The Beatles, ‘The Collection’ (Empress Valley EVSD 1333 – 1342)
Disk One – Please, Please Me / With The Beatles – Disk Two – A Hard Days Night / Beatles For Sale
Disk Three – Help! / Rubber Soul Disk Four – Revolver / Revolver (MFSL cassette) Disk 5 – Sergent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / SPLHCB (UHQR). Disk Six – The Beatles (Disk one). Disk Seven – The Beatles (Disk two). Disk Eight – Magical Mystery Tour / Yellow Submarine. Disk Nine – Abbey Road Disk Ten – Let It Be.
Having the empire that they do, the Empress Valley label have done collectors a great service by offering a broad selection of boxed sets – While some of the bigger, statuesque sets might out-price the more conventional music fan, their ‘budget’ boxes are right on the money for those of us who want a torrent of some size on silver-disk.
This box takes one of the legacy catalogues from a superior recorded source, before the advent of the remix, and lavishes a great lot of love on it all. From the gold-foil-on-black box, the trim little obi-strip, to the tidy little inserts, this box is a beautiful way of owning what might be the gem pressings of the Beatles catalogue. Taken from original MFSL pressings of the Fabs catalogue, these recordings represent the best representation of the pre-Giles tinkering. Better than your old EMI 1984 CDs, neater than the Dr. Ebbetts CDRs (Though there’s a but coming at the end) and certainly un-dexterised, this box should be noted as the dogs bollocks of Beatles bootleg boxes (Yes, it’s a pirate, let me have my alliteration moment.)
Listening to the sets is a joy – not just because of the music, obviously, but the sound is quality. These are all British versions of the LPs, you’ll hear this on this set – Sorry American friends – with the inclusion of two versions of ‘Revolver’ and ‘SPLHCB’ (More about that in a bit), the way they were all intended to be heard – again, sorry – The copies used all appear to be sourced from stone cold clean copies of the MFSL box however, it appears some wag seems to have given them all different identification tags. Would Empress REALLY have the time to plum for the separate best versions of each of these albums as opposed to a clear needle drop of the box itself?
From the count in of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ there’s a clarity – The flub of the double “There” before George’s solo stands out like a sore thumb, maybe, but these editing mistakes are drilled in to our subconscious like the back of our eyelids.
The two variants of the 1966 / 1967 albums are clear for all to hear – for ‘Revolver’, the box uses both the MFSL box and the MFSL cassette version. Previously released on a Moonchild twofer CD.
I found the box version to be the best sounding to my ears. The tape seems to be a little flatter sounding but also a little wider. The comparisons are sharp – Listen to the harmonies of ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, the bass’ of ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘I Want To Tell You’ – The tape sounds much heavier to my ears, fixed with a little EQ-ing through my stereo, it then sounded too trebley – Go figure.
For ‘Sgt. Peppers’, the box uses both the MFSL and UHQR variations. Reading the Steve Hoffman forum made my eyes hurt and ears sting trying to decipher which pressing we actually had here. The main differences are the richness in tone. The MFSL pips it for me. The UHQR is also cut a little louder which sludges the top end and so rattles some of the air.
Massive props to the MFSL version as it sounds like syrup. A deeply easy listen which sounds as clear as anything I’ve ever heard – I even heard Ringo’s voice in the background to the chorus of ‘Sgt. Peppers’ and I don’t think I’ve EVER heard that before.
The run out groove is unrepresented on either of the versions – on the MFSL it’s barely there and just briefly runs through one channel, the UHQR ignores it altogether.
Props also to their ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ which sounds like crystal and an exceptional ‘Abbey Road’ which is like syrup too.
So, the but. It’s the packaging that really gives this set a look of luxury but at the CDs are packaged as a brick as new, it’s certainly advisable that you buy a pack of generic sleeves first to store them in to avoid rubbing when they’re put against each other. I would also like to hear a Mono version if possible (Surely the Brazilian mono ‘Abbey Road’ would be available somewhere) – There’s a lot of goodness in these stereo versions, but a little straight down the middle would be nice to compare with.
I can’t sing the praises for this set enough, a beautiful looking box, wholly inexpensive and a wonderful sound (along with two bonus variations too!) – Don’t pause on pressing play on this one. It’s a brilliant, brilliant boxed set that will sit neatly along side your official collection.