Sunday, May 13, 2007

CD Review - The Beatles "Love"

On the suggestion of fellow poster Ned Music, I picked up the new Beatles CD “Love.” The CD is the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, and it combines both familiar and unheard of snips from Beatles songs across their catalog and does a mash-up into new pieces of music.

It was created over a period of two years by original Beatles producer George Martin and his son, Miles. From the liner notes, Miles and George reveal that the idea for the show came from Harrison and a Cirque du Soleil industry friend.

When it was time to come up with the music for the show, the Martins were given full access to all Beatles studio tapes and were told to create about an hour and a half of music any way they wanted to, with the only rule that it had to be sourced from sounds The Beatles had already created.

What a fun project this must have been, and I have to say I am totally blown away by the result. Totally blown away.

Anyone who has been in love with The Beatles since childhood, like I have, has heard every Beatles song so many times that we turn off stuff like Hey Jude and While My Guitar Gently Weeps when it comes on the radio. We’ve just heard it so many times, it’s old.

The six CD Anthology series that was released in the 90s breathed new life into the catalog with outtakes, unreleased songs and alternate mixes. And the new soundtrack to Yellow Submarine that came out in 1999 is still a treat to my ears, because it offered re-mixed versions of fifteen classic tunes.

Not re-mastered versions of the same mixes, mind you – but RE-mixes. George Martin actually did new mixes from the original master tapes, so they are much fresher and you actually hear bits of music (like guitar parts, bass lines, etc) that were not audible in the original mixes. Much, much more than a soundtrack CD, pick that one up if you want fresh versions of the old warhorses.

Or get Love.

George and Miles created a masterpiece with this. Some of the more innovative songs are the combination of Tomorrow Never Knows with Within You Without You, where George Harrison sings his Indian mantra lyrics from Within You Without You over the hammering drum beat of Tomorrow Never Knows. Or how about Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which seamlessly segues into the heavy chord outro of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) with McCartney screaming heavily distorted verses from Helter Skelter in the background.

I think my favorite cut by far, though, is the new version of Strawberry Fields Forever. As we learned in the Anthology Series volume 2, Lennon recorded a number of versions of this song, from a gentle acoustic ballad to the version that ends with thundering drums, crazy noises and electric guitar fills.

For the Love version, the producers created a seamless mashup of all the versions. The song starts with the gentle acoustic version and every verse switches to a new, more layered and intense cut. I am 100 percent convinced this is the version Lennon wanted to hear but technologically could not be pulled off in the 1960s.

And then there is just the cool factor of hearing the solo from Taxman in Drive My Car, the drum solo from The End meld into Get Back, or the chord progression of Dear Prudence over the end of Come Together. There are sounds on the CD I am having trouble placing, and that’s why it’s so fun to keep listening to it over and over again. For example, is that really Clapton’s solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps isolated and pasted in the end freak out part of Strawberry Fields? I know I hear the Piggies piano solo in there too…

And finally, since The Martins were given free reign to ‘mess with’ The Beatles’ legacy, the remixed versions of songs that they didn’t really mess with that much, are worth the price of the CD alone. For example, this new mix of I Am The Walrus blows away any version I have ever heard. Miles in the liner notes said he expected the master tapes to be in dodgy shape and to have tons of hiss, but he said what he found were perfect. Add some modern mixing and engineering technology and what you get is vibrant and shimmering.

Funky mixes and mashups aside, this music leaps from your speakers. Walrus, Come Together and especially Revolution are pounding. These tracks sound like they were recorded yesterday instead of 40 years ago.

Have I said enough? Go buy the fricking CD.


Dr. John said...

I'm convinced. I'll check it out next time I shop for CD's.
Any reviews of "Snakes and Arrows" or the Porcupine Tree show you said you were going to earlier this week?

Isorski said...

Sadly, I missed the Porcupine Tree show. However, friends went and said it was epic.

Reviews of the new Rush and PT are forthcoming, once I get the flipping CDs!