I stopped by Sam’s Club yesterday afternoon to stock up on bottled water and batteries, not wanting to be caught unprepared for the next great Nonexistent Blizzard of Ought Seven, and on a whim added The Beatles “Love” to my flatbed. I had read glowing recommendations in sundry newspaper columns and blogs, including those from the Brothers Jim, and while I don’t always agree with the latter’s musical tastes, I have to say that in this case they are, if anything, under-enthusiastic.
In case you have the same misconception I did about this album, it’s not simply a new compilation of old Beatles tunes. Sure, it’s a collection of Fab Four staples, because, after all, they’re not recording together anymore (in case you haven’t kept up). But through some technological magic — I don’t think this project could have been pulled off fifteen years ago — and the creative genius of Sir George Martin and his son Giles, original tracks laid down by the Beatles have been mashed up with a tasteful dollop of new and assorted loops and effects to produce a recording that’s a sonic delight that manages to capture the amazing diversity of the group’s original music while presenting it in a new light.
If you’re a traditionalist, this may not be your cup of tea, but I still urge you to give it a chance. The package I bought comes with two disks, both containing the same music. One’s a standard CD, the other’s a DVD which presents the music in 5.1 Dolby/DTS surround sound. My advice is buy the dual package and listen to the DVD on a good surround sound system, and prepare to be awed by both the clarity of the music and the skill of the producers.
I don’t necessarily agree with the all of the choices the producers made. For example, the intro to Lady Madonna is a bit too cute and frantic for my taste*, and some of the electronica seems to be an uneasy fit with the original arrangements, making them seem more like Broadway showtunes, ala the finale of All That Jazz. On the other hand, the arrangements as heard on the DVD should dispel any notion that Ringo Starr was a sub-par drummer.
Overall, this is a masterpiece that should serve to reinforce the sometimes under-appreciated musical talents of the Beatles.
Incidentally, this is the first music on disk I’ve purchased in more than a year. If and when the Beatles catalog becomes available on the iTunes Store, I hope the surround sound version of this collection will be one of the options; if not, it will be a good case for the argument that the plasticware version of music is not yet dead.
*Update (years later): Repeated listenings to this arrangement of Lady Madonna have affirmed my constant nagging suspicion that I really don’t know what I’m talking about.