Is "Beatles For Sale" Sellable?
Some Beatles fans think the American version of Rubber Soul cobbled together by Capitol was better than what The Beatles and George Martin managed, but if you wanted to hear what the originators wanted you to hear, you had to buy these albums as an imports even if they were missing the hit singles.
Eventually Parlophone issued A Collection of Beatles Oldies (PCS 7016), which was almost a "greatest hits" album containing sixteen tunes. That was enough to entice some "mainstream" record stores to import it and thus give fans their first glimpse of a Beatles import. When they heard how much better it sounded, and heard songs like "I Feel Fine" in real stereo for the first time, many sought out all of the originals.
For those lucky enough back then to have access to imports, this one was both exotic, with its never before seen image of the Beatles on the cover and another great one inside plus a collage. It's difficult in these image-saturated days to remember a day when a single photo or a few of them could so jar the senses and be considered so precious, but that's how it was. And there were even literate liner notes by Beatles publicist Derek Taylor that addressed fans as adults.
Taylor writes about how future generations of young people will react to the group: "The kids of AD 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today." True!
He also said of the album "It isn't a potboiling quick-sale any-old-thing-will-do-for-Christmas mixture." Also true!
Speaking of jarring senses, for anyone with a decent stereo, hearing the original of this record for the first time was a shock to the senses. The vinyl was so much quieter and better finished than what "Crapitol" produced, the clarity of the mix so pronounced minus the reverb Capitol often added along with an EQ sheen the label thought would please the "kiddies" that it felt as if you were finally in the studio with the fab four.
These tracks were spread among several Capitol albums but heard together as an album makes more sense. The mix of well-considered covers from The Beatles' American heroes like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry along with originals that mirrored the group's love of both American R&B and country added up to nourishing pivot point in The Beatles' growth as a creative entity moving beyond its teenie bopper beginnings.
No doubt the dour autumnal cover art and almost mournful faces scared the beejeezus out of Capitol's execs but The Beatles knew what they were doing here and where they were headed.
What's most interesting about the sound and mix of this album is how accomplished it is compared to the earlier L/R mixes and even what happened on Rubber Soul. It sounds as if this was recorded to a 4-track machine, with instruments neatly spread and the vocals finally coming mostly from the center.
Thankfully, this is one of the better efforts in the box set. It can be argued that the original is a bit dark (like the cover art and mood) while the EQ on the reissue is better balanced on top without being bright—and this observation is not because the high frequencies have been worn from the original! In addition, the equalization seems to bring clarity and resolution of new detail. Even if you own the original and know it well you might be surprised by what you hear on this reissue. I've always noticed on the original what sounds like a tape-glitch in the cymbals during the break on "Kansas City" that's not on the reissue. Maybe they fixed it?
That said, you do lose the sense of intimacy and being on the other side of the microphone the original provides. Instrumental textures are lost in the slight hardening of transients and the reverb clearly heard bathing the original's vocals dries up. As the liner notes reveal, George plays an old African drum on "Mr. Moonlight." Listen to the distinctive skin texture on the original reduced to an indistinct cardboard hit on the reissue.
Still, of the records in the box set I've so far played, this one is the most faithful to the original, except that in some ways it's actually better. Coincidentally it was the best-pressed too.