Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review
Pretty colourful for a white album
Written: Aug 2, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Yer Blues, ‘Monkey’, ‘Warm Gun’ and Helter Skelter
Cons:Wild Honey Pie, Revolution 9 and Good Night
The Bottom Line: On this album the band really stretched out and tried a lot of different styles. Only three or four of the 30 songs here fail to float my boat.
There is a lot to take in on the Beatles’ White Album. It is the most diverse project they ever undertook. Sgt Pepper might have been more work, but this double set explores a much wider variety of musical styles.
Having said that, the first track is Back In The USSR which is of course straight out rock and roll; a genre that was always part of The Beatles’ repertoire. It is pretty much faultless and although there is nothing particularly unusual here, it one of those songs that is hard not to sing along with.
Dear Prudence is a close harmony piece with mainly acoustic guitars picking out the melody and electric ones coming in to add some depth to the whole piece. The lazy loping bass line is perfect for the piece. I gather the subject of the song is Mia Farrow’s sister who went with the Beatles to the Maharishi’s retreat prior to the recording of this album.
John Lennon throws out a mischievous reference to a couple of earlier Beatles song in Glass Onion when he sings, “Well here’s another clue for you all; the walrus was Paul,” and then later, “I told you ‘bout the fool on the hill, Man I tell you he’s living there still.” These are appropriate references as this song has many of the ‘psychedelic’ qualities that Walrus and Fool both had. In fact there are several more references to earlier songs so you can play spot the reference bingo
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da was another new direction for The Beatles. McCartney sings lead on this little reggae/pop (or more accurately Lover’s Rock) song. He is the only Beatle I can think of to visit the genre again. It was a hit single in New Zealand and Australia, but apparently in the UK they chose not to compete with the version released by Marmalade.
Wild Honey Pie is an example of the mortality and human fallibility of The Beatles. Effectively it is no more than a daft link and the sort of thing someone might invent while messing around with a guitar and some rather powerful pharmaceuticals. Nuff said.
And speaking of daft; The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill would have to be described as daft. However this is daft in a good way. It begins with a piece of acoustic guitar that sounds like it was nicked for a Willie Nelson song about Texas or somewhere else way down near the Mexican border and then the lyrics come in like a kid’s nursery rhyme, “Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill Bungalow Bill?” The whole thing appears to have been recorded in what we later called the unplugged style. However they still managed to use a good range of instruments including a harmonium, some off-key whistling, an uncredited mandolin, and bvs from Maureen Starkey and Yoko Ono.
Eric Clapton plays lead guitar on While My Guitar Gently Weeps which was released as the B-Side to Ob-La-Di in Australia. It is probably George’s best known composition and it marked out his individual style very clearly at a time when the band was going through what might be called ‘trial separations’ When the final split came, it was apparent Harrison’s first solo album clearly had its beginning in this song.
Happiness Is A Warm Gun is to the White Album what I Want You/She’s So Heavy was to Abbey Road. Although it is much briefer than the aforementioned Abbey Road song, it also has two dramatically different parts to it. The lyrics are straight out of the psychedelic late 60s and a cool little chorus. I just love the bvs (bang, bang, shoot shoot).
The love McCartney has for music hall surfaces in Martha My Dear. However as with most of the material here even this song doesn’t stay strictly within the confines in which it begins. It is quite poppy at times and it uses an entire studio full of instruments including trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba, French horn, cellos, violins and viola.
On I’m So Tired it sounds like the drums and some keyboard parts have been artificially slowed down for effect. The technique suits this melodic little John Lennon ballad with its rather bizarre lyrics.
Much of this album was not recorded using all four Beatles and a number of the songs were actually solo efforts. Blackbird is one such example with Paul McCartney performing it entirely on acoustic guitar.
Piggies was another of George Harrison’s excellent political songs, although this one is so much better than Taxman. Taxman was good for its time, but Piggies was truly inspirational and has such relevance today in a global recession. It could well become an anthem for the “occupy’ movement. That harpsichord is played by Chris Thomas who produced part of the album while George Martin took a break during the recording sessions, allegedly because he was fed up with all the bickering between The Beatles.
Rocky Raccoon is McCartney’s take on the cowboy genre and I guess his response to Bungalow Bill. It is a ripping yarn and lyrically more interesting than Bungalow Bill. As if to outdo his fellow producer George Martin plays the bar-room piano.
There is usually a single Ringo Starr vocal on each Beatles album and this one has two. In this case the Starkey penned Don’t Pass Me By is the one that is worth listening to. Ringo also plays the electric piano and sleigh bell on this.
