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Friday, February 28, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side four

From the promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberry Fields Forever (Demo Sequence) - John made countless demo versions of his haunting stream-of-consciousness song before the Beatles reunited after a three month break from one another.  He tries finger picking on this attempt, then stops, mutters "I canna do it" and strums instead.  At this point, he has not finished all of the verses or put the ones he has in their final order.  Also note that the line was originally "Let me take you back" rather than "down."

Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1) - On November 24th, 1966, the first day of sessions for the next album, the boys recorded this magnificent first take of John's now-complete composition.  Numerous overdubs indicate that they thought they had already achieved the master, but a month's worth of work still lay ahead of them.  John had indeed found the vocal style he wanted to use to convey the world-weary tone of the lyrics, but the instrumental backing would change dramatically over many attempts.  Paul's Mellotron was in place from the start (though he had yet to come up with the brilliant mood-setting introduction), but George's prominent slide guitar would give way to a more straightforward guitar sound overall.

Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 7 & Edit Piece) - Several days later, the Beatles once again believed they had completed work on the song using a new arrangement.  In fact, the first minute of take 7 is used in the master, the remainder coming from take 26.  We hear all of take 7 here, then Ringo's wild drum track which was overdubbed onto take 26 for the fade out/fade in/fade out at the end of the record.  Though still incomplete, this sequence of tracks is by far the best on the Anthology series at showing the development of a recording over time.

Penny Lane - In this Anthology amalgam of many different takes, we have Paul's lead vocal single-tracked, a wonderful overdub of cor anglais and trumpets (which was either omitted from the master or mixed so low as to be inaudible) in place of Dave Mason's piccolo trumpet solo, and Mason's full final phrase continuing into some crazy run-on playing from the Beatles before coming to a full stop with a comment from Paul.

A Day in the Life - Another combination of takes is presented here beginning with some pre-recording chatter from John and tinkering on the piano by Paul.  The verses are from take 2 and they include John's guide vocal and acoustic guitar, Paul on piano and assistant Mal Evans' echoed counting of the 24 measures where the first orchestral crescendo would eventually fit in to the song.  For Paul's bridge, we hear his vocal, piano and bass, plus Ringo's drums from take 6 before returning to take 2 for the final verse.  Finally, we do hear the second orchestral build-up followed by some chatter lead by Paul with the guests invited to that orchestral overdub session on February 10th, 1967.

Good Morning Good Morning - Those who think the Beatles didn't rock during their work on Sgt. Pepper should listen to the basic track of this Lennon composition.  Rhythm guitar, Paul's bass and Ringo's drums plus John's vocal are proof enough.

Only a Northern Song - Harrison's first offering for the album wouldn't see the light of day until the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.  This is take 3, the basic track from February 13th, with vocals that were not recorded until April featuring many variations from the lyrics on the master version.      

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side three

Budokan - 1966
Tomorrow Never Knows - The 1966 Revolver sessions were by far the most experimental to date, and no track was more experimental than this one, recorded on April 6th, the first day of the sessions for that album.  Here, on take 1, we hear the sounds of the studio (not unlike the eventual opening of the album) and an announcement of "Here it comes...stand by" over the talkback speaker before an eerie wash of repetitive sound plays, including distorted guitars, Ringo's drums, Paul's bass and John's highly-filtered vocal.  While the result is mesmerizing, the reimagined backing of the master, take 3, recorded over the next day and a half, has much more variety.

Got To Get You Into My Life - This backing for McCartney's Motown-inspired number is also miles away from its released version.  A basic track of organ, drums and acoustic guitar accompanies Paul's lead vocal, as well as some backing vocals from John and George (I need your love) that were eventually deemed unnecessary. 

And Your Bird Can Sing - This early arrangement of this Lennon composition is clearly influenced by the sound of the Byrds, with wonderful chiming guitars throughout.  However, the reason it was most likely chosen to appear on the Anthology is due to the ridiculously childish laughter from John and Paul as they attempt to overdub more vocals onto the track.  The entire thing was scrapped six days later and remade with a more strident sound.

Taxman - Here is an example of a track that is almost, but not quite, identical to the released version, yet the differences are significant.  First are the "Anybody got a bit of money" backing vocals by John and Paul that were replaced by the more topical "Ha ha, Mister Wilson" and "Ha ha, Mister Heath" parts.  And instead of a repeat of Paul's stinging guitar solo at the end, the song comes to a full stop with a final shout of "Taxman!"

Eleanor Rigby (Strings Only) - There are some who complain about this track because it does not feature the Beatles at all, but anyone who cannot appreciate George Martin's superb score (remixed for the Anthology) all by itself will probably never understand the producer's inestimable contributions to the group's recordings.

I'm Only Sleeping (Rehearsal) - These next two tracks are a real oddity.  It was rare for the Beatles to remake a song but then decide to release the original version instead of the remade one.  This snippet of a rehearsal was recorded days after the master, on the same day as vocals were added to that master.  This rehearsal has no vocals and contains an atmospheric vibraphone part along with drums and acoustic guitar.  Whoever is playing the vibes is not identified.

I'm Only Sleeping (Take 1) - The band then moved on to record five new takes of the song, with John himself announcing that this would be the new take 1.  This acoustic arrangement of the number is jointly sung by John and Paul almost as a parody of the original song.  As was usually the case, the correct decision was made as to which version of the tune deserved to be released.

