On our latest “Things We Said Today” radio show that premiered Jan. 18, Ken Michaels and yours truly talked about the new “The U.S. Albums” box set coming Tuesday in the U.S. In preparation for the show, yours truly did an A/B comparison of the 25-track sampler through headphones against past releases, both from legitimate and “rare import” sources, which we discuss during the show. Helping us along was the book "Every Little Thing" and Joe Brennan's very useful "The Usenet Guide to Beatles Variations" (which everyone should bookmark if they haven't already).
Since I only had the sampler to go by, it wasn't possible to hear how all the exclusive-to-America songs sounded. I did, however, get to compare some of them. And though the results weren't definitive, they did reveal some real information and we want to here provide at least a little information instead of adding to the speculation that's been rampant.
First, forget the rumor that there are no U.S. variations on the set. That's not true. The sampler included the box set's version of “Help!” and the orchestral prelude that was heard on the U.S. album release is there. Another example is “If I Fell,” which has the double-tracked introduction by John Lennon that was found on “Something New.”
A significant plus is the mono “And I Love Her,” which has the single-tracked Paul McCartney introduction, which matches the United Artists version. The remastered version has a double-tracked intro.
But one disappointment was the stereo “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which appeared to be the remastered cut, complete with an “ooooooooooo” about 1:53 into the song as on the 2009 issues.
In general, while we didn't do a second-by-second comparison, the mono tracks on the sampler seem to have better midrange and a fuller sound than the earlier versions.
A few tracks doesn't make a complete review, but here's the thing: The original Capitol mixes were sharply criticized, especially after the release of the first CDs in 1986. Do fans really want those echoey mixes? Judging from the internet comments, some do. But years after the set is released, will the decision to go for better sounding tracks on “The U.S. Albums” be a blip on the radar or a wise decision? And, to that end, is the set more for the general public for the 50th anniversary rather than the diehard collector, who probably already has the two "The Capitol Versions" sets?
One suggestion: If you really care about those mixes and you don't have “The Capitol Versions” sets, you might want to get them and soon. It's likely they won't be around forever.
And be sure and check out our “Things We Said Today” show in which Ken Michaels and myself intensely discuss the set.
(Win the individual albums at Ken Michaels' website.)
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