The Beatles entered a recording studio for the first time 50 years ago, in 1961. It wasn’t actually the group’s gig, since they were essentially the backing band for singer Tony Sheridan, but the way recording was done at the session and at a second session in 1962, with instrumental parts laid down first and vocals added later, it’s possible to catch a faint, nascent glimpse of the international pop phenomenon the Beatles would become a couple years down the road. Orchestral big-band leader Bert Kaempfert had discovered the group playing in a German nightclub, signed them to a recording contract, paired them with Sheridan in the studio, and then released the songs through Polydor Records in Germany in 1961 and 1962. These early tracks have been released multiple times over the years in both mono and stereo mixes (with reverb added), and this set from Time Life Music includes both versions. Everything’s here, really, kind of frozen in time, since the original tapes were lost in a fire at Kaempfert's warehouse in the early '70s. Sheridan handles almost all of the vocals, and there are only two tracks without him, a version of John Lennon singing “Ain’t She Sweet” and an early George Harrison instrumental called “Cry for a Shadow,” both of which are featured here in mono, stereo, and medley versions. This isn’t the Beatles as most of the world knows the group, and these recordings definitely have more of a historical value than anything else. The Beatles, of course, went on to change the face of pop culture, and became true artists in the recording studio as the 1960s progressed, creating pop masterpieces that were as beautiful as they were innovative and groundbreaking. Everything has a beginning. This two-disc set collects the earliest recordings of perhaps the most important recording act in pop music history. That’s the story, and the rest is history.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2