Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Capitol Albums Vol. 1

One year after the release of "Let It Be...Naked", the scraping of the bottom of the musical barrel continued. It was decided by Apple to release the nostalgic configurations of the US 1960s releases by Capitol Records in the USA. The idea was to put out the original Capitol artwork and USA mixes to the public (both being sub-par to the UK artwork and mixes).
The first volume of the Capitol Albums was entitled "The Capitol Albums Vol. 1" as a 4-CD set, a short 12 page booklet by Bruce Spizer and a 52 page booklet with introduction by Mark Lewisohn and photos courtesy of Apple and Capitol Records. There is also a credit for Chip Madinger who supplies the Original Album Sleeves (although you would think Capitol had a few copies as well). The Bruce Spizer booklet was added to the set my myself after the fact. The date of release for this set was on or about November 15 (for the UK) November 16 (for North America) 2004.
The first four Capitol LPs include: "Meet the Beatles!", "The Beatles's Second Album", "Something New" and "Beatles '65". The catalogue number for the set is Apple 7243.
The front cover of the box has a flow of yellow (at the top) blending to orange, red and purple (at the bottom). At the top is the Beatles logo in full colours like the background and the title in white with the Capitol logo in white underneath. All this within a round black "label" with a rainbow perimeter. Underneath the "label" is a black and white photo of the Beatles circa 1964. The spine of the box has the band logo, the title (both in black), the 4 CD titles (in white). The Apple, Capitol and EMI logos are featured at the bottom of the spine along with the catalogue number.
The back of the box had the same background colours as the front and spine of the box. The back of the box also states "For the first time on CD...the original 1964 Capitol albums presented in both stereo and mono." Underneath are the front covers of the first four LPs (minus "A Hard Day's Night" which was originally released through United Artists - and minus Capitol's own documentary "The Beatles' Story" 2-LP set). The tracklisting appears beneath the album covers with a small circle showing which tracks are stereo and which are mono. Basically, the tracklist follows the order of the vinyl side one and two repeated first in stereo and then in mono. The tracklisting is followed by the website address for the band. My US copy has the Apple logo, Capitol logo, FBI WARNING logo (I'm not kidding) and the compact disc logo in the lower bottom left. The copyright information is at the bottom lower right. There is also a UPC code at the bottom left.
The actual CD cardboard covers for "Meet The Beatles!", "The Beatles Second Album", "Something New" and "Beatles '65" look like they came from used copies of the original LPs. Maybe that is what Capitol wanted, but they don't look very nice. The "Second Album" cover looks yellowish and colours on the covers look faded. Too bad. I've seen pirate CDs with the stereo mixes that look much better than this official product. The back covers are no better. The reproductions look blurry and all of them have the addition of the CDP catalogue number on the upper right (with the exception of "Second Album" which has it on the lower right). The Apple logo has been added. The tracklisting has doubled on all of them with either "stereo" or "mono" before the songs. All covers have the "file under" print with the solid black dot indicating mono on the original LPs. There are no inners.
The CD labels are made to look like the original Capitol black labels with rainbow perimeter print. All four labels has the "all rights" warning in black along the perimeter of the rainbow. The title at the top and "recorded in England" underneath (with the exception of "Meet The Beatles!"), the catalogue number and compact disc logo at the right, the Capitol logo at the left, the tracklisting at the bottom along with an Apple logo.
All four CDs and booklet come in an inner tray with openings at either end. I remember during the time of release that a lot of consumers were complaining about the CDs falling out of the inner tray due to both sides of the tray being open ended. The inner tray is split in two and can be folded inward. The inner tray mimicks the front cover while the other side of the tray has the four album covers on one side and the tracklisting on the other side.
