Thursday, March 24, 2016
A Collection of Beatles Oldies - The Beatles
Parlophone PCS 7016
Here's a post to honor Sir George Martin, who passed away on March 8. I revere him as the greatest of all rock producers. I suppose "Abbey Road" or "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" would be more appropriate selections to showcase his great work with the Fabs but I've already done posts on them. The "Anthology" albums would be good as well since they reveal the raw Beatles tracks and the mistakes before Martin helped the Beatles transform them into the pop classics they would become. "Let It Be," which is the only Beatles studio album Martin did not produce, displays his brilliance by his absence since it is so poorly produced by Phil Spector, a guy so heavy handed that I would not even consider him worthy to bring Sir George his afternoon tea. Even this lowly album displays Martin's greatness. It was the first Beatles greatest hits album, crassly assembled by E.M.I. to cater to the Christmas market in 1966. With its shoddy cover art and haphazard assembly of tracks (why omit "Please Please Me"?) it seems like a crude commercial project, yet it still shines like a diamond amongst the dross. It features 16 wonderful songs largely drawn from the Beatles' hit U.K. singles many of which had not appeared on a U.K. album at the time. They are joined by two beloved album tracks "Yesterday" and "Michelle" as well as an unreleased (in the U.K.) track "Bad Boy" which appeared in the U.S. on "Beatles VI." If I had been a British fan I would have bought the album for "Bad Boy" alone as it is one of my all time favorite Beatles covers. Martin's influence on the record is most obvious with "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby." Martin is generally acknowledged as persuading Paul McCartney to employ a string quartet on "Yesterday" rather than conventional rock instrumentation and was largely responsible for the string score. I believe that the strings are the crucial element in the song that makes the lyrics seem deeper than they are on paper. Martin also wrote the string score for "Eleanor Rigby" which greatly enhances the melancholy feeling produced by the lyrics (according to Mark Lewinsohn, Martin received a mere 15 pounds for his arrangement.) Always a perfectionist, Martin also supervised stereo mixes for several of the singles on the album which had originally been released in mono, most notably on "I Want To Hold Your Hand" which greatly improved on the horrible fake stereo mix that Capitol used on "Meet The Beatles." Martin was very adept at helping the Beatles realize their vision and achieve the sound they wanted, aside from their musical quality they made the most wonderful sounding records of their era. The unforgettable opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night," the cacophony of sound effects on "Yellow Submarine," the feedback that opens "I Feel Fine," the booming bass riff that drives "Paperback Writer" all testify to the tight connection between the Beatles and Martin that produced such fantastic records. The staggering creativity and immediacy revealed on these 16 tracks demonstrate an inspired partnership between the two most talented songwriters in the history of rock music and the modest man who recognized their genius and helped them create the best records of my lifetime. This record is so stacked with great music, if the band had broken up in 1966 they'd still be at the top of the rock pantheon. However the band still had 3 more years of unparalleled achievement ahead of them including some of Martin's most inspired work with the group. This record was rendered obsolete by "1962-1966" which has every song on here aside from "Bad Boy." That song as well as all of the non-LP singles on here are on the two "Past Masters" compilations as well. I'm still happy to have it though, it might be the best single slab of vinyl ever pressed, nothing but greatness. It was never released by Capitol in the U.S., presumably because nobody there could stand the thought of releasing an album with 16 tracks on it. I've found it inspiring to listen to this these past couple of weeks as I mourn the passing of this great man. The world of the Beatles and those who love them has grown darker and colder now that Sir George is gone. I can never thank him enough for helping to make the music that has mattered the most to me in my life. Recommended to people who only want a single Beatles LP.