Saturday, February 24, 2007

You're My Wonderwall

On the event of George Harrison's birthday, I thought I'd use this opportunity to focus on one of my favorite of The Beatles' solo projects: the oft neglected and underrated Wonderwall Music. Though I have never seen the film itself, the sound scape George painted stands on its own as a transporting piece, melding Western and Eastern sounds in a completely innovative fashion.

After watching a rough cut of the Wonderwall film, George proceeded to compose songs for the soundtrack. He produced and composed every song, beginning with home demos and progressing to sessions in both London and Bombay. The "Western" music was recorded at Abbey Road and Kingsway studios Nov. '67 - Jan. '68, with the Remo Four (Colin Manley, Tony Ashton, Philip Rogers, and Roy Dyke), Eric Clapton on guitar, Peter Tork of the Monkees on banjo, and Tommy Reilly on harmonica. George was assisted by classical musician John Barham who also played piano and flugel horn, as well as arranging pieces for flutes, oboes, and a trumpet. The Bombay sessions commenced in January of '68. Wonderwall director Joe Massot stated that George "wanted to get to the roots of the music and find the best Indian musicians to play on it (Spizer 206)." George himself stated that he wanted his score to be a "mini-anthology of Indian help turn the public on to Indian music (Spizer 206)." The Indian musicians included Aashish Khan on sarod, Mahapurush Mishra on tabla and pakavaj and Rij Ram Desad on harmonium. The backing track for the Beatles B-side "The Inner Light" was also recorded at this time.

This seems to be a project that was dear to George's heart--a way for him to be completely free and creative in his vision and execution. Instead of using any of the backlog of songs he had written as potential Beatles projects, George composed experimental instrumentals in an ambitious undertaking. His desire to expose his devoted fans to the music of his soul--the music of India--successfully comes to fruition in Wonderwall Music. If you've never heard it, I recommend getting a copy as soon as possible, and to those of you who haven't listened in a while, George's birthday is an opportune time to visit it again. Let me know what you think...

(References: The Beatles Solo on Apple Records--Bruce Spizer; Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium--Chip Madinger and Mark Easter.)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"What's Happenin', Baby? It's the Gear!"

Whenever I watch The First U.S. Visit, I catch myself smiling uncontrollably throughout the entire documentary. The Maysles brothers captured the vitality and exuberance of the youthful Beatles, caught in the whirlwind of Beatlemania, in such a way that it remains fresh with every viewing. A second generation fan like myself can experience the thrill and excitement of February 1964 whenever we wish, but it doesn't completely make up for missing out on the real thing. At least we have such documents preserved for future generations.

The Beatles shall remain forever young.

I never grow tired of seeing and hearing the Ed Sullivan and Washington Coliseum performances. The Beatles appear poised and deliver solid performances, despite finding such a reception hard to fathom. The audiences are swept up into complete mass hysteria, enthralled by the music, of course, but lest we forget--the raw sexual energy the Beatles emitted also had something to do with it. (Fortunately, the last song from the Washington concert, "Long Tall Sally", finally appeared on the Anthology EPK--now we have the entire concert film.)

Their personalities, their humor, their down-to-earth reaction to the craziness around them, the friendship they shared--its all here for us to partake in with them. I often speak/write of the "joy" The Beatles continue to give--The First U.S. Visit is proof of that joy. Magic!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

But We Love Tape Hiss!

Above are scans of an interesting article on Let It Be...Naked from the December 2003 Mojo magazine. The LIBN project--I sort of see it as a pointless exercise, and that Apple's time, energy and money would have been better spent on more worthwhile endeavors, e.g., a DVD of all their promo videos, The Beatles at Shea Stadium, etc. I guess what bugged me the most about the project was the fact that it was not "naked" at all--not the "trousers down" Glyn Johns mixes, but rather a creation from edits flown in from here, there and everywhere at times. Oh, and read that paragraph about Pro-Tools...not a favorite program of mine or many others reading this blog, I'm sure. How can something be stripped down and authentic when all the ambiance is completely removed? *insert heavy sigh here* I'd like to get some opinions on which version you favor--Glyn Johns, Spector, or LIBN?

The reason I am posting this article is because the team employed for the LIBN project are reportedly the same people who have been working on the eagerly awaited UK remasters of the Beatles' canon at Abbey Road studios. This same team also did the recent Living in the Material World reiusse, which I thought was quality work (but what do I know, really). I suppose there is no way that every fan will be satisfied with the remasters, but let's hope they will be of the quality deserving of the world's most beloved and revered group.

If only the deluxe DVD of Let It Be would magically appear...

(Click on the scans to enlarge.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In The Meantime...

I am currently working on two large blog entries at the same time (!) so as I continue to piece them together, here are some random scans for your viewing pleasure.

As I am creating this entry, I am listening to the entirety of the rooftop concert, digitally remastered by a Beatle buddy of mine. This is certainly the most complete, best-sounding version I've ever heard. He used the best sources for each track and proceeded to flawlessly edit, master, and mix them to create the finest sonic representation of The Beatles last live performance as a band. (A very special thanks to him!)

Enjoy the photos, and I'll be back shortly with more relevant entries!