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Friday, December 14, 2012

THE BLUE ALBUM - sides one and two

The first half of the Beatles' career had already been tackled twice in retrospective packages, both in A Collection of Beatles Oldies and now in The Beatles: 1962-1966, aka the Red Album.  But a chronicle of their work from 1967-1970 had not yet been attempted, and it provided a bit more of a challenge.  The group had never lost the ability to deliver an accessible, well-crafted single on occasion, but their focus in the second half of their career had definitely shifted to the more complex possibilities that the long-playing format offered.  Assembling an expanded "greatest hits" look at this period therefore became a more subjective task at times, though there were plenty of landmark album tracks on which nearly all fans would no doubt agree.

SIDE ONE

Strawberry Fields Forever - This song was never intended to be a single, but the demand for new material from the Beatles in early 1967 forced it to become half of a double A-sided release - a curious choice, since it clearly stretched the boundaries of what the public considered an A-side at the time.

Penny Lane - A much more obvious choice for an A-side, hitting number one in the US, but kept out of the top spot by Englebert Humperdinck in the UK.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The title track of their most famous album.

With a Little Help from My Friends - As on the Sgt. Pepper LP, the title track segues directly into this signature tune written for Ringo.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - The sequence of the original album continues with this well-loved track.

A Day in the Life - The magnum opus which closes Sgt. Pepper is presented here, and we are treated to the opening strums of acoustic guitar which were buried under the segued cheers of a crowd on the original album.

All You Need Is Love - A Day in the Life is an impossible act to follow, so side three should logically have ended with the fading piano chord from that song.  The fact that this is one of the group's weakest singles doesn't help its placement much.  In the summer of '67, it had been a worldwide number one nonetheless.

SIDE TWO

I Am the Walrus - This haunting song is from the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack, but it was also issued as a B-side to...

Hello Goodbye - Another worldwide number one single.

The Fool on the Hill - A well-known tune from Magical Mystery Tour.

Magical Mystery Tour - The running order is somewhat peculiar on this side, from starting out with a B-side to placing the title song from the soundtrack last, especially since this track was recorded many months in advance of any of the above songs.

Lady Madonna - The first single of 1968 was a number one hit in the UK, but it only reached number four in the US.

Hey Jude - A monster hit and truly one of their best songs.

Revolution - Now, this easily could have been a double A-side with Hey Jude, but they chose to release it as the B-side.  For the purposes of this album, it might have made sense to flip these two songs, letting the extended fadeout of Hey Jude bring the proceedings to a close.

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