Rock and Roll Music - One of the first stops on the group's final world tour in 1966 was at Budokan in Japan, represented by these next two tracks.  They could not reproduce a single song from the album they had just finished recording live on stage, so they had to resort to their old set list.  The tempo is a bit slow on this Chuck Berry number and John sounds listless as they play only two of the song's four verses.

She's A Woman - On the other hand, Paul, ever the showman, gives his all on this great B-side from 1964.  His enthusiasm even induces some nice answering phrases from George on lead guitar as the song heads for the finish line.

Monday, February 10, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side two

I Feel Fine - Four selections from a live performance for the TV program Blackpool Night Out taped on August 1st, 1965 open this side.  It is unclear whether an attempt was made to recreate the feedback at the top of their hit song from late '64, as it is faded in.  You can clearly hear on each of his vocals that John's voice was ragged on this evening.

Ticket to Ride - Paul introduces this number from the spring of '65.  They truncate this tune by not repeating the first verse and bridge as they did on the record, instead jumping straight to a repeat of the second verse.

Yesterday - The most interesting item from this concert is the first-ever live performance of this song.  George does the intro ("For Paul McCartney of Liverpool, opportunity knocks.") and the title gets no reaction from the crowd, because they had never heard it before, since its appearance on the album Help! was still almost a week away.  Only a few screams from the audience puncture Paul's fine, albeit somewhat nervous rendition with a live string section.  John typically undermines the proceedings with the remark, "Thank you, Ringo.  That was wonderful."

Help! - John introduces the group's most recent "electronic noise" as the evening's final number.  He then manages to forget some of the lyrics to the second verse before Paul and George's backing vocals clue him in as to what he should be singing.  A chord from the program's orchestra brings the group's set to a close.

Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby - A whole different level of screaming is heard on this next track - farther away and yet much louder and consistently present.  The historic first concert at Shea Stadium is represented by this Carl Perkins number which the boys had covered on Beatles For Sale.  George handles the intro and leads the band through a surprisingly cohesive performance considering the conditions.  Though the group most likely could not be heard at all by the record-setting crowd, the amplification is certainly louder than any they had previously had available to them, and the guitars have a heavier sound than usual.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - Only three selections from the Rubber Soul sessions appear on the collection, starting with take 1 of this beautiful Lennon composition, recorded on October 12th, 1965.  George's plucking of the sitar sounds rudimentary here - amazing, then, that he turned in such a fine performance nine days later when the song was remade.  John and Paul's vocal lines and delivery also differ from those on the much-improved remake.  

I'm Looking Through You - This is a substantially different arrangement of this McCartney number than the one we all know.  Whether this take was considered to be complete is hard to tell, especially in the rather uninteresting instrumental breaks which feature repetitive chords from an organ and a rambling lead guitar from George.  At this stage, Paul also had yet to write the great "why, tell me why" bridge that really helps flesh out the song.  They remade it not just once, but twice before perfecting it for release.

12-Bar Original - This instrumental is a fascinating rarity credited to all four Beatles.  For the Anthology, the six-minute-plus number is wisely edited down to just under three minutes, as the boys (with producer George Martin on harmonium) are definitely out of their element with this type of material.  While it is fun to listen to now, the decision to keep it off the album at that time was certainly an astute one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side one

On March 18th, 1996, two weeks after the release of Real Love, Anthology 2 arrived.  Picking up right where the first double CD left off, this collection covers the fertile middle period of the Fab Four's career - the time when they transformed not only themselves, but the music they loved, as well.

Real Love - Before getting into the archival material, the program kicks off with the latest Threetles-enhanced Lennon demo.  For my look at this number, please refer to my previous blog entry.

Yes It Is - The remainder of this first side contains selections from the Help! sessions in February and June of 1965.  The same technique that had been applied to Here, There and Everywhere on the Real Love EP is used to present this great B-side.  We first hear take 2 with John's guide vocal.  He quickly forgets the lyrics on the bridge, and as he begins singing "di-dee-dee" in their place, we segue into a remix of the master, take 14.  The result depends on your point of view concerning these amalgamations.

I'm Down - Another outstanding B-side is presented here, with Paul leading the band through a full performance of the backing track on take 1 of his "plastic soul" number.

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away - There is not much difference to distinguish this - take 5 - from the master - take 9.  According to Mark Lewisohn's liner notes, these were the only complete takes of this simple acoustic number.  A bit of amusing banter from John before the take proper is fun to hear.

If You've Got Trouble - This marks the first official release of this hysterically bad tune, although it had been available on bootlegs for years and had almost been issued by EMI on the legendary Sessions LP in 1985.  The goofy lyrics suggest that John and Paul wrote this song with Ringo's role in the film Help! in mind.

That Means A Lot - This intriguing number from McCartney is another leftover from the Help! sessions that most fans had never heard before.  The entire performance is drenched in echo, making it sound as if the band is playing in an empty dancehall.

Yesterday - Take 1 of McCartney's most famous song is preceded by Paul teaching the chords to George (although in another key) and then playing the tune for the group.  He chuckles on the line "I'm not half the man I used to be" either because he inverted it with the previous line or for a more puerile reason.  It must have been quickly decided that no other Beatle would play on the number, because the master was take 2.

It's Only Love -Take 2 of this Lennon composition (preceded by a false start of take 3 - yes, you read that right) is simply the backing track with a guide vocal by John.  The tempo is a bit faster than the master, take 6.