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The Beatles - The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2 Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 July 2006
format:    24-bit stereo CDs(4)
performance:    9.5
sound:    9.5
release year:    2006
label:    Apple/Capitol/EMI
reviewed by:    Stephen K. Peeples

ImageEditor’s Note: Peeples was Editorial Manager at Capitol Records’ Press & Artist Relations department in Hollywood from 1977-80, and assisted the producers of the label’s Beatles Rarities album. From Jan. 1988 - June 1990 he was the original, award-winning writer/producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series, responsible for the first 128 hour-long episodes heard internationally via the Westwood One Radio Network.

Capitol Records compiled and released The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help! and Rubber Soul in America during 1965, when the quartet from Liverpool ruled the world as no band had ever done before, and none since.

Debuting on CD in April to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of the Beatles’ takeover of the Billboard Hot 100 with 14 singles, The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2 box set recreates the way young American teens like me – and, increasingly, our parents – experienced Beatlemania in its second full year.

With CD sleeves replicating the original album covers and a 60-page booklet stuffed with notes by Bruce Spizer and quotes from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the set is a memories-packed nostalgia trip for those of us who have these sequences seared in our synapses, and can remember when this music was everywhere, all the time.

If you’re just getting into the Beatles and buying albums, the place to start is still the British catalogue, plus the two Past Masters CDs which compile the U.K. singles. They’re your touchstones. Then go for the American perspective with The Capitol Albums and the set’s accompanying notes. Talk to your parents, if you dare. They might go on forever talking about this band, and what went on with them in 1965.
The set’s value to Beatles collectors is that of the 92 tracks, stereo and mono mixes of each of the 46 – 82 making their CD debut. Even the most hardcore among us must concede it makes things easier to have them all in one place.

The Early Beatles sports nine early classics in stereo on CD for the first time. The Beatles VI CD includes five stereo mixes debuting on disc – the much-maligned stereo-to-mono mixdowns Capitol did while adding echo and reverb – plus four original mono versions mixed by George Martin in 1965.

Capitol’s Help! soundtrack album includes CD debuts of five instrumental tracks from the movie, plus five original Martin stereo mixes. And this Rubber Soul features the CD debut of the discrete left-channel/right -channel stereo mixes done back then by Martin, who remixed them more contemporaneously in 1987 for the CD reissue of the album’s original British configuration.

Two of the “stereo” mixes are actually unique-to-Capitol “Duophonic” mixes, a technique created by Capitol Studios engineers. Using mono masters, they’d turn up the treble in one channel, pump up the bass in the other, then play back and record the two channels slightly out of sync, creating a facsimile stereo sound.

Check out the accompanying track lists below for more details on all four albums.

Differing from the original British albums in number of tracks and sequencing as well as mixes, Capitol’s 1965 Beatles albums reflected another mindset there, thematically speaking: to “capitol-ize” on the label’s phenomenal good fortune in 1964, and keep making as much money as possible before the Fab Four fad faded – which could happen tomorrow.

Capitol rejiggered the tracks for a couple of reasons, one financial and the other creative, but driven by marketing. The first was to adhere to then-current American song publishing royalty rates based on the number of tracks per album, generally two or three fewer than U.K. albums. The other had to do with Capitol’s marketing strategy, specifically targeting the impressionable ears of young American audiences with “Americanized” mixes that sounded like the rest of the stuff on Top 40 radio here.

The first time I heard the 46 songs on these albums as an eighth- and ninth-grader in South Florida in 1965, it was on either WQAM or WFUN (or at night, WABC over the ocean from New York), through a tinny two-inch six-transistor radio speaker or a slightly larger car radio speaker, or on my cheesy portable record player. In mono. I bought or was given each of these albums literally the first day they hit the stores, and played them to death. At the time, few American kids had a clue what Capitol was doing to the band’s original records, or would have cared.

Over the years, we came to know more of the story behind the Capitol albums. At first, in 1963, label brass had been slow to pick up on Beatlemania. They passed on releasing the band’s first British singles and album, Please Please Me, so VeeJay snagged the rights and released it in the States first, as Introducing the Beatles. But when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” exploded at the tail end of ’63 (as the country mourned its assassinated president), Capitol finally jumped into motion, and did a stupendous marketing job after that.

By April 4, 1964, in the wake of the band’s first three record-breaking appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles were Beatles singles. The following week, April 11, there were 14 Beatles hits on the Hot 100, on Capitol plus Vee Jay, Swan and Tollie – the indie labels that had released those Beatles records in the U.S. after Capitol had turned them down in ’63.

The Beatles ’65 album, in stores in time for Christmas 1964, capped a phenomenal year. By then, Capitol had paid off the indies and regained the rights to all Beatles tracks, and knew just how to milk its new cash cow, which it did throughout 1965 with great vigor and fiscal regularity.

Back at the end of the year’s first quarter, The Early Beatles was archival pre-U.S. Beatlemania material mostly from the first British album, Please Please Me. I bought it because I’d already thrashed my copy of Introducing the Beatles (too bad – it’d be worth lots now in better shape), but most American fans passed, and The Early Beatles peaked at # 43.

