Tag Archives: beatles

The Beatles Finally Enter MP3 Age

While I’m certainly happy that the Beatles catalog is now available on Itunes (follow this link to the Beatles’ Itunes page)., it brings up an interesting question: How do you feel about paying the same OR MORE for the mp3s?

A quick look at amazon.com shows most of the Beatles remastered CDs at a staggeringly low price of $7.99, while Itunes has most Beatles albums for $12.99.  That’s five dollars more for, essentially, less.  No physical CD.  No case.  No booklet (okay, you get a “digital booklet”).  And, if your Ipod crashes, it’s gone.

 

So, will you pay more for less?  Is it worth it for the convenience?  What do you think?

Classic Album – Beatles – Abbey Road (CD review)

Beatles – Abbey Road (Apple) – CD review –

Breaking up never sounded this good.

The Beatles had just come off the worst recording experience of their lives; the grueling sessions for the Let it Be movie preserved on film the bickering and fighting that was becoming the norm for the once Fab Four.  Many bands faced with similar circumstances would’ve called it quits right there.  Instead, John, Paul, George & Ringo reconvened one more time to record Abbey Road, and it is quite possibly, their finest moment.

Yeah sure, Sgt. Pepper blah blah blah.  I find that I come back to Abbey Road far more often than Pepper.  While the former is wrapped in dated studio trickery, the latter is full of great songs.  Abbey Road also sounds nothing like previous Beatles’ records; it’s got a warm, lived-in feel, that’s far more reminiscent of early Seventies rock than anything they’d done before.  Plus, the clever use of early keyboard technology, as in the solo to “Because” add to it as well.  It doesn’t hurt that George Harrison turns in two of his finest songs in the dreamy “Something” and the optimistic “Here Comes the Sun.”  The multi-layered harmonies on the aforementioned “Because” is staggering.

While Lennon sounded downright bored on the Let it Be sessions (“Dig It” was a turd), here he turns in the biting, Dylanesque “Come Together,” and the proto-heavy metal “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”  The remainder of the LP is all Paul McCartney; it was his idea to string the little bits of songs into the song cycle on side two.  And, while “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” are not on par with Lennon’s better songs, McCartney makes them work in this setting.

“The End,” however conscious an attempt at a swan song, still is one of the greatest moments in the Beatles’ storied history: beginning with the only drum solo Ringo ever laid to tape, followed by the other three all trading short guitar licks: McCartney, Harrison, then Lennon.  It’s quite obvious who is who:  Paul’s solos are clean, George’s slinky, and John’s primitive, yet full of emotion.  I’m not sure you can name another band that knew this was their last effort, yet still was able to make it a great one.  — Tony Peters

Fab Four FAQ 2.0 (book review)

Fab Four FAQ 2.0 – The Beatles’ Solo Years, 1970-1980 – Robert Rodriguez (Backbeat Books) – book review –

The Beatles are the most-written about band in the history of music.  Yet, the original Fab Four FAQ, published in 2007, managed to unearth a treasure-trove of unknown facts about John, Paul, George and Ringo.  Now comes the sequel, Fab Four FAQ 2.0, and this time the focus is on the post-breakup of the band.

Ironically, this book may be the more interesting of the two, simply because so much less has been written about the Beatles after they parted ways.  Once again, author Robert Rodriguez jam-packs the book with interesting tidbits and stories, along with photos of his private collection of Beatles’ memorabilia.  What sets this book apart from the girth of other pages written about the Fab Four, is the way it’s organized: everything is divided into chapters that alternate between covering a year in Beatles’ history, and some interesting bit of trivia.  So, you get what happened to each of them in a particular year, followed by something completely different.

This keeps Fab Four FAQ 2.0 from being a ho-hum history book, and elevates into a thoroughly enjoyable read.  And, because everything is put in tight compartments, it lends itself to quick reading in bursts.  In other words, you can pick it up and put it down whenever you like, making it at excellent coffee table or bathroom reader.  Some of the topics covered in the “other” chapters are solo Beatles film appearances, their wives and lovers; and feuds, fights, and bad behavior.  Rodriguez also analyzes each solo Beatles’ recorded output and gives his best and worst of each.  An excellent addition to any Beatlemaniac’s collection.

 

The Beatles – Mono Box Set (CD review)

Beatles – Mono Masters (2009) – CD review –

It’s a shame that the only way to get these versions is through this Mono Masters box set.  The Beatles recorded in an era when stereo was a novelty and mono was the norm.  Songs were mixed first in mono, then put in stereo as an afterthought.  Case in point: the Beatles spent two weeks mixing their landmark Sgt. Pepper in mono, then handed the tapes over to an engineer, who mixed the entire album in stereo in a single day.  Yet, stereo is how we now hear most Beatles music.

