Sunday, November 11, 2018

Help! In Concert - The Beatles

Help! In Concert
The Beatles
Coda Publishing CPLVNY193

My 400th post is naturally a Beatles post.  This is a Czech bootleg of some classic Beatles concerts that were filmed for television broadcast.  There are two concerts from Blackpool, one from July 19th, 1964 and the other from August 1, 1965.  There is also a show from Palais des Sports, Paris from June 20, 1965.  The title is rather misleading, of the 20 tracks only four of them come from the album "Help!" (all from the second Blackpool show.)  Most of the tracks are drawn from "Beatles For Sale" and "A Hard Day's Night."  It is nicely packaged for a bootleg with a sturdy sleeve illustrated with images of the 1965 Blackpool show.  The record is pressed on light blue marbled vinyl that looks lovely and sounds mediocre.  The Blackpool recordings are excellent with only minimal screaming to distract from the performance.  The 1964 show begins with one of the best live performances of "A Hard Day's Night" I've ever heard.  "Things We Said Today" also sounds really good, especially the quality of Paul McCartney's robust vocal.  John Lennon matches McCartney with a rocking performance of "You Can't Do That."  Despite the listing on the cover, the next track is "I Feel Fine" which is taken from the 1965 show.  It usually sounds crappy live, but the boys nail it this time around.  The record jumps back to 1964 for a scorching performance of "Long Tall Sally" that I think is just as good as the studio version and George Harrison's guitar work is first rate throughout.  "If I Fell" is also from the 1964 concert.  The vocal work from John and Paul is extremely good.  The record returns to the 1965 Blackpool show for the remainder of side one.  "I'm Down" sounds a little murky, but the performance is very dynamic with more fine guitar work from Harrison and Lennon going nuts on the organ.  "Ticket to Ride" sounds cleaner and it features another outstanding performance from the band.  Harrison introduces McCartney's solo performance of "Yesterday" which was the first time the song had been performed live.  McCartney accompanies himself on acoustic guitar supported by the strings in the theater orchestra.  It sounds great, I think I prefer it to the studio version.  The Beatles return and John facetiously calls McCartney "Ringo" as he thanks him for his performance.  This is followed by the first live performance of "Help!" which they knock out of the park even though Lennon flubs the vocal at one point.  It sounds fantastic, when it is over I want to join the girls in screaming.  Side two begins with one final song from the 1965 Blackpool show, "Act Naturally" which is out of order having originally been performed after "I'm Down."  Ringo gives himself a humorous introduction before launching into his vocal.  Again the recording lacks sharpness.  Four of the 1965 Blackpool tracks were on the "Anthology 2" album where they sound great.  The two that were omitted were "I'm Down" and "Act Naturally."  I suspect that the bootleggers lifted the four tracks from "Anthology 2" and then used another source for the other two.  The Palais des Sports show occupies the rest of side two.  It is not nearly as clean as the Blackpool concert recordings but still sounds okay for a vintage live recording.  It begins with a typically raucous work out on "Twist and Shout."  It is followed by a punchy performance of "She's a Woman."  McCartney's vocal is very exciting.  A lively version of "I'm a Loser" is next.  It sounds a little sloppy but I like it.  The Beatles run through "Can't Buy Me Love" which sounds pretty murky.  I think I hear the crowd singing along during the chorus which I find charming.  "Baby's In Black" is also rather muddy but the vocal is very strong, especially McCartney's harmony vocal.  McCartney tries out some French in his introduction of Ringo for "I Wanna Be Your Man."  Ringo is poorly recorded but he gives a very enthusiastic performance.  Harrison gets his turn at the mike for "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" where he sounds more comfortable and passionate than he does on the studio versionThe Beatles kick out the jams with "Rock and Roll Music" which is very exciting despite the muddy sound.  Lennon's throat shredding vocal is thrilling.  In the original concert this was followed by performances of "I Feel Fine" and "Ticket to Ride" but the record jumps ahead to the encore, which is "Long Tall Sally."  The recording is a bit cacophonous but the performance is explosive.  It ends the show and the record with a bang.  I'm always a bit hesitant to endorse a bootleg but the Blackpool shows are essential.  "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl" has my favorite Beatles' live recordings but only because the thunderous roar of the crowd is so exciting.  The Blackpool shows feature superior performances and make for more comfortable listening.  The song selection is terrific as well.  The Palais des Sports show is basically just gravy.  The band plays well but the songs aren't as good and the sound quality is not as sharp as either the Blackpool or Hollywood Bowl recordings.  I'm still happy to have it though.  The Blackpool shows have been bootlegged multiple times, there are probably better versions than this one.  The mastering is decent but the vinyl has some sporadic surface noise.  I'm also not happy that the running order of the Blackpool shows is messed up.  Nonetheless Beatlemaniacs ought to have this in some form.  Recommended to people who think the Hollywood Bowl shows are too noisy.