See an update to this information here.
Last week I announced a few details about the upcoming 13-CD box set The U.S. Albums (full article here). I explained there how and why Apple has – at least for the most part – created each album by re-sequencing the remasters issued in 2009 instead of using the original Capitol master tapes that were used in the sixties. There are a few tracks that had unique edits and various overdub differences between the U.S. versions and the ones heard on the U.K. based 2009 remasters and for a handful of these, the Capitol remasters are used.
There’s been a lot of discussion and debate among Beatles fans with most of the opinion that it would have been much better to give it to us the way it originally was in sixties as the earlier two 4-CD Capitol box sets did. But just how different is the new set when compared to the original releases? Now that the set is on the shelves, so to speak, I am addressing that question in a brass tacks manner with an album-by-album, track-by-track series of comparison tests for 36 recordings that differed somehow between the U.S. and 2009 re-issued U.K. releases. If they match, it’s a pass and if they don’t, it’s a fail. Some of these differences you may call trivial (like fade out times, and minor mixing tweaks made over the years, etc.) but they provide a good reference point as to how close to the originals the new set is. Let’s take it one album at a time.
Meet The Beatles!
- “Little Child” – On the 2009 remasters the stereo version ends with the phrase “Baby take a chance with me – oh yeah!” repeated 4 times to the fade. On the mono it’s only 3 times and then the vocal stops and you hear only harmonica into the fade. Since the mono Meet The Beatles! album is a reduction of the stereo tracks to mono, both mono and stereo match the attributes of the stereo mix. Does it on the U.S. Albums box set? No it does not. Fail
- “Hold Me Tight” – On the 2009 remasters in the final “you-you-youoooo” there is a piece of harmony vocal that is on the stereo but not the mono mix. Again, the mono Meet The Beatles! album is a reduction of the stereo tracks to mono, so both mono and stereo match the attributes of the stereo mix. Does it on the U.S. Albums box set? No it does not. Fail
The Beatles Second Album
- “Thank You Girl” – There are additional harmonica edit pieces in the middle on the stereo but not mono (after “..for loving me the way that you do”) in the 2009 remasters. Also stereo has harmonica edit pieces on the ending not apparent in the mono. On original mono copies of The Beatles Second Album, “Thank You Girl” was the stereo mix reduced to mono and therefore the additional harmonica is heard in the mono album. Is it like this on the U.S. Albums box set? No it isn’t. Fail
- “Money (That’s What I Want)” – On the 2009 remasters the mono version has “tapping” in the intro that is missing in the stereo mix. The stereo mix has the guitar coming in to the mix earlier in the intro than it does in the mono mix. On original mono copies of The Beatles Second Album, “Money” was the stereo mix reduced to mono and therefore the intro matches the attributes of the stereo mix. Does it on the U.S. Albums box set? No it does not. Fail
- “Long Tall Sally” – The stereo mix on the 2009 remasters have the lead vocals centered. On original stereo copies of The Beatles Second Album, the vocals are in the right channel. Is it like this on the U.S. Albums box set? No it is not. Fail
- “I Call Your Name” – On original stereo copies of The Beatles Second Album the vocal and cowbell are to the right and the cowbell does not start until the vocal does. On the 2009 remasters the stereo mix has a centered vocal and the cowbell comes in later (i.e. AFTER the first line). Was the unique Capitol mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? No it was not. Fail
A Hard Day’s Night
In the sixties this was not a Capitol album but rather a United Artists release. Capitol bought the rights to it in 1980 and released their own version of the album which retained the mixes that United Artists had used. The stereo album was not really in true stereo with the exception of the four non-Beatles (film score) tracks. United Artists received the mono mixes for the tracks first and in a rush to release the album, did not wait for EMI to send the stereo mixes. Instead they panned the mono mixes from left to right (or vice-verse) in certain places to simulate stereo. Therefore any differences apparent between the true stereo mixes heard on the 2009 remasters and the mono mixes should take on the characteristics of the mono mixes on this album.