Finally, it must be remembered that this release contains the USA mixes by the notorious Dave Dexter Jr. (bbboooooo!!!) who actually turned down the first 3 Beatles singles when offered to Capitol. Capitol Records had this guy take charge of mixing the Beatles music when Mr. Dexter Jr. has even been on record saying that he hated the Beatles !!! Anyway, let's look at each CD:
First up is "Meet The Beatles!": Only two songs ("I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy") are true mono mixes; the rest of the mono mixes for the CD are folded-down from the stereo mixes. All stereo mixes for the songs on "Meet The Beatles" are true stereo mixes with the exception of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy" which are duophonic with highs on one side and lows on the other side; in other words, fake stereo.
Second up is "The Beatles' Second Album": Eight of the tracks "Roll Over Beethoven", "You Really Got A Hold On Me", "Money", "Please Mr. Postman" "I Call Your Name", "Long Tall Sally" "You Can't Do That" and "Devil In Her Heart" are true stereo with reverb added onto them. "Thank You Girl" has a unique stereo mix from the UK (mixed on March 13 1963) with added reverb and additional harmonica. Both "She Loves You" and "I'll Get You" are fake stereo (duophonic). For the mono portion of the CD, "She Loves You", "I'll Get You" and "Thank You Girl" are true mono mixes. "Long Tall Sally" and "I Call Your Name" are mono mixes from the UK mixed March 05 1964. The rest of the tracks are folded-down stereo.
Thirdly is "Something New": The stereo portion uses true stereo mixes for all songs ("I'll Cry Instead" is edited on the stereo mix). The mono portion uses true mono mixes with the following exceptions: "And I Love Her" has an early mono mix (March 03 1964), "I'll Cry Instead" uses a different edit but still a mono mix. "Any Time At All" and "When I get Home" use different (earlier) mono mixes from the UK. "Slow Down", "Matchbox" and "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" have the same mono mixes as the UK "Long Tall Sally" EP and the German single respectively.
Last is "Beatles '65": The stereo portion uses true stereo mixes for all songs with the exception of "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman" which use fake stereo (duophonic). The mono portion uses true mono mixes of the songs with the exceptino of "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman" which retain earlier UK mono mixes (both from October 21 1964). Both have added reverb although not as much as the fake stereo versions which have TONS of reverb.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fly On The Wall

With the release of the LP/CD "Let It Be...Naked" came a bonus 45 vinyl disc (with the LP) and a bonus CD (with the CD) of material entitled "Fly On The Wall". This addition to the project is described as "A unique insight into the Beatles at work in rehearsal and in the studio during January 1969". The bonus material was released the same day as the commercial project (November 17 2003) and was included in the gatefold cover of the LP and as a second CD. All of the segments contained on the bonus material are from the Nagra A rolls which were used to sync up to the film during the making of the "Let It Be" movie.
All segments last less than two minutes with some of the segments lasting only a few seconds. Unfortunately, there is no real purpose to these recordings and you are better off getting the full versions from our friends (Vigotone, etc.) This is also a disc/CD that I have personally played maybe twice in my entire life as I already have the material on other sources.
The cover of the 45 bonus disc has the title of the project "Let It Be...Naked" and "Fly On The Wall" underneath. The photos are the same as the commercial front cover and the artist is listed below the photos. The gray back cover features the title and description. Underneath is the track listing for side 1 on the left and for side 2 on the right. The Beatles website address is underneath the track listing and the copyright is at the bottom. The bottom right contains the Parlophone and Apple logos. The bonus CD and 45 labels have the copyright perimeter print, the title at the top, a round film strip around the center hole, the artist at the bottom along with the catalogue number. The CD has the Apple/EMI/Copy Controlled logos at the left and the 45 label has the Apple and Parlophone logos at the left.
