It was Christmas time, 1966. Though hard at work on the beginnings of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, the Beatles had nothing for EMI to put out during the holiday season (aside from the annual Christmas record for the fan club). Revolver had come out in the first week of August, too early to exploit. What to do? So EMI issued this stopgap collection of 16 older recordings for the European market, in effect creating the first "Beatles Greatest Hits" album. Actually, it's not a predictable hits anthology, for it omits obvious hit singles like "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do," and includes popular album cuts like "Yesterday" and "Michelle" that were not issued as singles in the U.K. But it doesn't skimp on quantity, offering 16 songs instead of the usual 14, taking the saga all the way up to Revolver, and collecting some British singles into album format for the first time. As for English fanatics who simply had to have everything but might balk at purchasing an album entirely composed of retreads, EMI thought of them too, slipping in the Larry Williams song "Bad Boy" for the first time in Britain (it was included on Beatles VI in America in 1965). The stereo edition features a few anomalies -- an electronic stereo "She Loves You" -- but mostly offers commonly available mixes. The front cover is a period piece of Carnaby Street kitsch, while the back features a casual Beatles photo circa 1966. Today the album seems like a decent summing up of the Beatles' achievement just before the plunge into "Strawberry Fields" and Sgt. Pepper, though obviously not taking in the whole story.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell