Sunday, April 29, 2018

Favorite Compilations 1: The Beatles 1967-1970 by Peter Reum

There are young people these days whose knowledge of Rock Groups from the Sixties and Seventies rock is minimal. Some young people have heard variations of hip hop, but are unfamiliar with Sixties and Seventies soul and rock music. My youngest boy and girl are more acquainted than most families, but that is because I have played music to them periodically since they were two and three years old.  The picture that I see with my kids is an attempt to show them as many forms of music as I can in a matter of a few years.

I am fully cognizant of the trends that have come and do my best to not judge the music played. There is a portion of those
music albums that for me are not listenable. I think with careful selection and closely held opinions of various artists that the kids of these days should be exposed to only a few genres or eras of popular music, jazz, roots, country, or critic's pet artists. The Beatles are nearly secular saints in the world of popular music. They grew as artists in a way they had to, because the road became an untenable choice for them. When asked why their touring ceased, their consistent answer was that the crowd noise was so loud that they could not hear themselves over the monitors onstage.

The group began 1967 as a studio entity, recording the Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever double 'A' sided single. The two tunes could have been released on the Sgt. Pepper album, but the two marvelous tunes were issued in February 1967, not appearing on Sgt. Pepper. The history from that point until the two singles were issued from the Let It Be album in 1970 reflects unhindered growing sophistication in the compositions the group released as singles or on albums. Those of us who were raised in the Fifties and Sixties were exposed to music that reflected the period's upheaval, but which often was innovative enough to be timeless. Of course, Beatle music is of that genre, beloved by at least three generations of listeners.

Beatles at EMI 1969

Back Cover Track Listing

Customized Record Label Sides 1 and 3-Note Green Apple

Customized Record Label Sides 2 and 4-Note Sliced Apple

Example of Record Storage Liner-Customized Blue with Lyrics

The fact about most greatest hits or best of compilations is that there are usually several tracks that are "duds." An example would be the Best of the Beach Boys album's released  in 1966 by Capitol Records. Instead of combing the vault for the REAL Best of the Beach Boys, Capitol haphazardly released an album that had several legitimately great tracks,  with a selection of what can only be called "ringers." Perhaps underwhelming is a suitable classification for 40% of the Best of the Beach Boys series of three albums.

While the Beatles double cd sets 1962-1966 (the red set) and 1967-1970 (the blue set) are both uniformly excellent, my favorite has always been the blue set. The program begins with the 1967 double "A" sided single Strawberry Fields Forever b/w Penny Lane, both recorded during the sessions for the Sgt. Pepper album. Like many Beatle singles, the sides are written primarily by John Lennon (Strawberry Fields) and Paul McCartney.  The sound is excellent, a treat for those who wear headphones when listening.

Some Beatles Looking for the Best Compilation of Their Work

The program continues with four selections from the Sgt. Pepper album. The title track leads the selections, followed by With a Little Help From My Friends, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and Sgt. Pepper's epic closing track, A Day in the Life. Listeners can most likely argue about the songs that were pulled from Sgt. Pepper, but for my money, the four songs placed on the set are the ones that are most popular, and had the greatest radio exposure. All of them have been labeled as a peak in songwriting and production.

I'd like to digress just for a moment to offer my opinion on Magical Mystery Tour as released in the UK, and the longer album from the USA. I will categorically state that the USA Magical Mystery Tour album is the ONE altered album for the USA market that plays through from start to finish with no hiccups or sore thumbs. All You Need is Love is a single that was placed on the USA version of Magical Mystery Tour. The song is one of the great Beatle sing along tunes. It seemed to summarize the era of hippies, psychedelics, and free love in a manner that could serve as both a theme for that period, and as a tune that also seemed to signal it's death knell. The second song on side 2 of the original l.p. set is I  Am the Walrus. This tune may include some of John Lennon's most innovative psychedelic lyrics. The overall feel of the record is that it is one of the definitive Beatle Summer of Love songs, and that it is the psychedelic peak in songs from that era. Hello Goodbye is simply one of the best Beatle tunes about confused communication from the psychedelic era. The Fool on the Hill brings a succinct overview of the average person's experiences with being overstimulated by the everyday experiences he or she is exposed to. The trip the Beatles took to India grew out of the group's need to learn to cope with their busy lives and emotional stress from consistently being expected to top their last album or single.

