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Thursday, January 29, 2015

ANTHOLOGY 3 - side five

The Long and Winding Road - One of McCartney's finest compositions is presented here as he originally intended it to be heard, without the massive orchestra and choir that Phil Spector added to the track for the Let it Be album.  Spector also edited out Paul's spoken section in the middle and cut the song off after John's rising bass line, though Paul clearly continued to play a tinkling melody line on piano.

Oh! Darling - While the Abbey Road release of this McCartney tune features a masterful vocal performance by Paul, it is still a treat to hear Paul and John share the vocals as this song is introduced at the Get Back sessions.  And Billy Preston adds some tasty licks on electric piano, to boot.  As they finish playing, John announces that they have just learned that Yoko's divorce is final, so he launches back into the song and improvises a verse.

All Things Must Pass - The Anthology now begins jumping back and forth in time, moving ahead now to February 25th, 1969 when George went into the studio on his birthday to record demos of three songs he had ready to go.  He had presented this composition (and several others) to the other Beatles during the Get Back sessions, but it would not be issued until it became the title track of his epic triple disc solo album in late 1970.  This demo is gorgeous, featuring a distinctive double-tracked guitar part and a heartfelt vocal.

Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues - The Anthology now slips back to the Get Back sessions for a listen of this Buddy Holly B-side being tackled by the boys.  It's a slower tempo than on Holly's original version, but John does a pretty good job of mimicking his rock and roll hero's vocal style.

Get Back - This is the last time the group played the title number of these sessions, just as the police arrived on the scene to shut down the rooftop concert.  It starts out a bit shaky, especially when John and George's amplifiers are temporarily shut off during the first chorus, but once that situation is rectified they hit a groove, with Preston turning in a superb variation of his solo.  Paul then seizes the moment vocally, ad libbing about "playing on the roofs" and Loretta's momma having her arrested.  While it is certainly not the best take of the song, it is definitely the most exciting.

Old Brown Shoe - It's back to George's birthday for his demo of this uptempo composition.  He overdubbed two guitar parts onto his piano and vocal track to give a fuller sense of the feel he was going for with this toe-tapping number, even approximating the tricky bass line that Paul would eventually play on the master.

Octopus's Garden - By April of '69, the Beatles had begun sporadically recording a number of new tunes that would ultimately wind up on their final masterpiece Abbey Road.  The basic track of the second solo composition by Richard Starkey was laid down by the group on the 26th of that month.  This is take 2 and it is not much different from the master, take 32.  In fact, George has already worked out his rockabilly guitar line very well.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer - By July 9th, a concentrated effort on the album Abbey Road was well underway, though John had been absent due to a car accident.  He returned on this day, but did not participate in work on the basic track of this McCartney song.  That left Ringo on drums, Paul on piano and George on bass for 21 takes.  Take 5 is presented here on the Anthology and again, it is not significantly different from the master, though Paul immediately asks for "One more" at the end of the take.

Friday, January 16, 2015

ANTHOLOGY 3 - side four

The Get Back sessions of January 1969 are represented by the next batch of tracks.  As there were no proper recordings at the Twickenham Film Studios rehearsals in the early part of that month, all of these selections come from late January when the group reconvened at 3 Savile Row in their unfinished Apple Studios using borrowed equipment and adding keyboardist Billy Preston to the live proceedings.

I've Got a Feeling - This is the first official release of the take that engineer Glyn Johns used on both of his Get Back albums, neither of which met with the approval of the Beatles in '69 and '70.  The performance is quite good, featuring a particularly fine vocal by Paul on the bridge, but it breaks down before the final section.

She Came in through the Bathroom Window - McCartney debuted this composition at these sessions, though it did not surface until its appearance as part of the medley on Abbey Road at the end of the year.  This version is considerably slower and has some nice touches that I love, including John's harmony vocal on the chorus and George's pedal-tone guitar work.  After the take, Paul demonstrates what he terms a "classical" variation that he feels the song could use.

Dig a Pony - The Anthology chooses to give us a somewhat shaky runthrough of this Lennon tune - one not nearly as good as the rooftop version on the Let It Be album.  We do get to hear the "All I want is" line at either end of the song - something re-producer Phil Spector decided to edit out of that earlier release.  And John forgets his own lyrics in a few spots, which is not unusual for him, though the tricky wordplay of this composition makes it understandable in this instance.   

