Album Reviews

The Beatles – Love

(EMI) UK release date: 20 November 2006

The Beatles - Love It may not be possible to actually improve The Beatles but give them a few fairytale flourishes and vaudeville strings and they can be reinvented for the Lost Vagueness Generation. For all the moaners and naysayers claiming that a better way to top up George Martin’s pension fund might have been to re-release the Red and Blue albums with as good sound quality as this album has been afforded, there’s a truly innovative string flourish, feedback scream and drum swell to assure you that Love is genuinely worth it.

First things first: in case you’ve been living a hole for the last month or so, Love is the Beatles-based soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show of the same name. Starting life as a germ of an idea between George Harrison and Cirque du Soliel’s Guy Laliberté, it was presented to long-time Beatles producer George Martin with the brief to “create a soundscape using any sound [he] needed from the original Beatles’ multitrack recordings”.

Along with his son Giles, he set about mixing and matching, combining motifs such as Within You Without You’s hypnotic drum beat with the (surely already mind-bending enough) Tomorrow Never Knows – mashing up The Beatles with The Beatles to reiterate that no-one else is worthy of the honour.

Through the harmonised orchestral opening of Because, Get Back seems to arrive from another planet, exploding onto a Cirque du Soleil scene it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine, as if this is the soundtrack to a live Jean-Pierre Jeunet film.

The odd background waves bubbling under Eleanor Rigby’s opening strings tugs your mind away to a distant horizon, familiar and yet unsettlingly different at the same time. Julia (Transition) offers a wonderfully paranoid interlude before Octopus’s Garden emerges from behind the dark clouds in a shaft of blinding light. In fact, it’s the four Transitio pieces which emerge as the real gems of the album, with Blue Jay Way, The Inner Light and Cry Baby Cry being given equally acid-dipping treatment elsewhere.

The older, stripped-back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll of earlier numbers such as I Want To Hold Your Hand emerge virtually unscathed, innocent and untouchable before the acid drops. Something is wondrously sexy, with climactic percussion underlying the sunshine melody, adding French flourish to the proceedings in front of overlaid drums, multi-tasked vocals and a guitar solo to melt your heart as well as fry your brain.

Already psychedelic-surreal numbers such Helter Skelter take on, at times, a darkness filled with crushing bad trip paranoia which, you suddenly realise, was never quite so dark anywhere in The Beatles’ original oeuvre, slamming you face first into Charles Manson’s soul.

It’s a side to the tunes that Martins Sr and Jr have teased out magnificently and the fact that the hell-soaked darkness into which the Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)/Helter Skelter medley descends is immediately followed by the gloriously sun-drenched and unrelentingly upbeat Help! and Blackbird/Yesterday is a stroke of genius.

Then we decide another tab would be a good idea and we’re floating in a musical haze over Strawberry Fields reimagined in an ambient dub future, learning to breathe to the beats of Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows and coming down to a slow and twinkling Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Orchestral additions to Octopus’s Garden give it an almost Disney-like fairytale quality, while Lady Madonna heralds in a new moment of clarity and simplicity before we take a trip into the new world of Here Comes The Sun soaked in a Goa trance intro. It segues into the next Transition, this time teased through sitars from The Inner Light. Come Together is more hypnotic, more tribal, slipping easily into bed with its medley mates Dear Prudence and Cry Baby Cry, the last of the album’s beautiful interludes.

Revolution and Back In The USSR are offered up relatively straight, a reminder that before (and after, when they wanted to) The Beatles changed music forever, they could do guitars and drums and rock ‘n’ roll as well as anyone. If this is them at their most raw, then what comes after is the other extreme, the haunting, surreal and beautiful While My Guitar Gently Weeps and the still staggering A Day in the Life, a song so simultaneously insane and simple it defies description.

It’s nearly time to go home, but there’s still time left for the world’s favourite sing-along, Hey Jude, the perfect sign-off – St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – and just a reminder, in case you’d forgotten, that All You Need Is Love. You probably do need Rubber Soul, Revolver and The White Album as well but it’s been such an incredible, magical journey that for the moment we’ll pretend we believe the conceit.

Love could only have been made by someone who knew this music inside out, who has nurtured, cherished and polished it since the day it was composed, who saw its potential in an era when pushing rock ‘n’ roll past it boundaries was a new art form. The only new recording anywhere on this remarkable piece of work is George Martin’s new score for While My Guitar Gently Weeps, everything else is beautifully recycled.

Martin has said that, 41 years after the first score he wrote for The Beatles, this will be his last, the bookend to an amazing contribution to the world of music. Thank God that Jeff Lynne wasn’t let anywhere near it.

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