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FROM THE VAULTS

Growing lads, in terms of their music

April 09, 2006|Randy Lewis

The Beatles

"The Beatles -- The Capitol Albums Vol. 2" (Capitol, $69.98)

***

THIS group of Beatles U.S. releases, encompassing "The Early Beatles," "Beatles VI," the "Help!" soundtrack and "Rubber Soul," is less consistently exhilarating than the first quartet released last year, but it better showcases the quantum leap in the Fab Four's musical accomplishment over a two-year period.

That's because the four-CD box set, including stereo and mono mixes of each album, spans the group's earliest commercially released recordings from 1963, when it was still an imitative albeit often inspired cover band ("The Early Beatles") through the explosive artistic growth of "Rubber Soul."

"The Early Beatles" covers "Twist and Shout" and others from the quartet's days playing the Cavern Club but remains inferior to the U.K. "Please Please Me" album for eliminating "I Saw Her Standing There" and the surprisingly (for 1963) introspective "There's a Place."

"Beatles VI," the most slapdash U.S. album, was cobbled from bits of the British "Beatles for Sale" and "Help!" and assorted odds and ends hurriedly recorded to give Capitol 11 songs that hadn't been released in the U.S. yet, compared with the more generous 14 standard in the United Kingdom.

"Help!" has the same seven songs from the movie that appeared on the British version, but in place of seven additional songs, notably "Yesterday" and "Act Naturally," the film's instrumental tracks now appear on CD for the first time.

The jewel here is "Rubber Soul," the closest to its British counterpart in cover art and song content and sequence until "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" appeared in the same configuration on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967. Capitol's tweaks gave the U.S. "Rubber Soul" a slightly folkier flavor but with a valid cohesiveness of its own. Perhaps most notably, it's the U.S. version that so dazzled Brian Wilson that he pushed the Beach Boys ahead to "Pet Sounds," which in turn helped egg the Beatles forward again to "Sgt. Pepper."

Footnote: For the cover, Capitol used a retouched photograph that originally showed three Beatles smoking. Now, not only are the three ciggies gone, but so are two of Ringo's fingers.

"Help!" indeed.

-- Randy Lewis

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