Another Beatles box set came out this week. Even though their entire canon had been released, with near-perfect remastering, in 2009, in the form of a stereo box set and a mono box set.
This new set, The U.S. Albums, collects all 13 Beatle LP’s released by Capitol while the band was still officially together. It was released on the 50th anniversary of the release of Meet The Beatles!, the first of those 13 records, and is part of a larger celebration that will culminate with the 50th anniversary of the group’s culture-altering first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
This box set is an important document in its own right. These Capitol releases are sometimes slightly similar to Parlophone releases, but are mostly completely different. Until 1987, these albums were the only context in which anyone in the US knew the songs on them. The Parlophone releases virtually did not exist here. So, for Americans currently over 40, these records feel like the de facto primary releases (though the dominance of the Parlophone releases since 1987 has somewhat eroded that feeling). With The Beatles may be the official canon release, but Meet The Beatles! (its American counterpart) is still my favorite Beatles album.
There is a lot of discussion within the Beatles fan community right now about this box, mostly concerning the fact that the vast majority of the original, inferior Capitol masters have been replaced by the vastly superior 2009 Parlophone remasters. So the songs sound fantastic, but they do not sound exactly the same as they did on their original vinyl releases (or even on 2004 and 2006’s Capitol box sets, which released 8 of the 13 US albums). The differences are detailed here.
So to sum up, in terms of authenticity, The U.S. Albums box set is lacking. In terms of sound, it’s a vast improvement. In terms of a document of a fundamental part of the experience of the first two generations of American Beatles fans, it is essential.
In terms of whether it’s worth the purchase, that’s your call (I happily have my copy).