No big deal; during spring ’65, while the band was shooting its second movie and “smoking marijuana for breakfast,” as Lennon later put it, Capitol’s milk pails were kept overflowing by 1964’s Meet the Beatles, The Beatles’ Second Album, Something New and Beatles ’65 (all collected in The Capitol Albums Vol. 1 box set in 2004).

In mid-June ’65, just as American school kids started their summer vacations, Capitol dropped Beatles VI. The album gathered single sides like “Eight Days a Week,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and “Yes It Is,” mixed in with some of the recycled American R&B and rock and roll the Fabs had grown up with and played onstage early on in Liverpool and Hamburg. “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” and “Bad Boy” were among the last Beatles recordings that echoed the hard-swinging, full-throttle rock and roll performances that had turned Europe on its ear. Not surprisingly, Beatles VI reclaimed the # 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard album chart, locking in for – appropriately – six weeks.

Out late in summer 1965 (a season also memorable for the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” – or lack thereof), the Help! soundtrack album combined a handful of new Beatles songs roughly fitting the movie’s wack storyline, plus instrumental interludes veering stylistically from swingin’ ’60s jazz-waltz to sitar-drenched drones. The album was # 1 for nine weeks, well into the fall.

We had no clue until way later that Lennon had been deep in what he’d call his “Fat Elvis” period, and seriously pleading for his sanity with songs such as “Help!” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”

By spring ’65, he and his bandmates were writing more often from personal experience, inspired in part by American contemporary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, whose epic “Like a Rolling Stone” was another defining moment of that epochal summer and fall (along with Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as covered by the Byrds, who were fronted by Beatles fans Jim nee Roger McGuinn and David Crosby).

Nor had we yet learned that the Beatles had been introduced to LSD early in ‘65 by George Harrison’s dentist, or even that Dylan had turned the Fabs on to pot the year before.

Those are other movies altogether, but the point is that the cross-flow of musical influences and experimentation with mind-expanding drugs that year changed the Beatles, their music, and rock history.

When released in early December 1965, Rubber Soul seemed to connect the U.K. directly with America’s Dylan/Byrds East Coast/West Coast folk-rock explosion. The songs and recordings made by Lennon, McCartney and an emerging Harrison continued to progress and mature, and explore more adult themes and different sonic techniques and colorations. It went to # 1 and dug in for six weeks, into early 1966. That spring, the Fabs took a much-needed breather.

It’s remarkable that in about three-and-a-half years, the Beatles had gone from the grade-school simplicity of “Love Me Do” to the young-adult complexity of “Norwegian Wood,” “In My Life,” “I’m Looking Through You” and “Think for Yourself.”

That’s the span American listeners got in 1965 with these four albums – the first a “flashback” (which on Top 40 could have been two months previous), the latter three tracking the band’s continued and unprecedented progression. One prescient song, “The Word,” funky backbeat, stinging rhythm guitar, layered vocals and all, foreshadowed the anti-Vietnam War Love Generation that peaked in summer 1967, circa Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and “All You Need is Love.”

Hearing these songs years later on professional playback equipment, in mono and in some cases stereo, was a revelation. I heard the spectrum from top to bottom, heard nuances unveiled, had my appreciation enhanced.

Still, they were vinyl pressings – this quartet of albums never made it to CD. They were deleted from Capitol’s catalogue in 1987 when the original British versions released by Capitol parent EMI became the world gold standard. Working in Capitol’s editorial department 1977-80 with direct access to imports via pals downstairs in International, and then researching/writing/ producing “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series from 1988-90, I came to favor the original British versions of Beatles albums. They were, after all, mixed and sequenced as the band and their producer had intended. Using them for production was the proper thing to do.

Still, for better or worse, that’s not the way we first-generation American Beatles fans experienced the Fab Four phenomenon in 1965. These four albums were well-placed peaks in one of the best-ever years in rock and roll.

Fortunately, I was able to forget everything I’ve learned since ’65 and listened to The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 for the pure joy of it. It was a guilt-free pleasure to flash back to being 13 and 14, when there was a Beatles song that expressed just about every emotion I felt, and this music could be heard on car radios and portable transistor radios everywhere in America.

Now, with The Capitol Albums augmenting the British originals, all on CD, we American fans and collectors get to experience the Fab Four circa 1965 both ways.

Ted Jensen mastered The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 at Sterling Sound in New York, using 24-bit digital technology, with Ryan Smith assisting. They did a stellar job – especially the second time around. More on that later.

While the unique-to-Capitol mixes using reverb, echo and “Duophonic” trickery are what I first heard and are historically correct for these releases, my ears today prefer the bright, clean, dry sound of the original British mono mixes.

We must remember that Top 40 in the States was all about loud-mouthed DJs and pumped-up echo and reverb. Fortunately, Capitol doctored just a handful of tracks, and staff producer Dave Dexter went down in Beatles infamy. (More than a decade later, when I worked at the Tower in Hollywood, Dexter was referred to somewhat derisively by label mates as “the guy who put the echo on those Beatles tracks,” using the famous echo chamber buried under the parking lot.)

