The Beatles’ Love CD: All You Need Is George
By
Nate Rustemeyer
5/22/2007 10:01:59 PM

Is it possible that George Martin could have committed rock’n’roll blasphemy by tampering with sacred material for the Beatles’ latest compilation CD, Love [Capitol]? Absolutely not.

A Beatles remix could so easily be another entertainment-hybrid flop, like Twyla Tharp’s The Times, They are a Changin’. And this is not Robert Stigwood’s musical-film failure, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which the likes of the Bee Gees and Aerosmith sang Beatles’ songs. Then again, this isn’t the Broadway stage, or the movie screen; simply, they’re re-arrangements of original recordings we love.

Martin, one of the few men ever referred to as the “fifth Beatle” (and more than anyone else deserves the title), along with his son, Giles Martin, rearranged and remixed original Beatles recordings into this hour and twenty-minute soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil’s colorful Las Vegas performance. Martin not only produced most of the Beatles’ work, he also arranged and conducted most of their orchestral pieces, and he wrote music and played instruments on many tracks. Additionally, Martin has good reason to be proud of his progeny.

Giles Martin is also a respected producer, having worked with the likes of Jeff Beck, Kate Bush, and INXS. According to the liner notes it was Giles who made the first stroke of genius on Love, suggesting that the vocals from “Within You Without You” and the bass and drums from “Tomorrow Never Knows” would mix perfectly. The track sounds industrial, and a distorted John Lennon beseeches you to “Turn off your mind, relax, and float down stream,” while relentless seagulls echo and bounce mechanically over Ringo Starr’s bass drum. The entire CD is a tapestry of sound.

“Because” begins the album, and Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, weave a cappella harmonies in and out of a background of chirping birds from “Across the Universe.” Enchantment.

Suddenly, the opening guitar chord for “A Hard Day’s Night” bangs in, followed by Ringo Starr’s smashing drum solo, from “The End,” which becomes the pulse to a blazin’ two minute version of Paul’s “Get Back.” We are on the ground and running.

Then John rips into the next track singing, “Fixing a hole in the ocean!” in “Glass Onion.” The sticky beat drips into Paul’s ghostly voice fading in and out in “Eleanor Rigby.” Then violins, violas, and cellos fit for hip-hop tune pop in. Obviously George Martin has it under control.

The tracks continue to energize, until it hits the CD’s most transcendent track “Gnik Nus.” John’s childlike verses and the group’s harmonies from “Sun King” played backwards can only be described as the ancient language of angels. Accompanied with a sitar, the listener may have an out-of-body experience. Then the song slowly wafts down like a feather into the warm, naked voice of George Harrison’s “Something.” And we cling like helpless babies to the texture of the lyrics.

Many songs on Love are shorter than the original versions, so a lot of material is covered and there is no overkill. “Hey Jude” is just under four minutes, and “Get Back” is only two. Paul’s guitar picking from “Blackbird” is now the introduction to “Yesterday,” making the latter song entirely digestible again after anyone might have already heard it a million times.

Other songs that this CD could not do without are “Come Together/Dear Prudence,” an alternate “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “A Day in the Life.” An alternate version of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” with John’s raw vocals, is sad enough to make anyone cry.

The order of the songs keeps things fresh also. A rockin’ live version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is followed by a funked-out guitar riff that ignites “Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing.” Beep-beep! Beep-beep-yah! “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)/Helter Skelter” ends very much like “I Want You” from the original Abby Road [Capitol] version, except better. On the album the maddening guitar riff, synthesizer, and white noise are suddenly cut off by silence, and it is followed by the reassuring “Here Comes the Sun” on side two. On Love, circus voices and jingles sprinkle the other instruments, and it is similarly cut-off, but this time by a howling desert wind. And what follows only escalates the mood: “Help!”

Finally the Martins redeem us with “All You Need is Love.” This track itself is like a blueprint for the whole CD. In the original versions, the Beatles, along various other friends, chant and sing at the end, interspersing the lyrics, “yesterday” and “she loves you-yah, yah, yah!” among other things. The new version stays true to its original spirit and basic length, but this time ends with a character-improvisation between the Beatles, and they wish us a blessed good night. Blasphemy? No way. Love is one more precious gift to the world from George Martin and the Beatles.

 

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