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Beatles' US albums reissued but UK versions still superior

A new box set collects the Beatles' US albums

This winter's 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America has brought forth a number of television documentaries and specials. It has also prompted Capitol Records to release a boxed set of the band's American albums.

The handsomely packaged discs are also being sold individually, a first for the American titles.

When the Beatles catalog was first reissued on compact disc in the 1980s, only the British versions of their albums were used. These had different track listings and frequently different titles than their American counterparts (through 1966 that is - beginning with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the US and UK editions of the Beatles' albums were exactly the same). The remastered Beatles CDs that were released in 2009 were also the British editions.

Those who have discovered the Beatles in the past twenty-five years, unlike their parents and grandparents, have accessed the band's music through the UK titles, just as the band always intended.

The albums Capitol released in America were patched together with singles and tracks from different British albums. It was a practice the Beatles supposedly protested on the quickly-pulled and now valuable first-edition cover of the US album Yesterday and Today.

The band got dressed up in butchers' coats and posed with raw meat and severed doll parts to show how they felt about the UK albums being sliced up for American consumption (although some have said they were actually protesting the escalating Vietnam War) .

In any case, Yesterday and Today was an appropriate album for that photo since it was constructed by raiding four songs from Rubber Soul and three crucial John Lennon songs from Revolver, leaving the US versions of those albums rather diminished.

The worst offenders were the soundtracks to A Hard Day's Night and Help! The British editions contained seven songs heard in the movies and seven non-movie classics. Capitol's versions had just the seven movie songs alternating with orchestral renditions of of some of the same songs.

Maybe this made them more authentic as soundtracks, but so what? What Beatlemaniac would rather hear instrumental filler than the band playing their own songs? Imagine if for years the only edition of Purple Rain you could find in this country excluded "Let's Go Crazy" and "I Would Die 4 U" and "The Beautiful Ones" and replaced them with smooth jazz interpretations of B-sides like "Erotic City."

If you're a Beatles completist or a fan who grew up with the Capitol albums in the 1960s, you may want to invest in these reissues. But for the greatest listening experience stick with the UK albums as originally conceived by the band.

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