New Beatles set arrives just ahead of 50-year anniversary

Two weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Feb. 9, 1964, appearance on CBS’ “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Capitol Records, the American label that released the Fab Four’s recordings in the United States, has reissued the group’s American albums in CD format with miniature duplicates of the original LP jackets and original track lineups.

Of course, the U.S. didn’t get the Beatles’ albums as the group and its British label, Parlophone, originally released them in the U.K., until 1967’s “St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Capitol issued the “Meet The Beatles!” album Jan. 20, 1964, two months after the Nov. 22, 1963, appearance of the nearly identical “With The Beatles” in Britain.

Capitol continued to opportunistically spread songs from Parlophone’s Beatles albums and singles across multiple U.S. albums. Five albums invaded American record stores in 1964 alone. The label muddied the waters more by adding reverb and compression to the American discs.

But whatever distortions of the original albums the American label’s exploitation created, the Capitol albums were the way Americans came to love the Beatles’ catalog. In that regard, “The Beatles: The U.S. Albums” is a big box of memories. Budget-minded consumers can also pick and choose because the albums are available individually, too.

The box set, holding 13 albums, from “Meet The Beatles!” to an especially odd 1970 hodgepodge of singles titled “Hey Jude,” follows a project originally begun in 2003 with “The Beatles: The Capitol Albums Vol. 1.” “Vol. 2” of that projected trio of box sets appeared in 2006 but a third volume never materialized.

In addition to the albums’ original art work (including interior sleeves that promoted Capitol’s other albums), each disc contains stereo and mono mixes. Despite the sonic Americanization via reverb, the recordings sound wonderfully clear and present.

In the early albums, especially, the exuberance of the young Beatles singing and playing their hit singles “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” and album tracks such as “It Won’t Be Long” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” is still contagious.