Capitol's famous "Red" and "Blue" Beatles compilations are possibly the most wholly likable albums ever. Cleverly matching cover photos and contrasting color schemes house some of the Beatles' most beloved songs ever. Just looking at the famous cover shots (the Red album featuring the exuberant young Beatles looking down at the photographer from a balcony in the EMI building; the Blue album featuring a remake of the exact same shot, but with the hairy older hippie Beatles) starts to warm your cold old heart of all its cynicism regarding the best and yet most wildly overrated rock group ever.
It's hard not to love a band that did everything so right so much of the time, and these double-disc sets present the group with no warts at all. Hit after hit rolls by and you find yourself caught up in your own wave of Beatlemania, strumming a broom for a guitar and wearing a bowl of spaghetti for a mop-top wig. Soon you are running throughout the local hotel trying to get up to the Beatles' carefully-guarded suite. You soon realize that it's the 2000s, and the best you can do is pop into Rick Springfield's suite for a few beers following his set at the county fair. (?)
Wow, that went everywhere and nowhere all at once. I think the point I was trying to wind my way back to is that in present day, these beloved albums essentially have no place at all. Diehard Beatles fans will own all the material on the original albums and the Past Masters compilations, and in the wake of the Anthology sets, who wants to make room for two more bulky sets of Beatles songs, especially since there's no angle?
Most people, fortunately, will be wise enough to steer clear of buying these just to have them. Some people, of course, will just have to have 'em anyway. Well, go ahead, but if you ever find yourself actually listening to them, I'd be very surprised indeed. 1962-1966 (the Red album) collects the big hits from "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "She Loves You," etc. up through the Revolver-era, focussing mainly on singles.
Of course all the songs are good, although it is kind of a kick in the head to have this bulky-ass package devoted to 62 minutes of previously released material. What they should have done was either release them as slim-line 2-disc sets at like $17.99 max, or package 1962-1970 together as like one mongo 3-disc set. Or, alternately, padded out the discs with additional material.
Ah, I need to stop thinking about how much of a waste it is to have these out on CD. Really, the market is for very casual Beatles fans who have space for no more than 4 discs of Fab Four stuff in their collection. You get the basic gloss of the band's career in two convenient and attractive packages. Everyone else, though, is screwed even considering buying them.
Points granted, of course, for numerous things: "Nowhere Man," "Paperback Writer," "From Me to You," "In My Life," and all these great pop songs. The warm feeling of nostalgia as I remember dancing in my room to these albums on 8-track (and then LP) as a kid. The cover photos. The pure 1973 font. The red jewel case. If Capitol ever does get around to a new round of Beatles remasters, I hope they'll reimagine these great but very obsolete albums.
Review by Illie Onka