Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Beatles, 'LOVE'

“LOVE,” the new “album” from The Beatles, is not only the most overhyped release of the year (and that’s saying something), but certainly one of the most disappointing, as well.
Released last week just in time for Black Friday, “LOVE” is the soundtrack to the new Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, which opened this summer at the Mirage in Vegas. George Martin (the “Fifth Beatle”) and his son, Giles, worked on this thing for years, apparently, and the result is billed as a “mash up” album. For those not familiar with that term, it means combining two old songs to create an entirely new one.
In this case, it’s false advertising.
The idea of mixing The Beatles’ all-too-familiar tracks in new and supposedly revolutionary ways was thrilling to me; the results, unfortunately, are barely interesting, because the Martins were apparently too scared to make truly risky and bold choices with a catalog revered like it’s the Word of God.
There’s only one true mash up on all of “LOVE”—the combination of “Within You Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” two songs not all that dissimilar in the first place. The rest of the album simply blends one song into another, if that.
Supposedly there are morsels of more than 180 Beatles tracks appearing in “LOVE’s” 78 minutes, but you’d have to be a Beatles freak to catch most of them. I own almost all of the original albums, and the majority of the songs on "LOVE" sound the same as they always have to these ears.
There are a few exceptions: When “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” explodes into “I Want You,” it’s a sonic extravaganza that tantalizingly hints at what "LOVE" could and should have been. The Martins also effectively segue from “Drive My Car” to “The Word” to “What You’re Doing,” and Martin Sr.’s orchestral addition to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is a nice touch.
The overall impression, though, is underwhelming. It’s laughable that some reviewers even entertained the notion that “LOVE” could be considered an original Beatles album. This is not a reimagining, not a dramatic new vision of the band’s career. And it’s certainly nowhere near as exciting as Danger Mouse’s underground sensation “The Grey Album” from 2004, which magnificently and truly mashed The Beatles’ “White Album” with Jay-Z’s “Black Album.”
If nothing else, “LOVE” proves how amazing and ahead of their time the originals were, because those still sound more revolutionary than any of the bells and whistles added by the Martins. In theory this album sounded great; too bad the producers were afraid to do it right.
Grade: C+

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