What's included in this box is a great variety of superb music, some with much help from a Beatle or two or three; plus appearances by Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Steven Stills, Ginger Baker, Ray Charles and others. The remastering overall is very good, especially improving Badfinger's "Ass" and Billy Preston's "Encouraging Words". Many tracks have no hands-on Beatle help but are still excellent, highly enjoyable music. The box focuses on the large amount of fine music released by Apple Records from 1968-1974 by artists other than the Beatles together or individually. The purpose of the rest of this review is to shed a little light on what was originally released by Apple, but isn't included in this box set. (Updates listed at end of review.)
The Iveys (early Badfinger) 1992 cd "Maybe Tomorrow" and Badfinger's 2010 "Magic Christian Music" cd share 12 tracks. These 12 on "Magic Christian Music" 2010 are remixed, alternate and mono versions of the tracks from "Maybe Tomorrow". Disc 16, exclusive to this box set, contains mono versions of 'Dear Angie', 'Think About the Good Times', 'No Escaping Your Love', and 'Yesterday Ain't Coming Back'.
The 9 tracks *only* on the "Maybe Tomorrow" '92 cd are these in stereo: 'See-Saw Granpa', 'Think About the Good Times', 'Yesterday Ain't Coming Back', 'Sali Bloo', 'I've Been Waiting', 'And Her Daddy's a Millionaire' (original version, '92 mix), 'No Escaping Your Love'. In mono: 'Mrs. Jones' ('92 mix), and 'Looking For My Baby' ('92 mix). So this box set excludes *any* version of only one Ivey's song previously released by Apple, 'Looking For My Baby'. Whew! Clear? Then explain it to me.
Mary Hopkin's Those Were the Days was also released on cd in the UK, 1995. It had some of the "pop music" songs of which Mary has made clear she was not too fond, and are not included in this box set. These songs are: 1.) 'Temma Harbour', 2.) 'Knock Knock Who's There' (both Top Five UK hits), 3.) 'Think About Your Children' (Top Twenty UK), 4.) 'Que Sera Sera'(produced by McCartney, musical contributions by McCartney & Ringo), 5.) 'Lontano degli occhi', and 6.) 'Heritage'. Also a b-side that has never made it to cd, 'I'm Going To Fall In Love Again'. The songs from this album that Mary preferred have been added as bonus tracks to Postcard and Earth Song, Ocean Song.
Allen Klein (ABKCO) apparently owned the film and soundtrack rights to EL TOPO and Come Together Soundtrack, which were released via Apple. ABKCO released "EL Topo" as a dvd/cd El Topo, El Topo Soundtrack [DVD] A Film Of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Real Gone Music releases the "El Topo" soundtrack on CD on 16-Nov-12. The soundtrack of "Come Together" remain unreleased on cd. The film and soundtrack have no connection with the Beatles' song 'Come Together'. The 1971 Apple Records vinyl soundtrack feautures 1 song each by Joe South and The Dells, and 5 tracks composed by Stelvio Cipriani. Public domain / grey-area company Something Weird Video have released the "Come Together" film on DVD and download.
Raga, Original Soundtrack LP by Ravi Shankar has been sold, licensed, or loaned to Ravi's own label, East Meets West, as part of Ravi's 90th-year reissue series. The (former?) Apple film and soundtrack have been released on dvd, Raga: A Film Journey to the Soul of India with the soundtrack additionally available as a download. The download names all the same titles as the Apple lp, and even thought the total time of the lp (38:20) and the same download tracks (38:49) are close, the different timings on some of the individual tracks vary from a few seconds to several minutes! The download adds 4 bonus tracks, 3 of which are Ravi speaking. Total download set clocks in at 49:29. The Apple double-cd Ravi Shankar & Ali Akbar Khan in Concert 1972 was issued on cd in the UK, 1996. It may also appear later on Ravi's label, though as of September 2012, it has not been issued. Two new East Meets West Ravi albums have been announced, neither ever on Apple.
Yoko Ono reissued her four Apple albums - "Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band", "Fly", "Approximately Infinite Universe", "Feeling The Space" - and three Apple albums with John Lennon: "Unfinished Music 1: Two Virgins"; "Unfinished Music #2: Life With The Lions" (on Zapple); and "Wedding Album", all on the RykoDisc label, 1997, along with the rest of her catalog to that time. The Plastic Ono Band's "Live Peace In Toronto 1969" had an Apple/EMI cd release in 1995.