The tracklisting is as follows: Conversation (Roll 1), Sun King/Don't let Me Down (Roll 7), Conversation (Roll 12), One After 909/Conversation/ Because I Know You Love Me So (Rolls 16 and 17), Conversation/Don't Pass Me By/ Taking a Trip to Carolina (Roll 12), John's Piano Piece (Roll 70), Conversation (Roll 6), Child Of Nature (Roll 2), Back In The USSR/Conversation/ Every Little Thing (Roll 24), Don't Let Me Down (Roll 8), Don't Let Me Down (Roll 39), Conversation/All Things Must Pass (Roll 24), Conversation (Roll 25), Conversation/Improvisation (Roll 36), Conversation/Instrumental (Roll 51), Conversation (Roll 53), Get Back (Roll 114), Conversation (Roll 144), Two Of Us/Maggie Mae/Fancy My Chances With You (Roll 444), Conversation (Roll 54), Can You Dig It? (Roll 449), Conversation (Roll 414), Get Back (Roll 447), Conversation (Roll 458), Conversation/I Lost My Little Girl (Rolls 136/459). Many, many thanks to John C. Winn for the references.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Let It Be...Naked

The years 2001 to 2008 were very strange for Beatles fans. Apple/EMI were scraping the bottom of the barrel and with the official releases and Anthology releases out in the shops, things started to get weird. The first strange release became apparent on November 17 2003 when a new project was released on LP and CD with the title "Let It Be...Naked". An ugly title to begin with (credited to Ringo) and a true vanity concept.
The main reason for this release was to clean up, remix, remaster and digitally "fix" the recordings from the January 1969 "Get Back/Let It Be" project. All of the Phil Spector orchestrations would be removed, the original 8 track tapes would be subjected to review and various takes would be edited together and remixed. Some songs would be dropped and a song added. The tracklisting order would change as well.
In my opinion, the real reason for this project was simply that George, Ringo and especially Paul were not satisfied with the original mixes and overdubs. It has long been known that Paul hated the orchestral overdubs for his ballads on the original LP and didn't like the Spector mixes whatsoever. This re-release would rectify these "problems".
The catalogue number for this release is Apple 595438. The front cover for both the LP and CD show a grey background. The title of the project has the words "Let It Be..." in black and "Naked" in red at the top of the cover. There are two film strips running across the cover with the negative image of John and Paul on the upper strip and Ringo and George on the lower strip. The numbered frames are apparent and the stills show a negative image from the original LP with the exception of George Harrison (probably because the original image would not have been flattering with black teeth !!).
The back cover for the LP and CD both have the title of the project at the top (black and red) and the tracklisting in black (broken up in sides for the LP). The background is still gray. The outer back cover for the LP shows film strips with negative images from the movie while the CD does not. Both formats have the UPC code in the upper right hand side. The LP features the Apple logo and the Parlophone logo at the upper right while the CD features the Apple logo and the EMI logo at the lower right. (My copy of the CD being Canadian). The LP was only available as a UK import in North America. The copyright and trademark information can be seen at the lower portion of the back cover for both formats.
The CD contains a 32 page booklet with liner notes by Kevin Howlett written August 2003. The rest of the booklet contains images from the movie/photographs by Ethan Russell and dialogue from the original 1969 sessions. The middle of the booket features a full photograph from the rooftop concert. The LP contains the booklet blown up much larger and is 20 pages. It contains the same information as the CD but looks much better with the Ethan Russell photos being so much bigger and in better detail. Oddly, both books contain the rooftop photo and the LP gatefold also show the same photo as in the booklet. Weird. The back of the books show the tracklisting, a credit to Billy Preston on keyboards (nice ), production credits, the Beatles wetsite and copyright information.
The booklets claim the original 1969 production to The Beatles and George Martin and engineered by Glyn Johns. I beg to differ. The original production was essentially Glyn Johns with little involvment by George Martin and/or The Beatles as the group originally gave all the tapes to G. Johns who produced a couple of versions of the LP. There is absolutley no credit given to Phil Spector. The 2003 production is credited to Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse and mastered by Steve Rooke. Probably all done at Abbey Road.
