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Thursday, February 28, 2013

RARITIES (US) - side one

The UK version of Rarities simply didn't make sense for the American market.  Almost every track on that album had already appeared on a Capitol album during the group's career, but the executives at Capitol didn't want to miss out on any opportunity, so they set about compiling their own collection that could be worthy of the title Rarities.  The result is perhaps the most bizarre package in the entire Beatles catalog.

The best thing that can be said about it is that at least some attempt is made to present the tracks in chronological order.  Some of the following information comes from the relatively extensive liner notes on the album cover.

Love Me Do - This is the original recording with Ringo on drums.  It had been released as a single in England, but only the version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on Tambourine had ever made it to the US for distribution before.

Misery - This song had previously only been available in the States on the VeeJay album Introducing the Beatles.

There's a Place - In addition to appearing on Introducing the Beatles, this song had served as the B-side to Twist and Shout on the Tollie label, but never on Capitol until this time.

Sie Liebt Dich - The German version of She Loves You had only been released as a single in the US on the obscure Swan label.

And I Love Her - The only thing that makes this version of this well-known song rare is at the very end where the guitar riff is repeated six times instead of four.  It had previously only been released in this manner in Germany.

Help! - Capitol had actually released this version of the group's second film's title song before, but only on the single.  John's lead vocal has slight variations from the version on the soundtrack album.

I'm Only Sleeping - The Capitol version of this song had been hastily mixed and sent Stateside for the compilation album "Yesterday"...and Today.  This is the UK version which features more backwards guitar.

I Am the Walrus - Capitol admits in the liner notes that they combined a few versions to create this new one.  It has the six-bar intro from the UK version (the US one only had a four-bar intro), and a few extra beats from the band and orchestra before the "Yellow matter custard" verse.

Friday, February 22, 2013

RARITIES (UK)

On December 2, 1978, EMI threw caution to the wind and released a massive box set called The Beatles Collection containing every album the group had produced during their stellar career.  Magical Mystery Tour was not included, perhaps because it had originally been issued as a double EP in the UK, yet Parlophone had finally released it as an album (like the Capitol version from the US) in Britain in 1976.  Thus, its omission is curious.  Also missing were more than a dozen A-sides that had not appeared on albums in the UK.  One can only speculate that the reasoning for this is that all of those hit songs had been released on the Red and Blue Albums in 1973.

A bonus album called Rarities was part of the package.  It featured nine B-sides, the four songs from the Long Tall Sally EP, the two German songs, the World Wildlife Fund version of Across the Universe and the song Bad Boy from A Collection of Beatles Oldies.  Since all of these selections appear on the Past Masters CDs in 1988, I will refrain from any descriptions of the tracks until I cover them in that later entry and merely list the sequence of songs as they occur on this album (as a matter of fact, they are listed in order on the cover above).  Note that there is no attempt at a chronological sequence here; if anything, this lineup is completely arbitrary.

SIDE ONE

Across the Universe
Yes It Is
This Boy
The Inner Light
I'll Get You
Thank You Girl
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)
Sie Liebt Dich

SIDE TWO

Rain
She's a Woman
Matchbox
I Call Your Name
Bad Boy
Slow Down
I'm Down
Long Tall Sally

Still missing from the package are the B-sides Revolution, Don't Let Me Down and Old Brown Shoe, which had all appeared on the Blue Album in 1973.

Some British fans who longed for these seventeen tracks on an album bought The Beatles Collection even if they had all of the original albums.  Dealers soon began removing Rarities from the box set and selling it separately.  EMI took note of this and decided to release Rarities as a single album in October of 1979, much to the dismay of those who had shelled out big bucks for the entire box set.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LOVE SONGS - sides three and four

SIDE THREE

Michelle - Side three opens with this well-known tune from Rubber Soul.

It's Only Love - This number originally appeared on the non-soundtrack side of the Help! album...

You're Going To Lose That Girl - ...whereas this one comes from the soundtrack side of that same album.

Every Little Thing - A hidden gem from Beatles For Sale.

For No One - A beautiful, but decidedly downbeat love song from Revolver.

She's Leaving Home - This generation gap song from Sgt. Pepper strikes me as an odd choice for a collection called Love Songs.

SIDE FOUR

The Long and Winding Road - This magnificent composition is from Let It Be. 

This Boy - The B-side of I Want To Hold Your Hand makes its first appearance on an album in stereo in the UK.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - A gorgeous track from Rubber Soul.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - From the Help! soundtrack.

I Will - From The Beatles, aka the "White Album."

P.S. I Love You - For the final track, we go all the way back to the group's very first B-side.

As with previous compilations, it is fun to play the "Why didn't they include this track?" game.  The truth is that there are far too many to choose from for this collection.  Technically, every song they recorded from their first single through the album Rubber Soul - even the rockers - was a love song, but the emphasis here is clearly on the softer songs.  I believe it makes for a marvelous listening experience.

Love Songs was released on October 21st, 1977 in the US and on November 19th in the UK. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LOVE SONGS - sides one and two

The compilation parade continued in late 1977 with the release of this double album.  And although this package of ballads was once again looked down upon by many, it is a truly excellent overview of the softer side of the Beatles.  Plus you have to admit that not many groups could be responsible for material as distinctly different as that on the collections Rock 'N' Roll Music and Love Songs.  The Beatles were unique not just in their ability to play a wide variety of styles, but also in the fact that they were encouraged to do so by both their producer George Martin and their worldwide fanbase. 

While the selections on the Red and Blue Albums were laid out in a strictly-chronological order, and those on Rock 'N' Roll Music arranged somewhat in that manner, the twenty-five tracks on Love Songs jump back and forth all over the group's career.  As on Rock 'N' Roll Music, the number of lead vocals by Paul and John are almost equal (perhaps this is a conscious attempt to dispel the common notion that John was the rocker and Paul the balladeer), whereas George is reduced to only two numbers and Ringo is completely shut out.

SIDE ONE

Yesterday - What better way to start out than with one of the most famous standards of all time?  It originally appeared on the Help! album. 

I'll Follow the Sun - This little ditty from Paul first appeared on Beatles For Sale.

I Need You - George certainly penned stronger compositions during the group's career, but this number from the Help! soundtrack is one of his only romantic songs.

Girl - A wistful number from Rubber Soul.

In My Life - This elegant, reflective tune is also from Rubber Soul.

Words of Love - Cover songs abounded on the Rock 'N' Roll Music collection, but this Buddy Holly number is the only one on this package.  From Beatles For Sale.

Here There and Everywhere - Paul's perfect composition is from Revolver.

SIDE TWO

Something - George's greatest composition had originally appeared on the album Abbey Road, but was also released on a double A-sided single. 

And I Love Her - A well-known song from the soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night.

If I Fell - From the same soundtrack, but this rare stereo mix features a double-tracked vocal intro by John and an absolutely delicious moment when Paul's voice cracks at the end of the second bridge on the word "vain."

I'll Be Back - This song is also from the album A Hard Day's Night, but from the non-soundtrack side.

Tell Me What You See - From the non-soundtrack side of the album Help!

Yes It Is - This number had only been available as the B-side to Ticket to Ride in the UK, so this is its first appearance on an album in stereo.  In the US, it had also been released on the album Beatles VI.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

THE BEATLES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL - side two

Inner gatefold
Boys - Paul introduces Ringo's vocal outing from the 1964 concert.  At this point in time, American fans would only have known this song from the VeeJay album Introducing the Beatles.

A Hard Day's Night - The next two tracks are from the 1965 concert.  John gets to do the intro for the title song from the group's first film.  "We've only made two.  One was black and white and one was colored."

Help! - During John's next introduction, we hear him exclaim, "Go away with that light!...oh, thank you," demonstrating the loose, chaotic atmosphere surrounding their performances.  They then launch into the "title ditty" of their new film, which was also the most recent single and album available.

All My Loving - The remaining tracks are all from the 1964 concert.  Paul announces this number "from our first Capitol album."  On the studio version, Paul had double-tracked his vocal for the final verse, but when playing live, George got the chance to sing the melody with Paul handling the high harmony line.

She Loves You - John refers to this song as "an oldie.  Some of you older people might remember.  It's from last year."  Actually, although Swan Records had released it as a single in September of 1963, it had only attained recognition in the US after I Want To Hold Your Hand, becoming the group's second Billboard number one hit in early '64.

Long Tall Sally -Paul informs the fans that "this next number will have to be our last," much to their dismay, but when he asks them, "Did you enjoy the show?" they scream enthusiastically one more time.  He credits Little Richard before the band gives a spirited performance of this rock and roll classic.  The album quickly fades out as the crowd's screams continue following the final chords.

The album was released in the UK on May 6th, 1977.  It reached number one there and peaked at number two in the US.  The brief running time of the album is an accurate representation of an actual Beatles concert, and the cleaning up of the original three-track tapes by producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick is quite remarkable; it's the next best thing to being there that we will ever know.

Nevertheless, the Beatles themselves were not happy with this release.  When they finally issued their complete catalog on CD ten years later, this album was nowhere to be found, nor has it ever been officially transferred to that format.  Strange, then, that they returned to these concert tapes when putting together the Anthology series in the mid-1990's and retrieved a performance of Baby's in Black from the 1965 show.