- “A Hard Day’s Night” – On the so-called “stereo” United Artists original mix, Paul’s vocal bridge pans left on “when I’m home…” and to the right during the guitar solo. Was this unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? No it was not. Fail
- “Tell Me Why” – On the “stereo” United Artist mix, the response lines in the verses are panned to the right. Otherwise it is mono. Was this unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? No it was not. Fail
- “I’ll Cry Instead” – Both the mono and stereo mixes of this song on the 2009 remasters clock in at around 1:44. The unique mix heard on the original stereo and mono copies of the A Hard Day’s Night album contain an extra (4th) verse that is a repeat of the first verse, making it clock in at around 2:06. Was this unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it was! Pass
- “I Should Have Known Better” – On the 2009 remasters the stereo mix of this song has a sudden drop out in the harmonica during the intro. This isn’t heard on the “stereo” mix on original copies of the stereo A Hard Day’s Night album which used the mono mix. Was the original (actually mono) mix used for the U.S. Albums box set? No it was not. Fail
- “If I Fell” – On the true stereo mix of the 2009 remasters, Paul misses the high note on the word “vain” the second time around (“our new love was in vain”) and there is a double-tracked John on the intro with a slight lag in one track at the first word “if” and at “and” in “and I’ve found.” Since the so-called “stereo” mix on original stereo copies of A Hard Day’s Night take on the attributes of the mono mix which was repaired (by edit), Paul’s missed high note isn’t heard and John’s intro vocal is only single-tracked. Are these mono mix attributes on the stereo mix in the U.S. Albums box set? No they are not. Fail
- “And I Love Her” (mono) – Unlike the 2009 remasters where both stereo and mono mixes have a double-tracked vocal by Paul McCartney most of the way through, the U.S. version has Paul’s vocals in the verses single-tracked (with harmonies) on both the stereo and mono album. Was this unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set for the mono album? Yes, the single-tracked vocal is used. Pass
- “And I Love Her” (stereo) – Was the unique U.S. single-tracked vocal mix used on the stereo A Hard Day’s Night album included with the U.S. Albums box set? No. The double-tracked vocal is used. Fail
- “Can’t Buy Me Love” – This one is a similar comparison to “Tell Me Why” (above). On the “stereo” United Artist mix, the song bounces toward the right and then left channels at the vocal lines “(bounce) much for money (bounce) cause money can’t buy me love.” Was the unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? No it was not. Fail
- “I’ll Cry Instead” – Mono copies of the original Capitol Something New album contained the “long version” of this track (see #9 above) but the mono version on the 2009 remasters is the “short version.” Was the unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it was. Pass
- “And I Love Her” – As with the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack, the original mono copies of Something New have Paul’s vocal single-tracked in the verses instead of double-tracked. Was this unique U.S. mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it was. Pass
The Beatles Story (documentary)
- “Beatles Will Be Beatles” – This is just a noted error on the original release and not a comparison test with the 2009 remasters as this material was not released in the British market. I’ll score it anyway though. At about 2:45 in, the narrator says “Paul McCartney explains the origin” followed by a quote from George Harrison instead of Paul. Was this error left in on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it was. Pass
- “She’s A Woman” (mono) – The fade out on U.S. versions (both mono and stereo – but stereo is actually duophonic) are shorter on the original Beatles ’65 LPs. In the fade Paul can be heard singing “she’s a woman” only 3 times on Beatles ’65 vs. 5 on the stereo and mono 2009 remastered (U.K.) mixes. There is much more echo on U.S. versions vs. the drier U.K. mixes on the 2009 remasters. Was the unique U.S. mono mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it was. Pass
- “She’s A Woman” (stereo) – Was the unique U.S. duophonic mix used on the U.S. Albums box set? No, the fade out is the same as it is on the 2009 remasters and the echo is not as much as the original Beatles ’65 versions. Fail
- “I Feel Fine” (mono) – A lot of echo on U.S. versions vs. 2009 remasters. Is it the same amount of echo on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes! The same mix is used from the Capitol masters. Pass
- “I Feel Fine” (stereo) – A lot of echo on U.S. versions vs. 2009 remasters. Is it the same amount of echo on the U.S. Albums box set? No! The Capitol masters used a duophonic mix that was replaced. This version is enhanced with a little echo but not like the original stereo Beatles ’65 LPs. Fail
The Early Beatles
- “Please Please Me” – In the stereo version on the 2009 remasters we hear a “collision” in the vocals between John and Paul (“You know you never even try”/”Why do I never even try”). The mono mix used different edits and does not have this issue. Since the mono Early Beatles album is a reduction of the stereo tracks to mono, both mono and stereo match the attributes of the stereo mix and therefore the mono “Please Please Me” on original copies of this album have the “collision” in it. Is it there on the mono mix of the U.S. Albums box set? No it isn’t. The version without the “collision” is used this time. Fail
- “Yes it Is” – On original stereo copies of Beatles VI this track was a duophonic (i.e. “fake stereo”) mix made from the mono mix. On the real stereo mix that appears in the 2009 remasters, there is a tone pedal under the word “if” on “if I could forget her” on both the first and second time around . This is not heard in the duophonic mix. Is it also missing on the U.S. Albums box set? I wish I could say “Yes It Is” but the answer is “No It Isn’t.” Fail
Note: The original mono copies of the U.S. Capitol Help! album had 6 of the 7 stereo Beatles tracks reduced to mono, so all attributes of the stereo mixes should match up for the mono versions. The exception is “Ticket To Ride” which is the true mono mix from the single. The stereo copies of the Help! LP in the U.S. used a duophonic mix created from the mono mix.
