Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Album By Album Analysis of the Beatles Catalog: Part 3, The Psychedelic Era

1967 was the year that psychedelia ruled. It's music was very much in tune with the drug and hippie culture of its time. Today, the two Beatles' albums from this period feel like relics from a different age.  That's not to say there aren't any great and timeless songs on these LPs because there are. Read about them below and feel free to agree or disagree.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
In 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Bloggerhythms posted a lengthy reevaluation of this all time classic. In short, the LP many have considered to be not only The Beatles' masterpiece, but also the greatest album of all time, has become a record you love more with your head than with your heart. It is indeed an artistic triumph of production, sophistication, and originality but it lacks excitement because it is short of great songs. However, "A Day In The Life" is outstanding and a fabulous way to end the album. For the original, more in depth review please take a look here.

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
This is the only American album reviewed as part of this project and that is because no such record existed in The Beatles homeland in 1967.  Back in The United Kingdom the six songs from the TV show of the same name were originally issued only as an EP on two 45 RPM records.  These same tunes made up side one of the American LP that has now become the standard version worldwide, and just as it was with Sgt. Pepper’s, the production and glossy sheen of the music outweighed the quality of the songwriting. The title track is worthy. So is Paul McCartney’s "The Fool on the Hill," and the corny, but upbeat "Your Mother Should Know."  "Flying" is pleasant background music but George Harrison took a step backward with "Blue Jay Way."  This eerie track has a much darker vibe than we usually get from the shy one. Then there is Lennon’s drugged out "I Am the Walrus," a song that gives me the creeps both lyrically and aurally. As J. A. Bartlett of the The Hits Just Keep On Comin' so truthfully wrote, "As long as there are fourteen year old boys "I am the Walrus" will always be popular."   I couldn’t have said it any better. The last two tracks are psychedelia run amok.  Side two offers five songs from previously released singles including the outstanding "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."  Both were originally intended for Sgt. Pepper’s. On the other hand "Hello Goodbye," with its insipid lyrics, and "Walrus" made up what is arguably the worst A and B side combination in the Beatles catalog of singles. "All You Need Is Love" backed with "Baby, You’re A Rich Man" pack a much better one-two punch.  The LP's cover, featuring the group wearing walrus outfits, is beyond ridiculous. Perhaps The Beatles were smart enough to realize their excesses and maybe that is why the quartet left this brief era of overproduction behind and changed directions again.

In case you missed them here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.  Stay tuned for Part IV, 1968 - 1970: The End.

Finally, in a completely unrelated Beatles moment I'd like to point out to all Fab Four fans that there is great article on an excellent blog called Something Else! that specializes in jazz, blues, and rock regarding the work of Ringo Starr. Be sure to read Five Songs Where Ringo Starr Doesn't, You Know, Suck.

1 comment:

  1. "...a record you love more with your head than with your heart."

    Very well said. I respect Sgt. Pepper for what it is, and as a loyal Beatles fan, I nod when people mention its greatness. But I don't necessarily like it.

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