Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Abbey Road - The Beatles

Abbey Road
The Beatles
Apple  SO 383

This is the Beatles album I'm most conflicted about.  I bought it in Salt Lake City at Raspberry Records in the Cottonwood Mall when I was about 14 and I've never been able to fully embrace it.  I loved side two and played it alot.  I still do.  But side one is probably one of the least played slabs of Beatles vinyl in my collection.  Side one gets off to a brilliant start with John Lennon's surreal "Come Together" which features a dazzlingly sensual bass riff from Paul McCartney that I think ranks high among his best work.  Unfortunately the rest of side one goes downhill from here.  "Something" is generally considered a classic, but I find it boring although Paulie's bass playing is once again awesome.  "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is one of the two or three Beatles songs I really dislike.  I hate the lyrics and the melody, aside from a few bits of synthesizer there is nothing I like about it.  John was right, it is not a Beatles song, McCartney should have given it to Mary Hopkin.  "Oh Darling" is an improvement but it is derivative and it bores me as well.  I think it would have fit in better on "Let It Be" with its rock and roll oldies vibe.  "Octopus's Garden" is a silly kids song partially redeemed by some nice guitar licks and the piano work as well as the bubbly backing vocals.  It has its charms but gets tiresome quickly.  Finally there is "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" which is a good song but it goes on forever without really going anywhere.  I find it monotonous.  Aside from "Maxwell" any of these songs would be fine sandwiched with better songs but running all together like this is too much for me and I just don't play them much.  That is of course one of the characteristics of vinyl records, one often prefers one side to the other but rarely is it so pronounced with me.  I know I'm in the minority on this, many people consider this their favorite Beatles album.  I do love side two though, more than love, I worship it practically.  On side one the combination of borderline songs results in the songs being dragged down, but on side two I find that the combination of nice but minor songs results in something terrific, the sum is greater than the parts.  Aside from "Here Comes the Sun" side two boasts no real classics, but as a medley, suite or song cycle or whatever you want to call it, it is one of the Beatles finest moments.  "Here Comes the Sun" is one of my favorite of George Harrison's songs as a Beatle or a solo artist.  With the exception of perhaps "Taxman" or "Don't Bother Me" I don't think he has ever written a better song.  It always makes me feel good when I hear it.  "Because" is a gorgeous song with brilliant use of harpsichord and synthesizer.  Even the Beach Boys never topped the vocal harmonies on display here.  "You Never Give Me Your Money" has some of McCartney's best lyric writing from the period and the closing riff is one of the Beatles' most memorable ones.  It is such a terrific song full of variety and diversity, it is a testament to McCartney's genius as a pop songwriter.  Then on they come, one after another, little pop nuggets segueing seamlessly together, full of memorable lyrical vignettes and great instrumental bits climaxing finally in the thrilling "The End" proving once and for all (as if it needed to be proven at all) that the Beatles were and are the greatest pop music group of all time.   Hearing Paul McCartney playing some of this at his concert at the Hollywood Bowl was one of the great moments in my pop music listening life.  If you can listen to side two of "Abbey Road" and come away indifferent, then I have nothing to say to you - we don't speak the same language.  I consider it one of the great achievements in contemporary pop culture.  Recommended to anyone who ever wondered if pop music was legitimately an art, here's your answer.

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