Two of Us - Another ragged runthrough - this time of a McCartney number.  The Beatles seem to be still working out the arrangement at this point, with no drumwork from Ringo before the bridges and some hesitant guitar picking the second time around.  Paul and John are also uncertain of which lyrics to sing at the beginning of some of the verses.  And the track is oddly faded out before it would come to a natural stop, as all of these live tracks were required to do.

For You Blue - The boys only spent one day working on this Harrison composition, yet they seemed to have a lot of fun doing so.  Paul plays an intro on piano on this take, though he does not take a solo during the instrumental break.  George's acoustic and John's slide guitar parts and Ringo's drums are pretty much the same as on the master.

Teddy Boy - McCartney tried to sell the group on this song on two separate occasions, both of which are represented on this combined take.  John grows bored at one point and starts calling out as if he were at a square dance in time to the music.  Paul would have to wait until he began work on his first solo album to make a proper recording of this little gem.

Medley: Rip it Up/Shake, Rattle and Roll/Blue Suede Shoes - Countless oldies were played during these sessions.  Few were complete versions and many were merely a line or two, but an extended medley occurred on January 26th.  Since there was no thought of releasing this jam, John and Paul's shared vocals are half-hearted in places, but the playing by the Beatles and Billy Preston is quite good on this sequence of tunes by some of their rock and roll heroes.

Monday, January 12, 2015

ANTHOLOGY 3 - side three

Glass Onion - This performance by the Beatles of this Lennon composition is the master version, but John decided to add sound effects to it during producer George Martin's extended holiday from the "White Album" sessions.  When Martin returned, he suggested a score for strings instead of the ringing telephone, breaking glass and shouts of "It's a goal!" - an idea John embraced.

Rocky Raccoon - Take 8 of this McCartney composition finds the basic instrumentation in place, but Paul is still making up lyrics here and there.  John suggests the line "he was a fool unto himself" for the spoken introduction before they start playing and Paul gamely gives it a try.  Rocky is from Minnesota on this take and Paul reacts to his verbal fluff "sminking with gin" instead of "stinking" among numerous other variations.

What's the New Mary Jane - For me, these are the most excruciating six minutes that the Beatles ever committed to tape.  The first couple of minutes are almost redeemed by some typical Lennon wit in the lyrics, but the tune he sets them to is mediocre at best.  The track then devolves into aimless, amateurish banging away on piano, guitar and various percussion instruments far too long for no good reason.  The decision to keep this mess off of the "White Album" must have been a no-brainer.

Step Inside Love/Los Paranoias - This track fades in on an impromptu version of a song McCartney wrote for Cilla Black's TV show.  As this occurred during a session for the basic track of his song I Will, Paul is on acoustic guitar with John and Ringo providing percussion.  Before resuming a proper take of the new composition, John's remark of "Los Paranoias" spurs Paul to ad lib a silly new song, which fades out after a minute.  All in all, this is a fun look at the creative synergy the group could still muster at its best moments.

I'm So Tired - This slow Lennon rocker was recorded in a single night.  The Anthology presents a version of the basic track made from three separate takes.

I Will - The Anthology now returns to the session for the basic track of this number - to the very first take, in fact.  The entire arrangement is already set, but Paul would not be satisfied until take 67 that he, John and Ringo had gotten it right.

Why Don't We Do It in the Road? - Take 4 of this McCartney number reveals that Paul originally sang one verse softly, switched to the howling voice he wound up using on the master, then continued alternating.  After several verses, he stops and asks, "What do you think?"  The next take would be the master, so the decision to stick with the strident voice throughout was made at this point.

Julia - Lennon's only solo performance as a Beatle was this beautiful tribute to his mother.  He starts singing here on take 2, but quickly stops and concentrates on his finger-picking.  When he begins singing again midway through the song, his playing breaks down.  This is followed by a fascinating exchange with Paul, who has been listening up in the control booth.  John is respectful and almost deferential to his longtime partner - a far cry from the disdain he would project in many future interviews.