Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Beatles: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 [Capitol, 2004]
In any self-respecting Beatles discography, these four 1964 albums--two absolutely superb, one classic by definition, one damn close--do not exist. The canon is defined by their U.K. catalogue: many singles, a few EPs, and LPs systematically shortened and reshuffled by U.S. Capitol. Only benighted Yanks remember Meet the Beatles! rather than With the Beatles, Beatles '65 rather than Beatles for Sale. And OK--in those two cases the Brit versions rule. They're longer, and With is a fairer introduction than Meet, which hid Paul's goody-goody Music Man cover "Till There Was You" amid 11 Lennon-McCartney originals. But soon Yanks got The Beatles' Second Album, which proves in 28 minutes how indelible the Fab Four were from the start. Five magnificent rock and roll/r&b covers--George replicates Chuck Berry, John does justice to Smokey Robinson, and, on a track that was EP-only in Merrie Olde, music man Paulie smokes Little Richard--beef up the wildest and most joyful early-Beatles single, "She Loves You." Like the EP-only "I Call Your Name" and every other Lennon-McCartney selection, this landmark was never included on any canonical album in a '60s U.K. where it was considered bad form for LPs to reprise singles. For American non-teenyboppers, Second Album established the Beatles as a seismic musical force. The other prize here, Something New, showed us they could do no wrong. It's a glorious hodgepodge of singles (including Ringo's "Matchbox" b/w John's "Slow Down) and songs from A Hard Day's Night, but the crowning touch is its finale, a German-language dub of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Ten months after the Beatles invaded, it made that instant chestnut something new again. Kinda like this box. [Blender: 5]