These mono mixes are really the way the Beatles intended their songs to sound.  Sometimes, the differences are staggering.  Much of their early albums in stereo have the voice in one speaker and the instruments in the other, which is just plain goofy.  On the Mono Masters, everything is front and center, the way it should be.

The Sgt. Pepper album probably has the most noticeable differences: the crowd comes in at different points during the first song, while “She’s Leaving Home” is sped way up, and many of the songs crossfade at different points as well.  The entire record has a different, richer feel in mono.  The “White Album” has subtle differences in mono for almost every song.  And, many of the singles have more punch in mono.  The guitar from “Revolution” comes on like a chain saw in mono, while “Paperback Writer” has some extra echo effects.

The packaging differs on the mono box as well.  While the stereo discs were done in tri-fold paper, making the discs difficult to remove, this set has an oversized, single sleeve format with no folds, reproducing faithfully the front and back covers of the original LP’s and making the discs easy for removal.  The discs themselves are housed in little plastic sleeves, with paper sleeves replicating the vinyl release thrown in for good measure.  There is also a booklet that talks about some of the differences between the stereo and mono versions.

My only real complaint is that these albums should be made available individually.  This 13-CD box set retails for over $200, making it impossible for anyone but the crazed fan (that’s me) to own.  Yet, as stated before, these are the way Beatles’ music was intended to sound.  So much more care and scrutiny were taken in mixing the mono versions.  Perhaps someday they’ll be made available individually. –Tony Peters

Beatles – Stereo Remasters (CD review)

Beatles – Stereo remasters (Apple) – CD review

Over the last 20 years, the Beatles’ camp has done a great job of getting us to buy things that we really don’t need.  Take for example the Anthology series; a total of six CD’s were released over three volumes, when the best material could’ve easily fit on a single disc.  Or, how about the Yellow Submarine Songtrack?  Or Let It Be…Naked? – all released with great fanfare, and now collecting dust on CD shelves worldwide.

Now comes the remastered individual Beatles albums, something fans have been clamoring for for years.

Once again, the publicity machine lauded these as being “revolutionary, like hearing Beatles music for the first time.”  Truth is, after a great deal of side by side comparison, I can’t tell a significant difference between these and their 1987 originals.  And, I dare anyone with an audio system under $2,000 to do the same.  The reason these “sound so good,” as many reviewers have noted, is that they didn’t sound bad in the first place! Unlike discs by the Rolling Stones, the Doors and the Who, whose albums were rushed out on CD to meet public demand, and therefore sounded terrible, the Beatles catalog was one of the last to come out on compact disc because great care was taken in the mastering process.

In defense of the studio guys, there’s really not much that could be done with these, except for maybe using noise reduction and hiss elimination.  They were using the original album masters. To explain here, when a band is done adding all the instruments to a song, they “blend” them into a master tape.  The reason it’s called a master, is that this is what the song will sound like from now on.  All records, tapes, CDs, and mp3s will be made from it.  Imagine that you and three of your buddies sang into your Iphone.  You can’t bring up or lower one of your voices after you’ve recorded it, right? Same goes for this, which means you can’t bring up the vocals or lower the drums and guitars; that sort of thing requires the session tapes, which were not used in this series.  So, you basically get what you get here.

So, if the discs don’t sound any better, is there a reason to buy these?  Well, for one, each disc comes with a nice booklet filled with unreleased photos and an essay about the recording history of each LP.  Every album also contains a short mini documentary on the making of that record, something you’ll probably watch once and put away.  Each disc is housed in a paper sleeve that faithfully replicates the front and back of each original album.  While that might be a nice touch, they are done with paper material, which means you’ve got to be ultra-careful not to get these wet or dirty.  Also, the paper cases are poorly designed and sometimes scratch the discs while taking them in and out of the cases.

Another complaint with this series is that many of the discs, especially the early ones, barely clock in at 30 minutes, yet you pay the full price for every album.  There was plenty of room to put the complete stereo AND mono versions of each album, especially in the early ones.  Instead, for those interested in hearing the mono mixes, you’ll have to buy “The Mono Masters” box set, a pricey collection, that’s nonetheless worth every penny (see separate review).

