Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles

Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles
Apple SMAL 2835

Yes another Beatles album.  This was the fifth album I ever bought and my third Beatles album.  This is not my original copy.  I gave that to my sister when it got worn.  For awhile I figured I didn't really need it, but in the 1980s I bought the copy I currently have mostly out of nostalgia, but also as a silly collector thing of wanting to have every Beatles album.  I bought my original copy in Salt Lake City.  I distinctly recall looking through the Beatles bin at the record store and choosing this solely on the basis of its back cover design which seemed quite psychedelic to me although I'd probably never even heard of the term back then.  It had so many of the songs that I loved on "1967 - 1970" that I figured it had to be good.  In retrospect it was kind of a bad choice, because aside from "Baby You're A Rich Man" every good song on here is already on "1967 - 1970."  The album contains a booklet with the story and pictures from the film which I found fascinating.  I was dying to see the film, but in that pre-video era I had to wait a long time before I finally was able to see it.  When I did see it, I couldn't understand why people hated it so.  I thought and still think that it is wonderful - charming, surreal, humorous and very creative.  It is a heck of a lot better than "Yellow Submarine" and at least as good as "Help!"  It deserved a better fate.  The record is pretty wonderful too.  Side two of this record is my second favorite Beatles album side after side one of "1967 - 1970."  It features the three Beatles singles from this period.  "Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane" is arguably the greatest single of all time.  "All You Need Is Love" is the quintessential hippie song.  "Hello Goodbye" is proof positive that Paul McCartney is a pop genius.  The song is so silly and inane, yet is so full of hooks and charming vocal harmonies that even though I've heard it a gazillion times, I still find myself perking up every time I hear it on the radio.  I can never resist singing along.  "Baby You're A Rich Man" demonstrates that the Beatles' B-sides are better than other people's A-sides.  I love the speeded up trumpets and Paul's melodic bass line.  Side one features the songs from the movie which unfortunately aren't as good.  "Your Mother Should Know" works a lot better in the movie (where it is featured in the big production number) than it does on vinyl.  On the record it sounds even cornier sandwiched between the whiny drone of Harrison's creepy "Blue Jay Way" and the surreal smorgasbord of "I Am The Walrus."  "I Am The Walrus" is easily the best song to come out of the film and is one of the best songs the Beatles did in this period.  I used to think that "Blue Jay Way" was full of deep symbolism about Harrison's friends lost in a mystical fog of materialism and hedonism in Los Angeles and then I learned that his friends were really just lost in the Hollywood Hills trying to find his house.  I felt dumb about that, but it doesn't make the song any less heavy.  The song makes an effective soundtrack in the film for some of its wildest footage.  "The Fool on the Hill" works great in the film as well but I've never been a big fan of the song itself despite Paul's passionate vocal.  "Flying" is an enjoyable instrumental and "Magical Mystery Tour" is exuberant and exhilarating, a classic piece of pop psychedelia.  Overall this is a very worthwhile album, nicely packaged and featuring lots of classic songs.  Recommended for people who don't already own "1967 - 1970" or who need an album-sized photograph of John Lennon shoveling a giant plate of spaghetti.

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