Friday, December 17, 2010

Beatles 29: 1 and Love

With John’s and George’s respective catalogs getting the occasional remastered treatment, and both Paul and Ringo still recording and touring, nobody in charge was about to let their original band be forgotten. Every now and then there was a “new” release, and each was met with equal shares of excitement and disdain.
Just in time for what someone termed the “Beatle-lennium”, most of the year 2000 was spent building up to the release of the official Anthology book, followed by the band’s first hits collection compiled specifically for CD. Simply titled 1, it included 27 songs that hit the top spot on the pop charts in either the UK or the US; naturally, some favorites were left off which annoyed some people no end. The packaging contains a testimonial from George Martin, plus depictions of various 45 sleeves from around the world and some chart info. (We’d hoped the liner notes would be more thorough, but perhaps the timely launch of the Beatles.com website was intended to hold all the extras.) The bright red artwork reminds one of the 1962-1966 collection, and left our mouths watering for a blue-covered 2, or at least a companion DVD with all the promo videos. (That only took fifteen years, suggesting that the project has been completed to its fullest extent.)

One of the last things George apparently did before he died was to get the Cirque du Soleil on board for a Beatles extravaganza in Vegas, and convince the other two plus Yoko it was a good idea. Eventually called Love, the show debuted in 2006 to the full endorsement of Paul, Ringo and the widows. More interesting to attendees were the liberal use of music extracted from the original multitrack tapes by George Martin (in what he said yet again would be his final production job) and his son Giles. These weren’t simple remixes along the lines of Rock ‘N’ Roll Music or the Yellow Submarine Songtrack—these were bona fide 21st-century mashups, the like of which had been keeping copyright lawyers busy for most of the decade. The album listed 36 titles within 26 tracks, yet the Martins said they mixed elements from over a hundred songs; we will not attempt to identify them all here. After all, the fun is finding them all yourself.
Bird noises introduce a vocals-only mix of “Because”, followed by key elements from “A Day In The Life”, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “The End”. “Glass Onion” includes some acoustic guitar from “Things We Said Today”. “I Am The Walrus” gets a new stereo remix including the orchestral count-in heard for the first time ever. One of the more successful experiments combines “Drive My Car” with “What You’re Doing”, along with “Savoy Truffle” saxes and various segments of “The Word” weaved in and out. Since it is a circus show, “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” gets a new mix with the guitars (and more organ) from “She’s So Heavy” over the closing waltz section, plus some “Helter Skelter” vocals at the end. The intro of “Blackbird” is shoehorned less than successfully onto “Yesterday”.
After another previously unheard count-in by John, “Strawberry Fields Forever” gets a fascinating treatment that seems to emulate his demo plus each of the completed takes in turn, then combines a variety of elements all over the end drums. “Within You Without You” gets a great new face by simply adding the drums and effects from “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and goes nicely into a “star-like” effect chopping up the opening of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. The strings from “Good Night” are added almost tearjerkingly to the first verse of “Octopus’s Garden”, with sound effects from “Yellow Submarine” bubbling underneath, even after the song proper continues. “Lady Madonna” replaces the sax solo with the riff from “Hey Bulldog”, Clapton’s solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Billy’s organ (again) from “She’s So Heavy”.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” takes the demo from Anthology 3 and adds a new George Martin string arrangement. Thankfully, “Hey Jude” isn’t the full seven minutes, but they do kill some of the orchestra to pull out a buried McCartney bassline for a more prominent ending. The true finale is “All You Need Is Love”, with two Christmas presents on the fade: the “Johnny Rhythm” sign-off from the 1965 flexi, and laughter and applause from the 1966 flexi. Which only makes us angry that they’re still not available officially. (The iTunes version of the album, which became available in February 2011, added exclusive versions of “Fool On The Hill” and “Girl”, both of which lean heavily on the same tamboura drone.)
While it’s easy to cry foul at messing with history, some of the juxtapositions were pretty cool. And it’s always nice to find a new Beatles album under the Christmas tree.

The Beatles 1 (2000)—5
The Beatles Love (2006)—4

1 comment:

  1. I saw LOVE in 2008 and loved it but never bought the CD. Your post reminded me so I bought the CD and it's great. Have to take my wife to see it this year (2008 was a biz trip). Great blog BTW!

    ReplyDelete