UK master meets Japan pressing: How good does Help! by the Beatles sound on vinyl in the 1976 Japan version compared to a German Hörzu edition from 1974?
A little background on The Beatles – Help!
On their fifth studio album, more serious themes were mixed in with the songs for the first time. John Lennon’s Help! was the title song of a light comedy, but by their own admission a serious cry for help.
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away deals with the homosexuality of their manager Brian Epstein. Musically, too, a progressive maturing process is recognisable. Songs for acoustic guitar stand next to classic Beatles rock, guitar effects were used as well as guest musicians. And McCartney recorded Yesterday without the Beatles at all, but with a string quartet. John Lennon hated the song.
What is striking about the two versions of Help!
Even after more than 40 years, there is hardly any background noise with the Japan pressing. The Japan vinyl has real advantages here. The two-year older Hörzu-Help! has also stood the test of time well and hardly crackles. However, one more correction loop wouldn’t have done any harm: for example, there are two spelling mistakes on the labels: You’ve Got To Hilde … and the composer of Act Naturally is called Russell not Russel.
How is the Japanese Help! equipped?
The OBI shows the Union Jack – that’s how the series got its name. All covers of the Country Flag series are made of heavy cardboard. And there is always an insert with all the lyrics in English and Japanese.
How good does Help! by the Beatles sound in the German and Japanese pressings?
For the Beatles, the mono mix was certainly the decisive version, stereo didn’t matter to them. Since overdubs didn’t play such a big role in the recordings as they did on Sgt. Pepper, for example, the mono mix here doesn’t deviate so far from the stereo mix. But that is another story.
Both pressings use the 65 stereo mix – i.e. still with stronger channel separation and the original analogue reverb from the Abbey Road studios. And the German Hörzu also has no need to hide in terms of sound. Even if it doesn’t quite match the Japanese record. The last shine in the mids is missing, and the instruments are not so perfectly defined. Unlike other Japanese pressings, which were often mastered in the Land of the Rising Sun, this pressing apparently uses a UK pressing die. The accusation that the Japanese have once again taken out bass and added treble does not apply. This is where the best of both worlds meet: The unadulterated UK mastering and the excellent production quality of the Japanese. It doesn’t get much better than this. In terms of timbre and definition, the Japan-Help! is a prime example.
How do the level and frequency response of Help! differ in the German and Japanese versions?
The German and Japanese pressings of Help! differ neither in level nor in dynamics. But the Japanese pressing arrives at the finish line about two seconds later (arrows)! When cutting the German matrix, the speed of the tape machine was probably increased slightly to help the drive. Of course, this is out of the question for a Japanese master cutter striving for perfection. In Tokyo, the tape was played back at the intended speed. Honestly, I wouldn’t have heard the difference.
Who said that “the Japanese turn down the bass”? The frequency spectrogram shows quite the opposite here. At least for this Japanese pressing of Help! the record collector’s prejudice does not apply. In the range between 80 and 350 hertz, i.e. in the bass and fundamental range, the Japanese pressing is louder than its German counterpart. This can be seen in the larger orange areas in the frequency range mentioned.
Which pressing of The Beatles – Help! is better?
By no means all records from the Japanese Country Flag series sound better than their European competitors. For Help! a UK pressing die was used and pressed with Japanese quality standards. The result is convincing all along the line. Hörzu does not sound bad at all – just not quite as excellent as its Japanese relative.
- The Night Before
- You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
- I Need You
- Another Girl
- You’re Going To Lose That Girl
- Ticket To Ride
- Act Naturally
- It’s Only Love
- You Like Me Too Much
- Tell Me What You See
- I’ve Just Seen A Face
- Dizzy Miss Lizzy
|Catalogue number||EAS-80554||SHZE 162|
|Revolutions/minute||33 1/3||33 1/3|
|Cover||Single Sleeve||Single Sleeve|
|Add-ons||OBI, 4-page inlay with English lyrics and Japanese translation, Weaving inlay with the current Japanese release programme||–|
|Mastered by||not specified||not specified|
|Pressing plant||not specified||not specified|
|Matrix-Runout||YEX-168 2S4 13 〄 |
YEA̶X-169 5S 9 〄
|SHZE 162 A-2 04257-A-2 |
SHZE 162 A-2 04257-B-2
|Country of manufacture||Japan||Germany|