The custom labels for the LP show the following: Perimeter print has the copyright information. Gray background with the title and artist at the top. A film strip with the four individual negatives run across the middle of the label. The bottom has the side number and tracklisting and catalogue number at the bottom. The Apple and Parlophone logos are at the left side of the label at the top. The CD has the following: Perimet print has the copyright information. Title above the hole. Film strip running across the middle. The Apple logo, EMI logo and Copy Control logo are at the left bottom. The artist and catalogue number are at the bottom. The inner sleeve for the LP is plain white.
The tracklisting is as follows: "Get Back" (same take as the original LP and single but with the guitars separated and the ending is edited), "Dig A Pony" (same rooftop take as the original LP, the Phil Spector edit at the beginning and end is left in, the ending is edited and the electric piano is more pronounced), "For You Blue" (same take as the original LP and same vocal from January 1970, the acoustic guitar is more pronouned), "The Long and Winding Road" (the January 31 take is used here rather than the January 26 take, no orchestration and scat vocals in the middle eliminated), "Two Of Us" (same take as the original LP but acoustic guitars and drums much cleaner and tighter fade at the end), "I've Got A Feeling" (this project uses two rooftop takes edited together rather than the original LP which only uses one take, the electric piano is more pronounced), "One After 909" (same take as the original LP but faded out much earlier), "Don't Let Me Down" (not on the original LP but issued as a B-side, this version uses the first rooftop take while the last verse is edited to use the second rooftop take, there is also a rumour that "auto-tune was used on Lennon's vocal), "I Me Mine" (same January 03 1970 take as the original LP and the same Phil Spector edit to lengthen the song, but no orchestration), "Across The Universe" (take seven is used which is the same version used on both the World Wildlife Fund LP and the original LP, but stipped down to just Lennon vocal and acoustic, Ringo's tom tom and George Harrison's tamboura, the reverb effect is annoying and in my opinion destroys a bit of the beauty of the song. They should have left it alone throughout without the effect), "Let It Be" ( this version uses both takes 27A and 27B for various sections with overdubbed backing vocals and Paul's bass).
Please note that both "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" are not on this project. "Don't Let Me Down" was added. All dialogue appeared on the original LP have been edited out.
The "Fly On The Wall" bonus disc and seven inch 45 are discussed in the next post.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Beatles "1"

Apple decided to release a greatest hits package in the year 2000 which would put all the number one songs on one CD. Before the release, the only way to get the Beatles greatest hits was to buy the "1962-1966"/ "1967-1970" collections which contained 4 CDs on two sets or two 2-LP sets. This was expensive for someone with a minimal interest in the Beatles' music and wanted to simply explore the bare bones catalogue.
Another option was to seek out a used out-of-print version of the vinyl copy of "20 Greatest Hits" which was released nearly 20 years before "1" (1982). Since most comsumers now bought CDs or downloads, vinyl was not regularly played.
The "1" greatest hits package was released on November 14 2000. The catalogue number for the release is Apple 29325 and is available as one CD or as 2-LP set. This was a huge seller and consumers mainly bought the CD version although collectors (like me) love the vinyl version. A very colourful set and a nice package over all.
The front cover for both the CD and the vinyl version is simply a red background. The "Beatles" drop T logo is featured at the upper left hand corner in a pink/light red colour. A big stencilled yellow number "1" is the feature of the cover. The back cover of the 2-LP set has the side numbers in yellow followed by the song titles in white and the track number in yellow to the right hand side of the song titles. The back cover of the 2-LP set also has the UBC code with the catalogue number. Underneath are the copyright credits as well as the photography credit for Richard Avedon and a small Apple logo. The 2-LP set was only available as a UK product. Capitol did not manufacture any vinyl sets of this release. The back cover of the CD has the exact same back cover as the 2-LP set with the exception of the four individual Richard Avedon portraits to the right side of the tracklisting. The song titles are followed by a sequential number in yellow. Naturally, there are no "side" numbers on the back of the CD. My copy of the CD also contain information relating to Capitol of Canada (under the regular information and Apple logo).