In conclusion, it’s great that these Beatles albums are back in the public eye again.  With this remastering series, the entire Beatles catalog is again plentiful in every place that sells music around the country.  That’s indeed a good thing.  However, I do not enjoy being duped into buying something that is no better than what I already currently own. –Tony Peters

Classic Album – Wings – Wings Over America (CD review)

Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America (1976) – CD review

Paul McCartney has always been a perfectionist; it’s certainly one of the factors that contributed to the breakup of the Beatles.  And, while his 70’s hits with Wings are great, many of them sound stuffy, as if they’ve been cooked too long.  That’s what makes Wings Over America such a revelation.

McCartney is out of the studio and into a live band setting where things can really heat up, and he doesn’t have a chance to add overdub after overdub.  The Wings’ hits sound more lively; “Jet,” “Silly Love Songs,” and “Let “Em In” all benefit from the concert setting.  Paul had a tendency to play most of the instruments on his records.  Here, he has to put his faith in the band, and they deliver.  Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch is a real highlight, injecting some slinky solos into Paul’s songs.

The opening medley of “Venus & Mars / Rockshow / Jet” is as breathtaking a performance as Paul has ever done.  He’d not yet made peace with his Beatles past, so the Fab Four songs are minimal; mostly leaning toward ballads like “Yesterday,” and “the Long & Winding Road.”  Paul used this as a proving ground for his current band to be taken seriously, and he pulls it off.  Even the album cuts, like “Time to Hide” and “Beware My Love” are enjoyable.  A triple-LP set when it was first issued, Wings Over America stands as a pinnacle of McCartney’s solo work.  –Tony Peters

Classic Album – Beatles – Sgt. Pepper (CD review)

Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – CD review –

So much has been written about this album that it can be difficult to separate historical significance from the actual music.  Upon its release, Sgt. Pepper sent shockwaves through the music industry.  It stretched the boundaries of what was acceptable in pop music and it also introduced many elements of studio trickery that were equally unique.  However, over 40 years later, what really matters is the music, and frankly, this is not the best the Beatles had to offer.

This isn’t their best album by far; it probably isn’t even in the top five (I would put Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, Help and Beatles For Sale all ahead of this one).  There are several songs here that simply aren’t that good, like “Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning Good Morning,” “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “When I’m Sixty Four.”  Then, there’s the George Harrison Indian flavored “Within You Without You” which is experimental, but listenable?

Not really.  Only “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Getting Better,”and “A Day in the Life” truly stand as spectacular moments.  Greatness transcends time and circumstance.  But, without the historical background, this album doesn’t really stand on its own.  If you’re trying to explain the Beatles to someone who’s never heard their music, start with Beatles 1. –Tony Peters

#4 – Solomon Burke – Nothing’s Impossible & Robert Rodriguez – Fab Four FAQ 2.0

He is the King of Rock and Soul, Mr. Solomon Burke, and he’s just released his latest CD, “Nothing’s Impossible.” We’ll talk to Solomon about recording the new record with legendary producer Willie Mitchell, who weeks after wrapping up the sessions, passed away of heart failure. Mitchell was responsible for most of Al Green’s big hits and lends that same style to Burke’s disc.

Solomon had a great string of R&B hits in the mid-60’s, but is probably best known for “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” a song covered by the Rolling Stones and featured prominently in the Blues Brothers movie.  Burke’s other film credits include working alongside Dennis Quaid in “The Big Easy.”  He won a Grammy in 2002 for his album “Don’t Give Up On Me.”  Click below for the Solomon Burke interview.  {mp3}show4solomonburke{/mp3}  {enclose show4solomonburke.mp3}

For more information on Solomon Burke, visit his official site (www.thekingsolomonburke.com)

 

Also on the show is Robert Rodriguez, author of “Fab Four FAQ 2.0“.  He talks to Icon Fetch about his new Beatles book, covering the solo years 1970-1980.  Robert’s interview is at the end of our show with Solomon Burke.  Click below for the Robert Rodriguez Beatles interview.

Robert’s official site is: www.fabfourfaq2.com

 

Not Just Another Beatles Book

Recently, I talked with Robert Rodriguez, author of a new book called “Fab Four FAQ 2.0” (Backbeat Books).  This is actually a sequel of sorts.  Rodriguez co-authored the first book (or “1.0” if you will) back in 2007.  That book concentrated on the history of the Beatles while they were together.  “2.0” picks up with the breakup of the Fab Four and the subsequent solo releases from 1970 until 1980 when John Lennon was shot.

Just about every possible angle has been covered here: from reviews of all the solo Beatles albums, to which movies they were in, who played on which LP, and even the notorious spats between them over the years.

One of the tasty elements of the book is all the memorabilia that’s pictured, most of which come from the author’s own personal collection.

The book weighs in at some 450 pages.  But, if that isn’t enough to satisfy your solo Fab cravings, you can go to Rodriguez’s own website, to view unused chapters.