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? is a short linking piece performed by McCartney (quite probably playing all instruments here). It foreshadowed the style we would get on McCartney’s first solo album a couple of years later just as While My Guitar Gently Weeps did for George’s Harrison’s solo debut.
I Will is a slow little McCartney ballad that sounds like it has been influenced by Till There Was You which The Beatles covered on With The Beatles back in 1963. It is a style that re-surfaced on Ram as well.
John Lennon gets a shot at doing the acoustic ballady thing with Julia which is reputed to have actually been written about his son Julian. Once again, a Beatle’s future direction was heralded and songs of this sort were to pop up on albums like Plastic Ono Band and Imagine.
The second disc of this set begins with a great Beatles rocker, Birthday. Here the band sounds like they are really having fun with Lennon and McCartney both tackling the vocals.
Yer Blues takes the Beatles on what I would think is only of only two songs that could be considered in the blues idiom that they ever wrote. The other was For You Blue which they included on Let It Be. I absolutely love it and it is definitely my favourite track here. It has some beautiful clunking bass, a couple of neat guitar parts that dance around each other and some of Lennon’s best vocals.
McCartney plays and sings Mother Nature’s Son which has folk and country influences and a touch of the old North England Colliery Bands about it. It’s quite a pleasant little pop song.
A clanging cowbell is the dominating feature of Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey. It sounds like a set of level crossing bells and is probably injurious to one’s hearing when being listened to on headphones. It’s a fun song though and features some pretty heavy and grunty guitar work.
Sexy Sadie is rumoured to have been written by John Lennon about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. As the story goes, Lennon was a bit disillusioned by his guide to enlightenment after he allegedly tried to shag Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence who had accompanied the band to the retreat. Who knows? It’s a pretty cool song, though.
It is unfortunate that Helter Skelter will always be tarnished with the memory of the extremely loopy Charles Manson because it’s a great song. Opening with one of the most easily recognised guitar openings aside from Smoke On The Water before Macca belts out his best screaming vocals, it just gets better all the way through. There is an awful lot going on in here and it is fun listening to all the different and very well layered instruments and vocals.
Long, Long, Long is George Harrison’s crack at a mainly acoustic ballad. It is a very gentle song and its placement after the fury of Helter Skelter was a good decision in terms of pacing the album. Chris Thomas plays the piano, but I think it might be Harrison playing the spooky sounding Hammond organ heard here.
Revolution 1 is one of apparently four variations upon a theme. It appears this track was to be the B-Side for the Hey Jude single, but the band apart from Lennon thought it was too slow. Thus a faster and heavier version was recorded for the single. Revolution 9 which four tracks further on is of course that epic 8 minute job that probably divides people. For me it is definitely a bit too self indulgent and lacking in enough redeeming musical qualities. But now I learn there is another version called Revolution 1 (take 20) on a bootleg Beatles album that basically amounts to 1 and 9 stitched together. Hmm! I don’t know whether I’d like that any better. However the slow version is an excellent one and while it is not as hard out as the single version, I love the shoobie-doo-wops and the l chainsaw guitars on this one.
Paul McCartney becomes a speakeasy crooner for Honey Pie. It’s the sort of thing you might have expected to hear from the New Vaudeville Band or someone similar. It features a quintet of honking good saxophones and a pair of clarinet as well.
It’s more great sounding saxes that dominate the George Harrison composition Savoy Truffle. In fact he goes one better with six of them. There are also some good grungy guitar bits here and a chunky electric piano. This is another song that refers to an earlier Beatle song which in this case is actually also on this album. It is the only song I can think of that has been written about the contents of a box of chocolates.
Cry Baby Cry is to me an example of how a basically nothing song can actually be quite neat to listen to. It is very understated; Lennon’s vocals are very light and the lyrics are a bit like a ‘nursery-rhyme’. But it has been well recorded, the melody is pleasant and it just sounds very good, but I can’t imagine why I like it but I do.
Ringo gets to sign of with Good Night which is the sort of song you used to get at the end of a large production Hollywood Musical. Cute enough, but I could have done without it.
Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review
Contains both stereo and mono versions of all 12 tracks. STEREO 01. I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND 02. I SAW HER STANDING THERE 03. THIS BOY 04. IT WON'...
KOCH Records is happy to announce the release of B-Sides The Beatles, The Smithereens' highly anticipated follow up to their critically acclaimed 2007...
Beyond The Beatles' own awesome talents there lay an unparalleled understanding of music itself. John, Paul, George and Ringo managed to draw on a ...
Cirque du Soleil/The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison.Audio Remixer: Paul Hicks.Liner Note Authors: George Martin; G...
Arranged by John Moss. Score & Parts. Discovery Plus Concert Band. Grade 2. Published by Hal Leonard