Monday, March 13, 2006

It Was Forty-One Years Ago Today

Okay, it's not as musical as the famous "twenty years ago today" line from Sgt. Pepper's, but it's fairly accurate. It was 41 years ago that The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help, and Rubber Soul were released on Capitol Records here in America--and it appears that we're going to get a chance to enjoy those four in their American editions again this April. Reports indicate that there's an imminent CD release of The Beatles: The Capitol Albums Volume Two, which will offer both stereo and mono versions of all four of those albums, duplicating the American editions that have been unavailable for about twenty years now.

That's good news for those of us who grew up with these Dave Dexter-remixed versions of the originalBeatles albums; the addition of extra echo and a rebalance to accomodate American AM radio (then the predominant form of music radio) adds an ambience that, for better or worse, became the Beatles sound here in America. Sure, the song order is also wrong--but that's the way we heard them, darn it!

Other advantages--we get the orchestral interludes on Help, as well as the James Bondish introduction. We also get a lot of songs in stereo that have previously been avialable only in mono on CD, due to a rushed remix and some bad lapses in judgment on EMI's part when they initially released the Beatles catalog on CD. They tried to deceive the world into believing that those first four British CD's were released in mono because that was the way they were recorded, and the stereo mixes were simply enhanced mono attempts at imitating a stereo sound. That's not true--the songs are in stereo. Later on, they modified the story and said that the stereo mixes were simple instruments-on-left, voices-on-right mixes done to isolate the vocal tracks. That's not true either; listen to the mixes on such songs as "I Saw Her Standing There" and you hear across-the-soundfield stereo.

Either way, it doesn't at all explain how badly they messed up Help in particular. By the time this album was released, the Beatles were working in more complex multitrack stereo--but EMI was so under the gun to get those CD's out on deadline in 1986 that they rushed the mono versions of the first four albums out there, and they've been trying to explain away their mistakes ever since then.

Now they don't have to. We got the first four American albums in stereo last year; in April, we'll have the next four in stereo. One more American Capitol Box set should complete the run; from Sgt. Pepper's on, both the British and the American albums were the same, more or less. (Well, not exactly--I just remembered that there are vast differences on Magical Mystery Tour, and there's the American Hey Jude album that never existed in England at all...)

There's one problem album, though: A Hard Day's Night. Due to contractual obligations, that album appeared not on Capitol but on United Artists. That means that the album as released here in America will very likely never see release in its soundtrack edition, complete with instrumental interludes. That's a shame; while I have it on bootleg, I'd love to have an authentic American version of the CD. (Most of the Beatles songs from that film are included on Something New, which was in the first Capitol Box.)

No comments: