Resale Value: Capitol continues weird Beatles reissue program with a second volume
Ken Kase
4/2/2006 3:28:31 PM

"Although this collection of American Beatles releases contains a few gems, it raises more questions than it answers."

The Beatles
The Capitol Albums Volume Two

Capitol Records' attempt to reissue the American versions of the Beatles' LPs in 2004 yielded mixed results; great sound, crummy packaging. So the tradition continues with The Capitol Albums Volume Two along with its own curious discographical twists.

This boxed set contains the complete versions, in mono and stereo, of The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help! and Rubber Soul. Disc one takes a step back from where the previous collection left off. Having wrestled away the rights to material from the Please Please Me album from Chicago's Vee Jay Records, Capitol released The Early Beatles in 1965. As usual, the sound is clean and crisp but with far fewer "fake" stereo mixes--all are issued as is.

Beatles VI, a hodgepodge of tracks cobbled together from the ruins of the British LPs Beatles for Sale and Help! is certainly a welcome addition to the pool of stereo mixes currently available. The American version of Help!, in cheesy soundtrack album form with incidental music provided by Ken Thorne contains the James Bond-esque intro to the title track so familiar to American ears along with other non-Beatles cuts.. In fact, the soundtrack format of the American edition of Help! is pretty much unlistenable as an album in terms of programming. Stereo mixes of this material have long been available, so the paltry seven original songs from the film aren't much of a revelation save for the fact that the mixes are slightly different from the regular edition of the British album (which was actually remixed by George Martin for CD issue in 1987, but we won't even go there).

If Volume One bedazzled us with long lost stereo mixes, Volume Two begins the process of issuing mono versions of material from Help! and Rubber Soul which haven't been commercially available in the States in forty years. It may seem like a trifling thing to the casual fan and indeed, the mono mixes on the Help! soundtrack offer no earth-shattering revelations. But Rubber Soul contains tracks that take on a very different character in their mono incarnations. The American version of Rubber Soul contains two tracks extracted from the British Help! album--"I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love". Some American fans associate this track listing with a perceived shift to more folk-oriented rock when in fact it was just a case of happenstance. The British version of Rubber Soul is much leaner and rocking by comparison, but there are still some folks who prefer the bastardized American compilation. To each his own.

Mono mixes of Rubber Soul have been available for some time now as transfers from vinyl on various discs of ill repute, but these clandestine releases only hint at what lurks in the masters. Nit-picky fans will shriek with delight at the punchiness of "The Word" and "You Won't See Me" in their monaural form. They can also look forward to the mono versions of "Drive My Car" and "Nowhere Man" from Yesterday...And Today which will surely grace the third volume of this series sometime in the future.

Although this collection of American Beatles releases contains a few gems, it raises more questions than it answers. Why, for instance, is the A Hard Days Night soundtrack absent? EMI acquired the rights to the album when United Artists records folded twenty five years ago. If we are to be subjected to Ken Thorne's trifles on the Help album, is it not only fair that we should be subjected to George Martin's warblings as well? This hiccup in the release order is probably due to the fact that the original UA version of this release has truly wretched sound quality that no amount of digital nip and tuck could hide. Nobody ever said that this reissue program would be comprehensive, after all.

Those who really get a kick out of buying the same music several times over will be happy to learn that there are rumblings in the industry that EMI are preparing brand new issues of the original British albums with improved sound quality. In the minds of the record business, there is no such thing as a dead horse that has been thoroughly flogged. Watch NT for a review of Volume Three around the time of the apocalypse.

Watch for The Capitol Albums Volume Two on April 11.

Read NT's review of The Capitol Albums Volume One.


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