The last four tracks on the first cd highlight The Beatles as a great rock band. They play these songs loud, and use many of the tricks that later became staples of hard rocking Seventies bands. The title track of the British double ep set and the great album that followed the Sgt. Pepper album in the United States uses Ringo's drums in a manner that was later used by other bands who rocked their asses off. The three remaining tunes are either 'A' or 'B' sides of singles from late 1967 well into 1968. These songs are Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, and Revolution.  Lady Madonna, although credited to Lennon and McCartney, is mostly a song of Paul's. The piano style here is barrelhouse, bringing somewhat of a Fats Domino style of playing forward. The piano is the main instrument, offering a more rhythmic style of play.  Paul also is the main author of Hey Jude, which was inspired by a talk Paul had with Julian Lennon, John's son with Cynthia, his first wife. The tune, minimally masks Julian's name, changing it to Jude. The song's sympathetic yet upbeat theme made it a favorite on both sides of the Atlantic. The tune listed twice as long as singles up to that time, forever breaking the unwritten rule that no single 'A' side should exceed three to four minutes in length or it would not be played on radio station's play lists. Revolution,  sometimes known as Revolution #1, brought back an exhilarating, loud and bold sound to the group's rocking reputation, ensuring that the Beatles were not stuck with an MOR
reputation after some singles that were more soulful or softer sounding, making listeners question if the Beatles had forgotten how to play loud and serious rock and roll. After Hey Jude and Revolution, the Beatles were never thought of as anything but a great rock band.

The second record in the original package is also excellently compiled. Side 3 on the vinyl original issue and the second cd's beginning commences with the tongue in cheek tribute to Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, Back In the U.S.S.R. This is a favorite of mine being a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson fan, and I love the way it combines the Chuck Berry type of rocking music, with the lyrics on the song's bridge sounding like Mike Love's original lyrics for California Girls. George Harrison steps into the limelight with While My Guitar Gently Weeps in track 2. For this tune, Harrison brings Eric Clapton in to play lead guitar, and the lyrics to the song are derived from Chinese and Tibetan philosophy. This particular song is, for me, the tune that foreshadowed the incredible All Things Must Pass George Harrison solo lp set. Ob-La-Di/Ob-La-Da follows All Things Must Pass, and for me is the clinker in this set of songs. It has that characteristic of being cute once or twice, and then just being irritating. The next Paul McCartney tune, Get Back, is somewhat of an iconic song, as it was recorded live on the Apple Building's roof, which is well documented as the last time the Beatles played before an audience. The concert nearly paralyzed the section of London next to the Apple Building. Billy Preston, organist on the session, is credited on the single's label. Don't Let Me Down, primarily a John Lennon song, foreshadows Lennon's solo work during the Plastic Ono Band period of Lennon's solo career. The track was solely a John and Paul recording, with Paul helping on drums. Lennon's guitar line is simple, but dignified. The reference to Jesus in the lyric caused some USA radio stations to boycott the single.  Old Brown Shoe was the "B" side of Ballad of John and Yoko, composed by George Harrison. The song is a sophisticated song which Harrison believed was one of his best compositions with The Beatles. The tune shifts keys several times during the record, and has been well regarded critically by rock critics. It was cut during the preliminary Abbey Road Sessions.

Beginning Side Four of the vinyl 1967-1970 edition, and hitting the middle of the second cd's program of songs, Here Comes the Sun is regarded almost universally as a George Harrison masterpiece. The Beatles, minus John Lennon, cut the tune with Eric Clapton. The session is notable for being another collaboration between Harrison and Eric Clapton. This is most likely the second most covered Harrison tune by other artists. It is iconic.  The program continues with Come Together, a second tune from John Lennon indicating his frustration with The Beatles as a group, and hating the gossip about Yoko Ono which often portrayed her in an unfavorable light. For the record, I believe we might not have had much if any music from John if Yoko Ono had not encouraged him to create. Something is George Harrison's signature composition, and is the single most covered song that the Beatles recorded. Artists worldwide found that Something was and is a classic love song unmatched in Beatle history. Octopus's Garden offers a Ringo Starr lead vocal which lends a zany and whimsical feeling to the tune. The song is the second song Ringo ever wrote and is called 'excellent' by George Harrison in interviews from that time.

Let It Be is a ballad that is almost universally loved and prized by Beatle listeners around the World. Brian Wilson has been quoted as saying he plays the song whenever he needs to "chill out and relax." The Let It Be album version has strings added by Phil Spector which were removed by Paul McCartney for the revised Let It Be Naked album. Across the Universe has a long history with the version for the World Wildlife Fund being less exposed than Lennon's version on the Let It Be Album. The version on the Let It Be album incorporates some revisions which perhaps make the song more accessible to listeners. The Long and Winding Road is also present on Let It Be with strings by Phil Spector. The Let It Be Naked version does away with Spector's strings. The listener may have to listen to both versions to decide.

There it is, my all purpose, all weather set of songs from 1967  through 1970 as compiled by Apple Records.  It is the
most satisfying listen as a compilation. Of all of Beatle reissues this is a must listen compiled by several Beatles, which makes the 1967-1970 compilation soar as promised, which also foreshadows many future solo albums made by individual Beatles.

Text is copyright 2018 by Peter Reum - All rights reserved. Album artwork in this article is copyrighted by Apple Records.