- “Help!” – The most obvious difference between the U.S. and (U.K.) 2009 remasters is the James Bond styled intro. On the true mono mix heard on the 2009 remasters there is no tambourine heard in the chorus, but since the mono is a reduction from the stereo mix on the original American LP, the tambourine is heard. The lead vocals, for the same reason, match between the mono and stereo U.S. versions, whereas the mono 2009 remaster has a different lead vocal. In the true mono mix heard on the 2009 remasters, John sings “AND now these days are gone” in verse 1, but on the U.S. versions we instead hear “BUT now these days are gone.” Do we hear the James Bond intro and the “BUT” version on both the stereo and mono U.S. Help! in the U.S. Albums box set as it was on the original? Well, we do hear the James Bond intro but the same mono mix used on the 2009 remasters is used on the box set. Fail
- “Ticket To Ride” – The true stereo mix heard on the 2009 remasters has a longer fade out. “My baby don’t care” can be heard six times in the stereo mix and 5 in the mono mix. On the original mono and stereo U.S. Help! albums the line is only heard 4 times and then halfway through (“My baby…”) on the fifth line. Are the shorter fades on the U.S. Albums box set as it was on the original? No they are not. Fail
- “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” – The U.K. title is “You’re Going To Lose That Girl.” There is a sound heard at the very beginning of this track that is heard on the U.S. mono and stereo that is trimmed out on the U.K. (2009 remasters) versions. It is possibly the extreme end of a count-in and maybe even the same one heard in the Help! film. Is this little anomaly apparent on the U.S. Albums box set? No it isn’t. Fail
- “Michelle” – Original mono copies of the U.S. Rubber Soul featured a slightly longer fade out than either the mono or stereo mix heard on the 2009 remasters. Does the mono version on the U.S. Albums box set have this longer fade out too? Yes it does. Pass
- “I’m Looking Through You” – The original stereo copies of Rubber Soul have two false starts at the intro of this song that are missing on the mono or stereo mixes heard on the 2009 remasters. Does the stereo version on the U.S. Albums box set have these false starts too? Yes it does. Pass
- “In My Life” – A barely audible intake of breath is heard just before the vocal starts up on the original U.S. stereo copies of Rubber Soul. It is also heard on the original sixties stereo U.K. Rubber Soul LPs, but was removed when George Martin did his remix of the album for CD in the eighties. The mono versions had this mixed out before the initial release in the sixties. On the 2009 remasters, the mono box set contains the original 1965 stereo mix of Rubber Soul and the breath can be heard there. Can it be heard on the stereo version presented with the U.S. Albums box set? No it can’t. Fail
- “Run For Your Life” – A thump is heard during the instrumental break at around 1:06 on all stereo and mono mixes prior to the 2009 remasters, where it was removed. Can it be heard on the stereo version presented with the U.S. Albums box set? No it can’t. Fail
Yesterday And Today
- “Drive My Car” – The real mono mix of this song heard on the 2009 remasters has no cowbell in the fade out. On the original U.S. mono Yesterday And Today album another mix created by reducing the stereo mix (which does have a cowbell in the fade out) to mono was used and therefore the cowbell is heard. Can it be heard on the mono version presented with the U.S. Albums box set? No it can’t. Fail
- “I’m Only Sleeping” (mono) – Original mono copies of Yesterday And Today contained a unique mix of this song not heard on the 2009 remasters. Since it’s remained unreleased for so long I have featured it as a Beatles Rarity of the Week (BROW) here where I explain a little about what is unique about it. The U.S. mono mix differs from the 2009 remasters mainly in where the backwards guitar fades in and out of the mix (further details at the link above). Was the original U.S. mono mix used with the U.S. Albums box set? Yes. The mono mixed used on the U.S. Albums is the original one used on mono copies of Yesterday And Today from the sixties. Pass
- “I’m Only Sleeping” (stereo) – Original stereo copies of Yesterday And Today used a duophonic (“fake stereo”) mix of the song created from the same mono mix previously listed. By the early seventies an improved stereo version of this album was released in the U.S. which contained a U.S.-unique stereo mix of this song, which was also presented as a BROW here with still more details on the other mixes of this track. The U.S.-unique stereo mix differs from the 2009 remasters mainly in where the backwards guitar fades in and out of the mix (further details at the link above). Was the duophonic or U.S.-unique Capitol stereo mix used with the U.S. Albums box set? No. The same mix heard on the 2009 remasters is used instead. Fail
- “Dr. Robert” – Original mono copies of Yesterday And Today have this song with a longer fade out than anywhere else. If you listen closely you hear that the fade out reaches the true ending of the song where John can be heard saying something like “Okay, Herb!” The original stereo copies of Yesterday And Today had a dupohonic mix of this track made from the same mono mix but was faded earlier. Later copies of the album from the early seventies have a true stereo mix that is still different than the U.K. stereo mix. The main difference is that the middle parts (“Well, well, well, you’re feeling fine…”) are mixed differently. Are these differences including John’s statement and the longer fade out apparent on the mono version from the U.S. Albums box set? No they are not. Fail
