Thursday, June 09, 2011

An Album By Album Analysis of The Beatles Catalog: Part 5, The End

Yellow Submarine (1969)
The soundtrack from The Beatles third movie is not much of an album really, just four new songs, a couple of older tunes, and a whole side of soundtrack music written by George Martin. Two George Harrison rejects from Sgt. Pepper, "It’s All Too Much" and "Only A Northern Song," both sound like they belong in the psychedelic period from where they were born and the childlike "All Together Now" is a catchy, fun, sing-a-long but not much more. The highlight is John Lennon’s "Hey Bulldog." With its tough, piano driven groove it should have been a hit single. Better is Yellow Submarine Songtrack, released in 1999.

Abbey Road (1969)
The Beatles saved their very best album for their final recording sessions. It is well known by now that Abbey Road was the last album the gang from Liverpool ever recorded together even though it was released before Let It Be. It is also the record that finally gave George Harrison the respect he craved and deserved. Both of his entries were favorably reviewed and were as strong as any of the Lennon – McCartney tunes they shared space with. The ballad, "Something," was Harrison’s first "A" side single release and it has since become one of pop music's most covered songs. "Here Comes the Sun" also deserved the accolades it received. Abbey Road is what The White Album could have been if it had been pared down to one record. Every track is worthy in some way although Ringo Starr's "Octopus's Garden" could be considered too cute for its own good. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" may sound like it should fall into the same category but its lyrics are too subversive for Lennon to hate the McCartney track as much as he did. The rest of side one is excellent. Side two's medley is outstanding and was capped off by my all time favorite Beatles song(s), the wonderful finale, "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End." While they are technically separate songs this trio of tunes needs to be experienced together to be fully appreciated. Other favorites include, "Oh Darlin," "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)," "Because," and "You Never Give Me Your Money." By the time Abbey Road was recorded the negative vibes the band felt toward each other were way beyond repair yet The Beatles still took enough pride in their work to say goodbye to the world with an album for the ages.

Let It Be (1970)
The Let It Be recording sessions started out as rehearsals for a giant concert that Paul McCartney talked the other three Beatles into staging. Unfortunately, the accompanying film shows the tension of those rehearsals, the abandonment of the concert plans, and even the disintegration of the band itself. Much has been written about Phil Spector's overblown orchestra and choir productions wreaking havoc on "The Long and Winding Road," "I Me Mine," and "Across The Universe." Other distractions included tiresome song snippets such as "Maggie Mae" and the pointless "Dig It" as well as a lot of extraneous chatter that was tacked on to the beginning or end of several tracks. In 2003 the album was cleaned up and re-released the way The Beatles would have preferred but under the name Let It Be Naked. It was issued without Spector’s orchestra and choir and without the unnecessary commentary and snippets. The title track, "Winding Road," "Get Back," and "Two of Us," are among The Beatles best songs of the period. Also worthy is Harrison’s jaunty slide guitar tune "For You Blue" and Lennon’s "Don’t Let Me Down." The latter was added to the Naked version and should have been on the original. Overall, the first Let It Be isn't a bad record and it probably would have been even better if apathy hadn’t overcome everyone but McCartney.

Past Masters, Volume 2 (1996)
Just like volume one, this CD captures fifteen more songs that were never released on the original British LPs, this time from the Revolver era forward. Included are big hit singles such as "We Can Work It Out," "Paperback Writer," "Lady Madonna," "Hey Jude," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and a bunch of "B" sides including "Old Brown Shoe," "The Inner Light," and "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)." Also included are a few flip sides that really were hits in their own right: "Day Tripper," "Rain," and "Revolution." The single version of "Let It Be" is here as well as the pre-Phil Spector take of "Across the Universe." This compilation is outstanding.

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