The 2-LP set is a gatefold and the four Richard Avedon portraits are featured left to right on the inner gatefold. Against a red backdrop, left to right are portraits of John, Paul, George and Ringo. The 2-LP set also has the portraits individually on 8 x 11 posterboard stock. Each individual portrait has the "Beatles" logo at the top, a small Apple logo along with trademark information runs along the bottom left and the bottom right features the copyright circle, Richard Avedon, the name of the Beatles along with "The Beatles, London, August 17 1967" (the day of the session). All of these portraits were originally shown in the January 09, 1968 issue of "Look" magazine. The 2-LP set also contains a 24 x 36 poster showing various 45 picture sleeves from around the world. The top of the poster has the band logo and the bottom contains the yellow "1" symbol (as do the portraits) and there is a small Apple logo w/trademark information on the lower left. The lower right has the credit given to both Joachim Noske and Bruce Spizer who supplied the picture sleeves from their collection.
The inner sleeves for the 2-LP set are as follows: The side 1 and 2 inner sleeve has a lime green background with a 27 #1 singles = 1 logo as well as quotes from George Martin on the left side of one side. The right side has the track listing for both sides 1 and 2, the Apple logo and copyright information. The other side of the inner sleeve shows 16 45 picture sleeves for each track. The second inner sleeve for sides 3 and 4 has a purple background with the same 27 #1 singles = 1 logo as well as techinical information regarding the engineers on the project and original engineers on each track. The Apple logo and trademark information is on the bottom left. The right side has the track listing for both sides 3 and 4. The other side of the inner sleeve shows various 45 picture sleeves for each track.
The original CD comes in a jewel case and contains a 32 page booklet. Aside from the front cover, page 2 has the 27 #1 single = 1 logo, page 3 has the George Martin quotes, and rest of the pages are filled with 4 to 10 picture sleeves relating to the track listed on each page. Apart from the name of the track, information relating to the recording date(s), it's highest position in the UK and/or US with dates as well. The back cover of the booklet shows the individual Richard Avedon portraits and the catalogue number is at the upper right.
The LPs have custom labels with the red background and Beatles logo on the left, the huge yellow "1", the side number and the catalogue number. The perimeter print features a white Apple logo and copyright information. The CD labels are exactly the same with exception of the side number and catalogue numbers which is not present.
Interestingly, "1" has been re-issued in the CD format as of 2011 (exact date unknown) with the following differences from the original CD issue: the re-issue comes in a digipack rather than a jewel case. The front cover is the same with the addition on the re-issue of the Apple logo and "Beatles" logo running vertically along the upper left of the digipack. The catalogue number has changed on the re-issue to Apple 83070 and this change is reflected in the booklet (which otherwise is exactly the same as the original) and on the back cover replacing the original catalogue number. The re-issue contains the wetsite address whereby the original does not. Lastly, the digipack version has a huge Apple logo holding the booklet whereby the booklet of the original CD issue is held within the jewel case.
The original LP and original CD were remastered by Allan Rouse, Peter Mew, Peter Cobbin and Steve Rooke at Abbey Road Studios, London. The re-issue contains the 2009 remasters by Guy Massey, Paul Hicks, Sean Magee, Sam Okell, Simon Gibson, Allan Rouse and Steve Rooke. To tell you the honest truth, folks, my ears can't tell the difference between the original and re-issued CD sets (listening casually). The cover and booklet of the re-issue are much glossier.
All of the tracks are stereo with the exception of the first three: "Love Me Do", "From Me To You" (although I don't know why this one is mono as the stereo exists compared to the other two) and "She Loves You".
The rest of the track listing is as follows: "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "Can't Buy Me Love", "A Hard Day's Night", "I Feel Fine", "Eight Days A Week", "Ticket To Ride", "Help!", "Yesterday", "Day Tripper", "We Can Work It Out", "Paperback Writer", "Yellow Submarine", "Eleanor Rigby", "Penny Lane", "All You Need Is Love", "Hello, Goodbye", "Lady Madonna", "Hey Jude", "Get Back", "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "Something", "Come Together", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road".