Saturday, 9 January 2010
Beatles Collection Boxed sets
Back in 1988, when EMI was through releasing the Beatles' UK catalogue on CD for the first time, the HMV record store chain made a boxed set containing all those CD's, from "Please Please Me" through "Let It Be", including the two CD's collecting non-album tracks, "Past Masters Vol. 1" and "Past Masters Vol. 2". The boxed set was only available fully loaded with the CD's, so eager fans who had been buying the CD's individually would either have to be stuck with two of every CD or put their individually purchased CD's on the used CD's market if they bought the boxed set.
EMI must have liked the idea of a boxed set, because they too released a box with the Beatles' collection.
A different design than the HMV box, the EMI Beatles box was made of wood and had a slide-open door, which earned their box the nickname "the bread box" among fans. In the UK, EMI was offering the empty box to those who had already obtained the CD's as they were released through 1987-88, but only by mail order. The ones in the stores were fully loaded. Here in Norway, EMI Norway did not give fans the option of buying the empty boxes, so I - and a couple of other eager Beatles fans I know of - had to talk our neighbourhood record stores into emptying the box for us, sell the CD's individually, and selling us the empty boxes. When I say empty, this is not entirely true, because in addition to the CD's, the box also contained a small booklet authored by Mark Lewisohn.
Now that the new generation of Beatles CD's are on the market, we have another situation regarding the boxes. Of course, those who bought the mono collection will already have a box, since The Beatles in Mono was only available as a boxed set and the CD's were not available individually.
In regards to the stereo collection, though, there's a different story. If you had enough spare change to buy the stereo box, you've got a box to store the CD's in - and a bonus DVD disc to boot. If, on the other hand, you had to buy the new stereo remasters CD by CD whenever you had cash for it, you've got no box. And the stereo box is not for sale empty.
To the rescue comes a new box, one that is only available empty, but with a couple of nice books with the original LP artwork in LP size as a bonus.
The Beatles Box of Vision is the brainchild of former Capitol executive Jonathan Polk, a US music industry veteran who previously worked for Capitol Records at the time of "Love", "Let It Be... Naked" and the "Capitol Albums" box sets. His box contains a binder with plastic pockets to store - not only the stereo remasters catalogue, but also pockets enough to store those other EMI Beatles CD's, the "red" and "blue" double CD albums, the "Beatles Live at the BBC" double CD album, the three "Anthology" double CD albums, the "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", "1"," Let It Be Naked" and the "Love" album.
The Beatles Box of Vision is an officially endorsed product, fully licensed by Apple and in the USA it can be bought from the official Beatles store. You can read more about it at the official Beatles Box of Vision site (USA) and (UK). It's priced at $89.99 (plus shipping) in the USA, £99.99 (including shipping) in the UK and £109.99 (including shipping) for the rest of Europe.
I was sent a copy to review, and I took a look at it a couple of days ago. The first thing I tried was to put the remastered CD's into the storage system. That was fairly easy, except that the solutions for the double CD's (White album and Past Masters) seemed a bit makeshift. I then tried to insert the rest of the CD's that were supposed to be there. That was very troublesome. I couldn't store the bulky double CD's (Red, Blue, BBC, Anthologies, Love) at all, those boxes I still needed to keep on the shelf, while just storing the booklets and actual CD's in the box of vision plastic sheets. That was unsatisfactory, as it didn't save any shelf space at all for those releases. I removed everything and decided to keep my original arrangement. I've got both the wooden box for the 1987-88 edition CD's and the stereo remasters box, and I believe they are both better suited for storing those records than the Box of Vision plastic pockets. I've asked around a bit among people I know who owns a Beatles Box of Vision, and I've discovered that no one among them are using the box to actually store their remasters. Instead, they are storing the 1987-88 edition CD's there. And I can understand that, because those CD's are being sent to storage, never to be taken out and played again. Since I was able to persuade my local record shop to sell me that empty wooden box back in the day, the storage facilities of the box of vision is surplus to me. Of course, I could always use it to store other CD's, bootlegs and whatnot.