- “Day Tripper” – Original stereo copies of Yesterday And Today as well as earlier stereo releases everywhere that contained this song will show it has a couple of spots where the lead guitar track cuts out suddenly. The most noticeable is at around 1:50 just after the line “tried to please her.” This problem was repaired for the 2009 remasters release. Also the stereo mix heard on Yesterday And Today has the guitar intro beginning in the left channel and then jumping to the right, whereas the U.K. mix heard on the 2009 remasters has the guitar heard in both channels at the beginning. Is the audio dropout and left-to-right guitar intro heard on the U.S. Albums box set? Yes it is. Pass
The mixes used for stereo and mono copies of Revolver are the same in the U.S. and the U.K. The only difference in the two albums is the absence of three songs on the U.S. edition. Those songs are “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Dr. Robert” and “And Your Bird Can Sing” all of which had already been released in the U.S. on Yesterday And Today (see above).
This album was only released as an import in the U.K. and was mainly for the U.S. market. It was designed to collect up singles tracks that had not yet been released on a Capitol album. Early pressings were titled The Beatles Again on the record labels instead of Hey Jude.
- “Paperback Writer” – As compared with the U.K. version heard on the 2009 remasters, the version on original copies of the Hey Jude LP have the right and left channels reversed. Does it appear this way on the U.S. Albums box set? No it does not. Fail
- “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” – On the original Hey Jude album issued in 1970, the final drumbeat heard in this song is faded down considerably, but it stays at the same level on the original single and the 2009 remasters. Is it also faded down on the U.S. Albums box set? No it is not. Fail
So there you have it. A black and white measure of how close the U.S. Albums box set comes to the original releases. Out of 37 comparison tests, 11 were passes and 26 were fails. “Fails” in this case doesn’t mean they are “bad” but only “failed” to be the same as the original U.S. releases. To sum this all up, what it really means is all duophonic (fake stereo) mixes that have a real stereo mix now is replaced with that and all “Type B” mono mixes (created from reduction from stereo) are replaced with the originally created mono mix and the duophonic mixes for those few songs (“She Loves You,” “P.S. I Love You” “I’ll Get You” and “Love Me Do”) that do not have a real stereo mix, the duophonic mixes will be replaced with mono – even on the stereo record. Most tracks that scored a “Pass” above such as “Day Tripper,” “I’m Looking Through You” and the mono versions of “And I Love Her” and “I’m Only Sleeping” are from the original Capitol masters.
This makes for a couple of odd cases of the same mono song repeated on the same disk. “She Loves You” and “I’ll Get You” are both on The Beatles Second Album twice (once in the mono section and once in the stereo section). The same is true for “I’ll Cry Instead” on the A Hard Day’s Night disk which had the U.S.-only long-edit version on the stereo and mono record in the sixties. The stereo record was not really in stereo. Both “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” appear on The Early Beatles twice as the same mono recording.
Whether you consider The U.S. Albums worth buying depends on what you want from it. Do you want a perfect replica of the way it sounded in the sixties? Some do and many prefer it since it’s what they grew up with. Some would prefer replacing (1) the duophonic mixes or (2) the mono flattened from stereo mixes or (3) the third or even fourth generation recordings, with an improved and revised version of history that gives it all a better sound quality? That’s the other side of the coin.
In the early and mid-sixties the stereo versions were not considered as important as the mono, and making duophonic mixes when necessary as a stereo substitute was standard practice at the time. Also Capitol seemed to believe for many releases that mono reduced from stereo created a sound that actually had more punch. Again, it’s a personal preference.
You may also say that if, outside of the re-sequencing and the packaging, it is too similar to what was already released in 2009, then what is the point in buying it? Or maybe you are a completist collector who wants to just get everything, regardless – if it’s The Beatles, it’s got to be worth it. Purist, revisionist, collector or whatever side of the fence you stand – that part is up to you. Regardless, the U.S. Beatles albums have now been re-born and the older versions will slip further into obscurity as time goes on.
See an update to this information here.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
1) The U.S. Albums – 13-CD and detailed booklet box set containing revised accounts of 13 mono and stereo U.S. Beatles LP releases from the sixties.