Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anthology 2

As expected, the second installment of the Anthology series reflects the Beatles' increasing use of the studio-as-laboratory during their "middle years." Some live material from 1965 to 1966 appears on the first disc, and the second "reunion" single ("Real Love") leads off the set. But the emphasis is upon alternate takes from early 1965 to early 1968, during which time the group rapidly evolved from post-Merseybeat through folk-rock to psychedelia.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anthology 1

The first in a series of three double-CD sets of previously unreleased and rare Beatles material, released in conjunction with the mammoth Anthology video documentary. This covers the late '50s to the end of 1964, mixing studio outtakes, live performances, primitive recordings from the Quarreyman/Silver Beatles days, excerpts from the famous 1962 Decca audition, the most notable 1961 Tony Sheridan-era recordings, and brief spoken bits from interviews.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Live at the BBC

From 1962 to 1965, the Beatles made 52 appearances on the BBC, recording live-in-the-studio performances of both their official releases and several dozen songs that they never issued on disc. This magnificent two-disc compilation features 56 of these tracks, including 29 covers of early rock, R&B, soul, and pop tunes that never appeared on their official releases, as well as the Lennon/McCartney original "I'll Be on My Way," These performances have been available on bootlegs for years, compose the major missing chapter in the Beatles' legacy, and it's great to have them easily obtainable in a first-rate package.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Love Songs

Having charted high with a grab-bag double album of Beatle rockers, Rock and Roll Music in 1976, Capitol compiled what amounts to the former album's flip side the following year, a two-LP collection of Beatle ballads. The 25-song set covers just about the entire heyday of the band. However, grouping them one after another was not a good idea. The Beatles were about balance, about the four personalities interacting, editing and enhancing each other -- and their music reflected that balance even as it grew wilder and more eclectic. This package tilts the balance much too heavily in one direction, and it gives the illusion of making even this endlessly inventive band sound like something that it was not: sentimental and predictable.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Picking up where 1962-1966 left off, the double-album compilation 1967-1970, commonly called The Blue Album, covers the Beatles' later records, from Sgt Pepper's through Let It Be. As a précis of the group's final 36 months, it's all mightily impressive, even if 1967-1970 misses several great songs. But like its predecessor, this set does capture the essence (if not the full range) of the Beatles' later recordings.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Assembling a compilation of the Beatles is a difficult task, not only because they had an enormous number of hits, but also because singles didn't tell the full story; many of their album tracks were as important as the singles, if not more so. The double-album 1962-1966, commonly called The Red Album, does the job surprisingly well, hitting most of the group's major early hits and adding important album tracks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hey Jude

Kind of a catch-all record, Hey Jude was released very late in the Beatles' career, and it collects several singles and B-sides that never made it onto "official" albums. As a record though, it works quite well, and given the Beatles' genius, especially in the area of creating exquisite and ultraprogressive singles, it comes as no surprise.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Let It Be

The only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews, there are few other rock records as controversial as Let It Be. although released in May 1970, this was not their final album, but largely recorded in early 1969, way before Abbey Road. It was an album with an attempt to get back to the live recording with all of the Fad Four together. Things didn't turn out that way. Tensions filled the sessions-George Harrison had left and came back. As flawed and bumpy as it is, it's an album well worth having, as when The Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Abbey Road

The last Beatles album to be recorded (although Let It Be was the last to be released), Abbey Road was a fitting swan song for the group, echoing some of the faux-conceptual forms of Sgt. Pepper's, but featuring stronger compositions and more rock-oriented ensemble work. The group was still pushing forward in all facets of its art, whether devising some of the greatest harmonies to be heard on any rock record. Whether Abbey Road is the Beatles' best work is debatable, but it's certainly the most immaculately produced (with the possible exception of Sgt. Pepper's ) and most tightly constructed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yellow Submarine

The only Beatles album that could really be classified as inessential, mostly because it wasn't really a proper album at all, but a soundtrack that only utilized four new Beatles songs. Yet, Yellow Submarine does have its moments of welcome on the turntable or the CD player -- it's not every time that calls for listening as ambitious and demanding as The White Album, Abbey Road, or Sgt. Pepper's.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Beatles

Each song on the sprawling double album The Beatles, is an entity to itself, as the band touches on anything and everything it can. This makes for a frustratingly scattershot record or a singularly gripping musical experience, depending on your view, but what makes the so-called White Album interesting is its mess. Never before had a rock record been so self-reflective, or so ironic. None of it sounds like it was meant to share album space together, but somehow this album creates its own style and sound through its mess.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour

The U.S. version of the soundtrack for the Beatles' ill-fated British television special embellished the six songs that were found on the British Magical Mystery Tour double EP with five other cuts from their 1967 singles. The psychedelic sound is very much in the vein of Sgt. Pepper's, and even spacier in parts. Unlike Sgt. Pepper's, there's no vague overall conceptual/thematic unity to the material, which has made Magical Mystery Tour suffer slightly in comparison. Still, the music is mostly great.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Perhaps the best album in rock per say, but certainly one of the most important. The Beatles made the Great Leap Forward, reaching a previously unheard-of level of sophistication and fearless experimentation. Sgt. Pepper's, in many ways, refines that breakthrough, as the Beatles consciously synthesized such disparate influences as psychedelia, art-song, classical music, rock & roll, and music hall, often in the course of one song. Not once does the diversity seem forced! no album is as historically important as this. After Sgt.Pepper's, there were no rules to follow -- rock and pop bands could try anything, for better or worse. Ironically, few tried to achieve the sweeping, all-encompassing embrace of music as the Beatles did here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record, or it may be that all of it holds together perfectly. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve. Even after Sgt. Pepper's, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it's still as emulated as it was upon its original release.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rubber Soul

While the Beatles still largely stuck to love songs on Rubber Soul, the lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements. The turning point for the Beatles....

