- Beatles VI winds up as a pretty fun snapshot of the waning days of the peak of Beatlesmania.
Help! and Rubber Soul were the first U.S. LPs to bear the same titles (along with roughly the same artwork) of their U.K. counterparts, but they still had distinctly different running orders than the albums released in Britain. The American version of Help! is designed as a soundtrack to the film of the same name, containing selections from the movie's Ken Thorne-written score interspersed between the Beatles songs. Where the U.K. Help! had 14 tracks, including music not heard in the film, the U.S. Help! is 12 tracks, with only seven songs from the group -- just the songs actually heard in the film. The result is a distinctly different listening experience, one that's certainly not as satisfying as the U.K. LP, yet there is a certain charm to Thorne's exotica-tinged, swinging-'60s score, particularly to the James Bondian fanfare that opens the album, that helps make the U.S. version of Help! a fun nostalgia trip. The American Rubber Soul is also different than its British cousin, removing four songs from the U.K. version ("Drive My Car," "Nowhere Man," "What Goes On," "If I Needed Someone") and replacing them with two tunes from the U.K. Help! ("I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love"). The new tunes open up each side of the record, but the sequencing remains roughly the same as it is on the U.K. version, yet the U.S. LP does wind up with a subtly different feel than its British counterpart; by opening with the folky "I've Just Seen a Face" and omitting rockers and trebly pop songs, Rubber Soul winds up feeling like the Beatles' reaction to America's folk-rock movement of 1965, which is a feel that some listeners prefer.
As on the first Capitol Albums box, each of the four albums contains the original stereo and mono mixes for each LP (initial pressings contained incorrect mono mixes for Beatles VI and Rubber Soul, which were folded down for the stereo mixes instead of the original mono mixes, but this error was quickly corrected). Where several of the 1964 LPs on the first set were bathed in echo and were in fake stereo, the four 1965 records -- with the exception of The Early Beatles, which has such an extreme hard pan on its fake stereo that it is a bit difficult to listen to on headphones -- were not dressed up in as much post-production studio trickery and the stereo sounds natural, so the mixes aren't as disorienting as they were on, say, Second Album. There are some subtle differences between mixes -- and one not-so-subtle difference: the stereo version of "I'm Looking Through You" begins with a false start -- but most of these will only be noticeable only to the hardcore fans, who are indeed the target for this set. And like last time out, they should be pleased with this set, despite its flaws, chief among them the packaging. Like Capitol Albums, Vol. 1, this set has an ugly front cover that makes it seem like a Reader's Digest exclusive, the cardboard on the slipcase as well as the individual mini-LP reproductions feels flimsy (and Help!, which was originally a gatefold, is not a gatefold here), and the set feels like it could have been put together with more care. That said, there are some improvements this time around. The set has been issued as a (roughly) CD-sized box, which is preferable to the longbox of the first set, and Bruce Spizer's notes do an excellent job detailing the histories of these American LPs. And, of course, the sound is much, much better than the sound on the CDs for the regular albums, which are now nearly 20 years out of date. That sound, along with the nostalgic joy of getting these American incarnations on CD, is the main reason the hardcore fans will be more than happy to forgive this set its few flaws and simply enjoy the many pleasures of this collectors-oriented set.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Love Me Do [Stereo]
  2. Twist and Shout [Stereo]
  3. Anna (Go to Him) [Stereo]
  4. Chains [Stereo]
  5. Boys [Stereo]
  6. Ask Me Why [Stereo]
  7. Please Please Me [Stereo]
  8. P.S. I Love You [Stereo]
  9. Baby It's You [Stereo]
  10. A Taste of Honey [Stereo]
  11. Do You Want to Know a Secret [Stereo]
  12. Love Me Do [Mono Version]
  13. Twist and Shout [Mono Version]
  14. Anna (Go to Him) [Mono Version]
  15. Chains [Mono Version]
  16. Boys [Mono Version]
  17. Ask Me Why [Mono Version]
  18. Please Please Me [Mono Version]
  19. P.S. I Love You [Mono Version]
  20. Baby It's You [Mono Version]
  21. A Taste of Honey [Mono Version]
  22. Do You Want to Know a Secret [Mono Version]
  23. Kansas City [Stereo]
  24. Eight Days a Week [Stereo]
  25. You Like Me Too Much [Stereo]
  26. Bad Boy [Stereo]
  27. I Don't Want to Spoil the Party [Stereo]
  28. Words of Love [Stereo]
  29. What You're Doing [Stereo]
  30. Yes It Is [Stereo]
  31. Dizzy Miss Lizzie [Stereo]
  32. Tell Me What You See [Stereo]
  33. Every Little Thing [Stereo]
  34. Kansas City [Mono Version]
  35. Eight Days a Week [Mono Version]
  36. You Like Me Too Much [Mono Version]
  37. Bad Boy [Mono Version]
  38. I Don't Want to Spoil the Party [Mono Version]
  39. Words of Love [Mono Version]
  40. What You're Doing [Mono Version]
  41. Yes It Is [Mono Version]
  42. Dizzy Miss Lizzie [Mono Version]
  43. Tell Me What You See [Mono Version]
  44. Every Little Thing [Mono Version]
  45. Help! [Stereo]
  46. The Night Before [Stereo]
  47. From Me to You Fantasy [Stereo][Instrumental]
  48. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away [Stereo]
  49. I Need You [Stereo]
  50. In the Tyrol [Stereo][Instrumental]
  51. Another Girl [Stereo]
  52. Another Hard Day's Night [Stereo][Instrumental]
  53. Ticket to Ride [Stereo]
  54. The Bitter End/You Can't Do That [Stereo][Instrumental]
  55. You're Gonna Lose That Girl [Stereo]
  56. The Chase [Stereo][Instrumental]
  57. Help! [Mono Version]
  58. The Night Before [Mono Version]
  59. From Me to You Fantasy [Mono Version][Instrumental]
  60. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away [Mono Version]
  61. I Need You [Mono Version]
  62. In the Tyrol [Mono Version][Instrumental]
  63. Another Girl [Mono Version]
  64. Another Hard Day's Night [Mono Version][Instrumental]
  65. Ticket to Ride [Mono Version]
  66. The Bitter End/You Can't Do That [Mono Version][Instrumental]
  67. You're Gonna Lose That Girl [Mono Version]
  68. The Chase [Mono Version][Instrumental]
  69. I've Just Seen a Face [Stereo]
  70. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) [Stereo]
  71. You Won't See Me [Stereo]
  72. Think for Yourself [Stereo]
  73. The Word [Stereo]
  74. Michelle [Stereo]
  75. It's Only Love [Stereo]
  76. Girl [Stereo]
  77. I'm Looking Through You [Stereo]
  78. In My Life [Stereo]
  79. Wait [Stereo]
  80. Run for Your Life [Stereo]
  81. I've Just Seen a Face [Mono Version]
  82. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) [Mono Version]
  83. You Won't See Me [Mono Version]
  84. Think for Yourself [Mono Version]
  85. The Word [Mono Version]
  86. Michelle [Mono Version]
  87. It's Only Love [Mono Version]
  88. Girl [Mono Version]
  89. I'm Looking Through You [Mono Version]
  90. In My Life [Mono Version]
  91. Wait [Mono Version]
  92. Run for Your Life [Mono Version]