"Phil Spector's Christmas Album" was released first on Spector's Philles label in 1961, and after it's release on Apple in 1972, has appeared on the Warner-Spector label and others - now on cd as "A Christmas Gift for You".
The Delaney & Bonnie album was cancelled by Apple, but is available on cd as "Original Delaney & Bonnie: Accept No Substitute". "Listening to Richard Brautigan" a cancelled Zapple lp, was issued by The Collector's Choice label on cd, 2005.
One song by Trash, 'Golden Slumbers-Carry That Weight' is on "...The Best Of Apple Records". As far as the rumored Trash album, and unreleased recordings from the group Mortimer, Apple knows, Apple decides. Same for "The Beatles Christmas Album" of comedy skits including bits of music. It is available in edited version as an extra on the Beatles "Rockband" game software.
David Peel's album "The Pope Smokes Dope" has been released on cd twice; an import version in 2000, and again on Peel's own Orange Records label, date unknown - but never officially by Apple.
So what Apple albums are still unreleased by any label on cd? "Elephant's Memory" by the Elephant's Memory Band, the "Raga" film soundtrack (available as download with the DVD), and the ABKCO film soundtrack "Come Together". Also missing, the Ravi Shankar and Chorus e.p. "Joi Bangla/Oh Bhaugowan/Raga Mishra - Jhinjhoti". As far as singles: two A-sides - 'Road To Nowhere' by Trash, 'Goodbye Sweet Lorraine' by Chris Hodge; and 9 B-sides by Black Dyke Mills Band, Trash (2), Hot Chocolate Band, Mary Hopkin (1 - see above), Ronnie Spector, Chris Hodge (2), and Sundown Playboys. Brute Force's b-side to 'The King Of Fuh', 'Nobody Knows' is on the cd "Lovers from the Sky-Pop Psych", but may be an acetate or demo, I've not heard it.
Since John Lennon and Yoko Ono produced, recorded, and performed with the Elephant's Memory Band, that album may be owned by the Lennon Estate. Likewise, ownership of the Billy Preston and Radha Krishna Temple (London) Apple albums are listed as owned by Umlaut Corp., a branch of the Harrison Estate, on the "...Best of Apple Records" cd booklet.
As far as the packaging, I was hopeful enough to think it would be in a little wood crate. But it's cardboard (think of a cereal box). Not the best choice, but also not as flimsy as some descriptions I've seen. Who knows how much a wood or plastic crate would have added to the price (and detracted from the "green" aspect)? But a firm box, such as with the box sets by the Beatles, Lennon, and Harrison seems reasonable and is an odd oversight.
To a point raised by another reviewer here, about George's Dark Horse label and Starr's Ring O'Records: Two Ravi Shankar lps from George Harrison's Dark Horse label, plus one previously on Angel Records (Capitol's Classical label), and an unreleased film are available on the beautiful box set "Collaborations" (3CD/1DVD). The 3 cds are available separately as downloads.
I hope this helps to answer some questions. Information about Apple Records releases comes from my own personal collection and from the book "All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961-1975", by Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik. My sincere thanks to those whose information (comments below) have been incorporated into this review.
Update 8-Feb-2013: Something Weird Video, which specializes in public domain / grey-area films, has released the ABKCO film "Come Together" on DVD and Download formats.
Update 3-Oct-2012: On 13-Nov-12, ABKCO/Real Gone Music released El Topo: Soundtrack Album the 1971 Apple Records soundtrack to the ABKCO film, on CD and Vinyl. It has previously only been available on CD in a 3-DVD/2-CD set (see below). The Real Gone Music release uses the original cover and booklet art from the Apple album.
Update 23-July-2012: RPM Records has a 3-July-12 US cd release of Lon & Derrek Van Eaton's 1972 Apple Records album Brother, the original 11-track album + 8 bonus tracks. George Harrison, Ringo Starr (drums on 5 songs), Klaus Voormann, & fellow Apple artist John Tavener are all involved musically and / or with production. For those curious about ownership of this album (the Van Eatons, Apple Corps or EMI), the booklet states that all the tracks - original album tracks and bonus tracks - are "...owned by Apple Corps ltd under exclusive license to EMI Records ltd...2012."