I own multiple discographies of The Beatles and this is hands-down the most complete - and the most beautiful. Most discographies focus (understandably) almost exclusively on the UK and US releases; some provide information on Canadian and German releases, and a few will mention releases originating in other countries. This, though, this... this book (pair of books) contains detailed information on Beatles records issued all over the world. There is no question that many of the releases in this book are being documented for the first time. Besides information, there are pictures of these records. Lots of pictures. Full-colour pictures, of the album covers (front and back), the record labels, inner sleeves, posters, etc. It is these unfamiliar foreign releases (particularly the Russian ones) that are the most fascinating. Many of the album covers (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Yellow Submarine - just three examples), though familiar at first glance, are subtly different.
The scope of this project is phenomenal. The US and UK sections are as complete as can be; ditto the Canadian and German sections; I presume all the sections dealing with other countries are equally complete. The author has done an outstanding job documenting the thousands of different Beatles albums that have appeared throughout the world.
The design and quality of the books and slipcase is very good. The package is printed and bound in Germany. The books stay open nicely while reading. A narrow cloth bookmark is attached to the binding of each volume, always a welcome feature. The paper is glossy and a good thickness, and the photographs are high quality. The books do not have dustjackets but the hard covers are textured, a nice touch. The slipcase is sturdy. Included with the books is a separate folder containing four colour postcards by artist Anni Rosen (each showing a different Beatles collage), a poster of The Beatles by Astrid Kirchherr, and a vinyl single on the Polydor label. I have not listened to the single yet, but it features an apparently previously unheard Tony Sheridan-era track titled, "If You Love Me Baby" (on the other side is "Ain't She Sweet"). This is an impressive package all the way around.
Is there anything less than wonderful about this set? It was written in Russian and translated into English and at times the language is awkward. Typos are frequent. Yet, the awkwardness of the language charms me somehow; the author clearly loves his subject and his sincerity and excitement come through clearly. The typos, which typically annoy me no end - especially in an expensive book - I find myself forgiving (provisionally) also... issues with translation, the sheer scope of the proofreading (over 1300 pages), etc.
Am I glad I bought it? Absolutely. Despite what are essentially minor flaws it's a thoroughly impressive package and - I don't say this lightly - an essential addition to any hardcore Beatles fan's library. It stands proudly on my shelf alongside other heavy-duty Beatles tomes like Kehew & Ryan's "Recording The Beatles", Lewisohn's "Complete Recording Sessions", Babiuk's "Beatles Gear", the Beatles' own "Anthology" book, and the "Box of Vision". I know I'm going to be poring over this book for a long time to come. Totally unique and highly recommended.