Monday, August 15, 2011


Another soundtrack album from the Beatles. Some great tunes here are "Help!", "Ticket to Ride", "Yesterday" (UK version) and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beatles VI

Six months had elapsed since the release of Beatles '65 in America, and the powers that were at Capitol Records recognized that some new product was needed, especially as the group was about to tour the United States. The result was Beatles VI, using the remaining tracks off of the British-released Beatles for Sale album (going all the way back to the fall of the previous year)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Early Beatles

Capturing moments from two years earlier -- encompasses 11 of the most unabashedly joyous examples of music-making that anyone had ever heard. Any similarity between The Early Beatles and Parlophone's Please Please Me album or VeeJay's Introducing...the Beatles is not only understandable but unavoidable, as all three albums were constructed from essentially the same core body of songs.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beatles '65

The Beatles released their latest official long-player, Beatles for Sale, in England on December 4 of 1964, capping a year of the most extraordinary activity ever seen on the part of a performing group. Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Capitol Record released this variation of the same album omitting several songs and replacing them with others.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Beatles' Story

Fans seemed to want anything by the Beatles on record in 1964, and toward the end of that remarkable year, Capitol Records responded with this two-LP documentary record, which contained almost no previously unavailable Beatles music (the exception was 48 seconds of "Twist And Shout" recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl on August 23, 1964). What it did contain was a biographical narration ("It started in Liverpool, England...") written and spoken by disk jockeys over symphonic versions of Beatles music. Fans screamed and cried and tried to explain themselves, crowds roared, and there were excerpts from Beatles' press conferences.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day's Night was the first Beatles album of all-original material. While showcasing the development of the band's songwriting talents, the album sticks to the basic rock and roll instrumentation and song format. Many of the most important rock bands to emerge in the latter half of the '60s came into being because of this album's irresistible vibrancy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Beatles' Second Album

Unlike the contemporaneous British Beatles albums, The Beatles' Second Album is composed exclusively of uptempo numbers, and for this reason is a favorite of some Beatles aficionados and rock critics. This album stands as probably best pure rock & roll album ever issued of the group's music.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Meet the Beatles!

Nothing could make the music on this album obsolete. The infectious charm of songs like "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There," "It Won't Be Long," and "All My Loving" still weave their magic which, if less potent in an age jaded by a generation of musicians who had the benefit of the Beatles' songbook tucked underneath their arms, still carries an aura around it -- just as the first moon landing will never be eclipsed by subsequent forays into space.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Introducing... The Beatles

Introducing...The Beatles is the first Beatles album released in the United States. Originally scheduled for a July 1963 release, the album came out on January 10, 1964 on Vee-Jay Records, ten days before Capitol's Meet the Beatles!. It was the subject of much legal wrangling, but ultimately, Vee-Jay were permitted to sell the album until late 1964, by which time it had sold more than 1.3 million copies. Huge controversy surrounds the legibility and legality of this album. Versions differ as covers and song selections changed. (I have the second version).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Classics Selected by Brian Wilson

Apart from "I Get Around," there isn't much of the fun-in-the-sun rockers, but a lot of lush, warm ballads and a lot of highlights from his mid- to late-'60s peak. it's a good, entertaining listen, but just don't think this is any more distinctive than the average Beach Boys compilation -- it just happens to be one of the better ones.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Greatest Hits – Volume 1: 20 Good Vibrations

What is here qualifies as a top-notch introduction for a casual fan of the Beach Boys-twenty of their greatest hits.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Endless Summer

This was the album by which millions of sons of late baby boomers (and sons and daughters of the early ones) first really discovered the Beach Boys , beyond hearing the occasional oldie on the radio. An essential for every collection.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Released when Cream and Jimi Hendrix were at their apex, the low-key pleasantries of Friends seemed downright irrelevant in mid-1968. Today it sounds better, but it's certainly one of the group's more minor efforts, as the members started to divide the songwriting more or less evenly among themselves.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pet Sounds

Recognized as one of the most influential records in the history of popular music and one of the best albums of the 1960s. Inspired by the Beatles' 1965 release, Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wanted to create the "greatest record ever". The result was Pet Sounds (1966), where Wilson's growing mastery of studio recording and his increasingly sophisticated songs and complex arrangements would reach a creative peak. Influenced by psychedelic drugs, Brian Wilson turned his attention inward and probe his deep-seated self-doubts and emotional longings. The album's meticulously layered harmonies and inventive instrumentation set a new standard for pop and rock music. Wilson was a pioneer of the 'studio as instrument' concept, exploiting novel combinations of sounds that sprang from the use of multiple electric instruments and voices in an ensemble and combining them with echo and reverberation. He often doubled bass, guitar and keyboard parts, blending them with reverberation and adding other unusual instruments.