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‘Ultra Rare Trax’: Legality, Not Quality, Debatable

There’s no dispute over the sound quality of the two new “Ultra Rare Trax” collection of Beatles session outtakes. Everyone agrees it’s excellent. But there is debate over the legality of the packages, which are being sold for between $40 and $60 at a few stores around town.

The material on the two “Ultra Rare Trax” editions ranges from alternative versions of some classic Beatles songs (including “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”) to some previously unreleased songs.

Sue Satriano, vice president of public relations for Capitol-EMI Records, says the CDs are “bootlegs” because they have not been licensed by Capitol-EMI, which holds the worldwide rights to Beatles’ material. “We are investigating the sources of those CDs and are considering appropriate legal action,” she said.

Because of this legal issue, the availability of the CDs around town is extremely limited. They are generally restricted to selected CD-only stores or specialized record shops.

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To complicate matters, a third CD--the 64-minute “Back-Track"--contains all the material on two “Ultra Rare Trax” volumes and is being sold at prices ranging from $40 to $80. Satriano called it a “bootleg of a bootleg.”

About the packages, one retailer said: “I don’t want to classify them as bootlegs. That’s a decision for the courts. All I know is this isn’t something that just came off a tape recorder. The good quality is extraordinary and we get them from a legitimate CD distributor.”

In his monthly ICE newsletter, Pete Howard describes the sound quality as “every bit as good--and in some cases, better--than” the official Capitol-EMI Beatles CDs. But Howard also brands them as clearly “illegal.”


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