In the case of Rubber Soul, George Martin’s more studied, multi-channel stereo mix from 1987 sounds much better to me than his facile original did, presented here from 1965, when all the emphasis was on mono mixes, because stereo was still relatively new and few kids cared yet. Since I also have the ’87 British Rubber Soul CD in my collection, I can now have the album mixed three ways.

Speaking of collectors and collections, my review copy of The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 was the final retail version. Capitol recalled promotional and retail copies of the initial manufacturing run within days of its release – making it an instant collector’s item. A Beatles-savvy DJ named Andre Gardner from Philadelphia radio station WMGK had sussed that incorrect masters had been used for the Beatles VI and Rubber Soul CDs on his promo copy.

On what was supposed to be the mono version of “Norwegian Wood” from Rubber Soul, Gardner heard no cough between the lines “... and she told me to sit anywhere” and “... so I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair,” which meant the source was the U.S. stereo-to-mono mixdown.

Gardner also heard the acoustic guitar false start by Paul McCartney on “I’m Looking Through You,” also a tip-off that the source was the U.S. stereo version, not the mono.

He contacted L.A.-based Beatles expert Chris Carter, who connected him with Capitol and Bruce Spizer. Upon further investigation they discovered the same problem with Beatles VI, and initiated the correction and recall. People who’d already purchased boxes were offered replacements for the two discs.

In an online post on April 4, Spizer wrote that the “third-party mastering facility” had incorrectly sent the stereo-to-mono mixdowns of the two albums to the CD manufacturing plants. Capitol quickly ordered the correct mono masters delivered and another production run to replace the first one.

“Although there is no discernable difference in the sound quality of the initial run, Capitol made the adjustment for historical accuracy,” Spizer wrote.

Unless I score a box from the first run, I’ll never really know. Until then, it’s just another bit of intrigue along the Beatles’ never-ending, long and winding road.

Each disc presents the complete album in stereo followed by the complete album in mono.

The Early Beatles (released March 22, 1965)
“Love Me Do” [2]
“Twist and Shout” [1][3]

“Anna” [1][3]
“Chains” [1][3]
“Boys” [1][3]
“Ask Me Why” [1][3]
“Please Please Me” [1][3]
“P.S. I Love You” [2]
“Baby It's You” [1][3]
“A Taste of Honey” [1][3]
“Do You Want to Know a Secret” [1][3]
[1] Stereo debut on CD (nine tracks)
[2] First CD appearance of 1963 simulated stereo mix from first U.K. LP (two tracks)
[3] First CD appearance of unique Capitol stereo-to-mono mixdown (nine tracks)

“Beatles VI” (released June 14, 1965)
“Kansas City” [1][5]
“Eight Days a Week”
“You Like Me Too Much” [4] *
“Bad Boy” [4]
“I Don't Want to Spoil the Party” [1][5]
“Words of Love” [1][5]
“What You're Doing” [1][5]
“Yes It Is” [6]
“Dizzy Miss Lizzie” [4]
“Tell Me What You See” [4]
“Every Little Thing” [1][5]
[1] Stereo debut on CD (five tracks)
[4] Mono debut on CD (four tracks)
[5] First CD appearance of unique Capitol remixes with echo/reverb (five tracks)
[6] First CD appearance of unique Capitol Duophonic mix (one track)

Help! (released August 13, 1965)
“Help!” (with James Bond intro) [3][7]
“The Night Before” [3][4][8]
“From Me to You Fantasy” (Instrumental) [3][7]
“You've Got to Hide Your Love Away” [3][4][8]
“I Need You” [3][4][8]
“In the Tyrol” (Instrumental) [3][7]
“Another Girl” [3][4][8]
“Another Hard Day's Night” (Instrumental) [3][7]
“Ticket to Ride” [6]
“The Bitter End/You Can't Do That” (Instrumental) [3][7]
“You're Gonna Lose That Girl” [3][4][8]
“The Chase” (Instrumental) [3][7]
[3] First CD appearance of unique Capitol stereo-to-mono mixdown (11 tracks)
[4] Mono debut on CD (five tracks)
[6] First CD appearance of unique Capitol Duophonic mix (one track)
[7] First CD appearance in any version (six tracks)
[8] First CD appearance of original 1965 George Martin stereo mix (five tracks)

Rubber Soul (released December 6, 1965)
“I've Just Seen a Face” [4][8]
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” [4][8]
“You Won't See Me” [4][8] *
“Think For Yourself” [4][8]
“The Word” [4][8]
“Michelle” [4][8] *
“It's Only Love” [4][8] *
“Girl” [4][8]
“I'm Looking Through You” [4][8]
“In My Life” [4][8]
“Wait” [4][8]
“Run for Your Life” [4][8]
[4] Mono debut on CD (12 tracks)
[8] CD debut of original 1965 George Martin stereo mix (12 tracks)
* These four tracks were released in mono on the limited edition British EP collection, but this marks the first time they’ve appeared on a commercially-released Beatles CD.

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