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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side six

I Am the Walrus - On September 5th, 1967, the group returned to the studio for the first time following Brian Epstein's death and recorded the basic track of this Lennon composition.  This is that backing track - take 16 - plus John's haunting lead vocal from the next day's session, and it is a stunner.  It is as bare bones as possible, featuring only drums, tambourine, electric piano and guitar, but even without producer George Martin's orchestration, the Mike Sammes Singers and the BBC radio performance of King Lear, it is every bit as mesmerizing as the finished master.

The Fool on the Hill (Demo) - Paul recorded this demo alone at the piano.  Melodically, the song is already complete, but the lyrics are far from it.  He opens the song with a musical variation of the "world spinning round" phrase, a nice touch which he dropped before the final version.

Your Mother Should Know - The group had already recorded the basic track of this tune a month or so earlier when Paul decided to do this remake.  It features the composer on harmonium and Ringo playing a military-style beat throughout.  Paul ultimately thought better of it and returned to the original version as the basis for the master.

The Fool on the Hill (Take 4) - This is a proper recording of the song with overdubs (one of them being Paul playing the recorder), though the lyrics are still a work-in-progress.  The interesting opening musical phrase is also still present, but this version would be scrapped and the entire song remade a day later.

Hello, Goodbye - Here is one of those Anthology creations combining multiple takes in a way that was never intended by the Beatles themselves.  Though we are able to hear portions of the song differently than we usually hear them, it is not that interesting to me except for George's very active guitar part, much of which was edited out of the master.

Lady Madonna - The same approach is taken with the early 1968 single, although there are not nearly as many layers of sound on this recording.  We do get a little extra bit of saxophone at the end of the number, as well as a final, hearty "Lady Madonna" from either Paul or John.

Across the Universe - The sessions that produced Lady Madonna also yielded this gorgeous Lennon number, though never quite to the composer's satisfaction.  This is take 2, which I feel is superior to either of the officially released versions - one produced by George Martin, the other by Phil Spector - in that it captures the gentle, ethereal quality of the song far better.  It features George on sitar and numerous other acoustic stringed instruments (is one of them an autoharp?) as well as some simple percussion.  The song is a difficult one to sing, and John is often running out of breath as he learns how to phrase it.  Had the group continued with this arrangement, Lennon might have been better pleased with the result.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ANTHOLOGY 2 - side five

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Takes 1 & 2) - The first two takes of this Lennon composition quickly break down, but the fascinating stuff lies in between as Paul gives John some advice on how to sing the phrases of the song.  John, sounding almost embarrassed, laughs it off, yet a listen to the master version reveals how much respect he actually gave to his longtime partner.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Take 7) - This is the backing track of that master version with Paul on bass, Ringo on drums and producer George Martin on harmonium.  At the end, it switches to a new mix of the swirling calliope part from the master, although it fades out before coming to a full stop as the released version does.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - This Anthology track combines parts of takes 6, 7 and 8 including Paul on the Hammond organ, George on tamboura, plus guitar and drums.  John wrote the lead vocal part at the top of his range, and he strains to hit the notes on this guide vocal, singing the song in a staccato style.  Mark Lewisohn relates in The Beatles: Recording Sessions that Paul once again gave the composer some advice on how to sing his own song and John listened, resulting in a smoother, dreamier reading on the master.

Within You Without You (Instrumental) - We get to hear this collaboration from the two Georges - Harrison and Martin - minus the vocals, giving us a chance to savor the complex arrangement and interplay of Eastern and Western instruments so groundbreaking for its time.  The track is about twenty seconds longer than the released version due to a few extra measures between some sections.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) - On April 1st, 1967, the band quickly recorded this faster version of the title song to round out the album after more than four months of sessions.  The master, take 9, features Paul, John and George singing in unison, but here on take 5, Paul sings a guide vocal solo.

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) -The Anthology presents the wackiest of all Beatles songs in stereo for the first time.  It belongs at this point in the chronology because the instrumental backing for this comedy number was recorded in five parts in May and June of '67, though John, Paul and Mal Evans did not add vocals until April of '69, John edited it for release as a potential Plastic Ono Band single in November of '69 and it finally appeared as the B-side of the group's final single Let It Be in March of 1970.  We get to hear an extended opening section, one section that did not make it to the master version featuring lively off-beat syncopation and truncated versions of two familiar sections.  Paul's glorious lounge-lizard section is thankfully untouched.