Local Wire

The Beatles

Beatle people are already debating the merits and marketing of a four-CD boxed set that reissues the first four American Beatles albums as Capitol released them, when they skimmed off tracks from the longer U.K. albums to make more dough. But like a lost crush on a junior high school art teacher, boomers who learned these songs by heart were missing some wispy, unnamable nostalgic glow. It's really too bad Capitol couldn't supply these on scratched vinyl with a portable multi-disc spindle-drop record player as well; people could party like it's 1964.

Instead, they've included real stereo, original mono, and some fake stereo mixes, meaning that every song is represented twice on the same disc, all of it with high-end 24-bit remastering. There's no denying this stuff sounds spectacular, even to the untrained ear. But here's the truth of it: This is not just the Beatles as Americans first came to know them, but the early evolutionary stages of the most creative and influential musical group in post-'50s pop history. From here they would reconfigure music in frankly astonishing ways, until they took themselves too seriously and began to write down to their acolytes from a psychedelic pulpit. There's real joy in these grooves, and that's what the Fab Four was all about.

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Henry Cabot Beck