Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Beatles-All You Need is NOT Love
In the sixties, the Beatles were background figures to me. I would hear their music from time to time on the radio or on television but I wasn’t sure what their names were. I saw HELP when it premiered on network television and YELLOW SUBMARINE was one of the first movies I saw without my parents. The first Beatles record I bought was their very last single before the breakup-THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD. My first album was THE BEATLES AGAIN (AKA HEY JUDE), that hodgepodge compilation of leftovers and singles that Capitol put together that same year. Better late than never I guess because after that there was just no stopping me. Beatles books fill one entire bookcase here at the Library and we won’t even discuss how much Beatles music we’ve gotten over the years.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, comes LOVE, referred to as the first "new" Beatles album in years. You could actually make a good case for that when you consider that Sir George Martin, the fabs’ producer and the man who actually found ways to put their often lysergically fuelled imaginations on record in the first place, was behind it. If anyone could truly be said to have been a so-called fifth Beatle (besides Stu but that’s a technicality), it was Martin. When Cirque du Soleil, supposedly with the encouragement of the late George Harrison, staged their Beatles-themed Vegas show, they wisely turned to Martin as the man who knew more about Beatle music than the Beatles themselves. The only problem is…it doesn’t work.
Compiled with the assistance of Martin’s son Giles, LOVE offers more than an hour of familiar and classic Beatles tunes sampled, mashed-up and strung vaguely together like a classical suite. It’s clever, it’s different, it’s well done (for the most part) and it even seems to offer the odd bit from lesser-known takes. The problem is that it’s a just a trick—a novelty. The sampling itself seems a tad stodgy (perhaps unavoidably) and the end result, rather than being the majestic piece it strives for, made me long to hear the real songs in the versions John, Paul, George and Ringo wanted released in the first place. You’ll find yourself singing along and suddenly you’ll transition to a different piece with different lyrics. Seemingly at random, Martin samples his own classic product, tossing in beats, horns, stray vocals and background rhythms that seem out of place because they really are. After just a few selections, it becomes a big musical guessing game where Beatle lovers will undoubtedly find themselves listening mostly to identify the next surprise sound. There is no doubt that George Martin contributed mightily to the success of the Beatles but, as is the case of the lads themselves, the sum is more than equal to the individual parts. LOVE may not really be a new Beatles album but it certainly won’t hurt their legendary reputation. As you can see by this shot, they will always be outstanding in their field.