PAST MASTERS (THE BEATLES)

THE STORY SO FAR:

Although they were probably the band that most transformed rock from a singles medium to an album-oriented form, the Beatles also released many singles and EP tracks that never made it onto albums. In the U.S., Capitol turned the group’s early LPs, through Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, into compilations, more or less, throwing the hit singles onto the vinyl to augment the album tracks. When the label later released the U.K. albums on CD, it posed a problem: What to do with the non-LP singles? Past Masters, Volume 1 compiles 18 of those singles, including some of their best-known tracks, running from “Love Me Do,” “She Love You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “This Boy” to “I Feel Fine” and Paul’s homage to Little Richard, “I’m Down.” Essential stuff.

TRACK LIST

    1. Love Me Do (Single Version)
    2. From Me To You
    3. Thank You Girl
    4. She Loves You
    5. I’ll Get You
    6. I Want To Hold Your Hand
    7. This Boy
    8. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand (I Want To Hold Your Hand)
    9. Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves You)
    10. Long Tall Sally
    11. I Call Your Name
    12. Slow Down
    13. Matchbox
    14. I Feel Fine
    15. She’s a Woman
    16. Bad Boy
    17. Yes It Is
    18. I’m Down
    Disc: 2
    1. Day Tripper
    2. We Can Work It Out
    3. Paperback Writer
    4. Rain
    5. Lady Madonna
    6. The Inner Light
    7. Hey Jude
    8. Revolution
    9. Get Back
    10. Don’t Let Me Down
    11. The Ballad Of John And Yoko
    12. Old Brown Shoe
    13. Across The Universe
    14. Let It Be
    15. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

      THE CRITICISM:


      “Long Tall Sally,” “I Call Your Name,” “Slow Down,” and “Matchbox” were released together as an EP in England but were scattered across three different albums in the U.S. “Slow Down” and “Matchbox” were also released together as a single in America. In particular, the stereo mix of “Slow Down” sounds mutilated and severely saps the performance of its delirious intensity and power. It’s plain and simple: Whereas the stereo versions found here sound disjointed and undernourished, the mono versions found in the BEATLES EP COLLECTION boxed set sound full, focused, and realistic.

      “I Feel Fine” is another song that sounds far more realistic in mono. We are given the stereo version here, which has the drums and bass far left, the guitars far right, and the vocals–sounding abnormally detached and somewhat cavernous–in the middle. “She’s A Woman” doesn’t sound as bad. The mono versions of both, however, can be found in the BEATLES SINGLES COLLECTION boxed set.

      During the HELP! sessions, they recorded two songs by Larry Williams, “Bad Boy” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” specifically for Capitol in the U.S. Both songs appeared on BEATLES VI (and, for some reason, “Lizzy” was spelled “Lizzie” on that album.) Though “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” was included on the British release of HELP!, “Bad Boy” was not released in the U.K. until the December 1966 compilation A COLLECTION OF BEATLES OLDIES. I have always thought that both songs sound lackluster compared with the white-hot “Slow Down” (another Williams tune), recorded the previous year. In the spring of 1965, the band was beyond that style of music anyway.

      “Yes It Is” was the B-side to the “Ticket To Ride” single and also appeared on BEATLES VI. Many Beatles fans who owned the stereo version of that album are used to the version we get here. But many of us infinitely prefer the richer and more focused sound of the mono version.

      I would have been much happier had Paul’s delightfully raucous “I’m Down” ended the HELP! album instead of “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” Oh well. This stereo version of “I’m Down” is no match for the exhilarating mono mix issued as the flip side of the “Help!” single. Furthermore, the version of “Help!” released as the single differs significantly from the album version. One wonders why the single version did not turn up here. But it is available, along with the mono “I’m Down,” in the SINGLES COLLECTION boxed set.

      For those looking for a compilation to serve as an overview, THE BEATLES/1962-1966 (Red Album), THE BEATLES/1967-1970 (Blue Album), or BEATLES 1 will do much better than the PAST MASTERS discs, which were not designed for that purpose. Because the boxed set collections mentioned above are priced beyond reason, I will not recommend them to the more casual or more recent Beatles fans (though–by far!–they best represent this material). I can recommend PAST MASTERS VOLUME ONE without reservation to those fans who are unfamiliar with the mono and, therefore, do not share in my rather severe prejudices.

      THE BREAKDOWN

      Final Score:  100% – A+

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