Sunday, June 17, 2012

With The Beatles/Meet The Beatles - The Beatles



With The Beatles
The Beatles
Parlophone  PCS  3045
1963


Meet The Beatles
The Beatles
Apple ST 2047
1964 

Meet The Beatles
The Beatles
Capitol T 2047
1964
 
A post for Paulie on the eve of his 70th birthday, ouch.  I haven't heard any quotes from Sir Paul about the occasion but I hope he's happier about it than I am.  Frankly I'm appalled.  I can't believe that my idol is as old as my grandfather was when I first became a Beatles fan.  McCartney seemed eternally youthful back then and I couldn't imagine that ever changing. The idea of a 70 year old rocker would have seemed ludicrous to me.  Elvis was only in his 30s at the time and I thought he was old!  Of course nowadays geriatric rockers are common place, but none of them look as good as McCartney and I don't know that any of them sound as good either.  I can only hope I'll have half of his spirit and vitality when I'm that age, assuming I ever make it that far.  Part of me still believes in "hope I die before I get old."  As I look back through the fog of time at my long history with the Beatles, I can still dimly recall my earliest memory of the band.  It started with "Meet The Beatles" some time when I was about 9 or 10 living in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco.  My parents had no rock records at the time, but my best friend who lived across the street had a slightly hipper mom with a small record collection.  My favorite at first was her Trini Lopez record which we used to listen to often.  Eventually I got tired of "Lemon Tree" and we tried "Meet The Beatles."  I have to confess I was not an instant fan of the record, but I did fall hard for "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and I made my friend play it over and over.  The thrill that song gave me remains one of my most vivid memories of that period.  A few years later as a young teen, I would acquire my own copy of the album which is the Apple re-issue depicted above.  Then in my 20s I acquired the British version of the album, "With The Beatles," which I prefer to its American counterpart.  Finally I picked up an original pressing mono Capitol issue, because I really dislike the stereo mix on the record.  For the most part the vocals and overdubs are in one channel and the instrumental track is in another.  That's good for karaoke but it is really irritating to me when I listen to the album with headphones.  So even though my Apple pressing is mint I listen more to the Capitol pressing despite it having some surface noise.  The Parlophone album has 14 tracks.  The butchers at Capitol dropped five of the tracks and added the hit single "I Want To Hold Your Hand" plus its flip side "This Boy" and "I Saw Her Standing There" from the British "Please Please Me" album which Capitol had deigned unworthy of release in the United States.  All three are great songs, but none really belong on this album.  For some stupid reason Capitol added a bluish tint to the classic cover photo which I find creepy and replaced Tony Barrow's excellent liner notes with some publicist's hype.  I love "Meet the Beatles" for my history with it and I'll never part with it, but if you only need one version, "With The Beatles" is definitely the one to get.  I think you can make a case that "With The Beatles" was the best rock album ever at the time of its release, it's only serious competition being Buddy Holly's albums, the Everly Brothers' albums for Cadence and maybe Elvis Presley's first two albums.  Most rock albums up to this point consisted of a hit single and a bunch of mediocre filler.  "With The Beatles" is a quality listening experience from beginning to end.  It helped transform rock from a singles medium to an album medium.  It consists of seven Lennon-McCartney songs, one from George Harrison and six cover songs.  "All My Loving" is the only truly great Lennon-McCartney song on the album with its propulsive drive and ringing guitar sound, it foreshadows the greatness of the songs on "A Hard Day's Night."  "All I've Got To Do" and "Not A Second Time" boast terrific heartfelt Lennon vocals and demonstrate his growing depth as a songwriter.   "It Won't Be Long" is a bit too derivative of "She Loves You" to be a first rate song, but it is still very enjoyable.  "Little Child" is a slight song, but it rocks out nicely and I dig Lennon's harmonica work.  "I Wanna Be Your Man" is another rocker that makes a great vehicle for Ringo's raucous vocal.  "Hold Me Tight" is a mundane song redeemed by a solid beat and a winning if slightly sloppy vocal from McCartney.  Even the weakest of their songs have so much appeal to them.  Harrison's "Don't Bother Me" is astonishingly good considering that it was his first recorded song.  It has a compelling guitar riff and a rich percussion background.  Its grouchy lyrics establish Harrison's persona right from the start of his career.  I think it is one of his best ever songs and I still prefer it to any of his solo recordings.  The Beatles' taste in cover tunes was impeccable and several are among the strongest tracks on the album.  The band takes on Motown three times and wins every time.  Lennon's passionate vocal carries the day on "Please Mister Postman" and "You Really Got a Hold On Me."  The group's incendiary cover of "Money" is definitive and an eternal rock classic.  The group also delivers a blistering take on Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" but the song is undermined by Harrison's weak vocal.  It would have been so much better if John or Paul had sung it.  Harrison does a little better with the Donays' "Devil In Her Heart" although his vocal still sounds a bit strained in places.  "Till There Was You" is another one of those sentimental ballads that McCartney is so fond of.  I love Paulie, but this is my least favorite track on the album.  Surprisingly this Broadway show tune was a regular part of their repertoire back in Hamburg and though I'm not a big fan of it, the eclecticism it displays is a crucial ingredient in McCartney's long-lasting appeal.  His broad taste in music, from classical to experimental to Little Richard to Buddy Holly to Tin Pan Alley schmaltz, has given him so much depth and so many tools to work with, and has made him such an interesting and exciting musician.  Through the years he's come up with a few songs that have made me cringe, but the man has been recording classic records and exploring new musical territory for 50 years now and at 70 years old he can still deliver a show that will knock your socks off.  Happy Birthday Sir Paul, you are truly a titan in popular music history.  Recommended for everybody young and old who appreciates quality pop music. 

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