Then I took a look at the books. They are both LP sized and the first one is best described as a booklet. It has been named "catalography" and what it does is to break down how the UK albums, EP's and singles were pillaged by the American record company Capitol, so that for each UK Beatles album release, the Americans were able to release two albums by the group. They were able to do that, because there were 13-14 tracks on every UK album, and only 11-12 on every US album, The rest of the tracks for the US albums came from EP's (not a popular medium in USA) and non-album singles titles. The booklet opens with a two page defence of the American albums and the way those were put together, authored by Bruce Spitzer, probably the world's best known authority on American Beatles albums. The book then goes on to explore the Beatles UK catalogue, comparing it to it's US counterpart, with small pictures of each album cover.
The other book is a nice, hardcover book, containg the cover art for the UK and US catalogue albums, as well as the accompanying album booklets that were available for some of the later albums. These include the booklets for Magical Mystery Tour, Live at the BBC, Let It Be...Naked and Love. There are some omissions. Although the forgotten Beatles album "A Collection of Beatles Oldies" is there, the lost album "The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl" is missing. As is other 70's and 80's compilation albums like "Rock and Roll Music", "Love Songs", "Reel Music", "Beatles Ballads" etc. The rule seems to be that only albums that are available on CD is included, with the exception of "A Collection of Beatles Oldies", "Hey Jude" and "Introducing The Beatles", which aren't CD releases.
Although the album covers predominantly seems to be reproduced from originals, the "Beatles For Sale" album seems to be based on an 80's reissue, since it lists both "Kansas City" as well as "Hey Hey Hey Hey". On the original 60's release, only "Kansas City" was mentioned on the cover, a mistake corrected in the early eighties. Only UK covers printed by "Garrod & Lofthouse" have been reproduced, there are no "Ernest J. Day" printed covers here.
One glaring omission is the inner sleeve disigned by The Fool for the Sgt Pepper album. As it's the only spescially designed inner sleeve of the Beatles' sixties albums, it should have been reproduced in this book. There's even a blank page following the Sgt Pepper sleeve reproductions where it could have been fitted!
As I have all the albums from this book in my collection already, I just have to pull out the appropriate album whenever I need to have a look at it, so this book really is not made for me. It's basically made for people who only have the CD's, and for that it's a good way to collect all the cover art and booklets in a good, LP sized format. Also, if your collection of the original UK and US albums are in storage, in a vault or somewhere else where it's not easily accessible, this book could be an easy way to have a look at your album covers without bringing them out of storage.
The box of vision arrived at my doorstep very well packaged, so that the contents were undamaged.
For the seasoned Beatles collector, I'd like to draw your attention to another 2009 record sleeves book that should make your mouth water: "The Beatles Covered - A pictorial journey through Beatles record sleeves from around the world". On 800 LP sized pages printed in full colour throughout, it is a trip through more than sixty countries and territories on five continents and shows you an amazing array of original and reissue Beatles record covers the way they were released at the time in the respective markets across the world. It contains well over 14 000 pictures of singles, EPs, LPs, flexi discs, 78 rpm shellac records, coloured vinyl records, picture discs, and boxed sets of legitimately available Beatles material, which, besides their EMI output, also includes their pre-fame recordings in Hamburg (with Tony Sheridan and at the Star Club), their Decca audition set, as well as interview and documentary discs. This world discography of Beatles vinyl records is arranged geographically by continents and countries, and contains an appendix that focuses on a number of thematic issues, such as The Beatles Collection blue boxed set, their Christmas recordings and the Magical Mystery Tour releases, amongst others.
"The Beatles Covered" comes as a limited edition of 500 numbered and signed copies, it is issued in a slipcase and weighs 5.8 kilograms. A german release, the book will set you back from about € 160 to € 200, depending on where you live.