There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the music of Beatles is one of the most treasured archives in existence. Legendary court battles, bidding wars, copyright infringements — each has, at one time or another, attached itself to this coveted batch of recordings. In the meantime, the keepers of the flame — namely Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison — have carefully charted a long and winding road, selecting various novel and innovative ways of exposing the music without compromising its integrity. The marvel of technology has wrought new fruit of various proportions and magnitudes. The Beatles Anthology CDs blew the lid off numerous alternates, outtakes, and rarities previously available only on the bootleg market. Let It Be…Naked offered a rawer version of the original Let It Be album, an effort many felt was betrayed by Phil Spector's superfluities. And now Love mixes and mashes up songs into a spectacular aural collage. Veteran purists and fab newbies may argue and debate about the impact of tampering with the goods, but the results deserve an unbiased inquiry of the highest order.
The embryo of Love stems from George Harrison's friendship with Guy Laliberté, the founder of the famed Canadian conceptual circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. The two talked about combining the visual aspects of the circus with the music of the Beatles. Supposedly one of Harrison’s dying wishes was for the project to reach fruition, which it did in Las Vegas on June 2006. The music was recast and twisted into a series of snippets, segues, and mash-ups to accompany the stunning multimedia production filled with aerial acts, acrobatics, and other circus-like, choreographed performances. Breathing new life into the music, Love has been released as a 78-minute CD and an 81-minute DVD-Audio in 5.1 surround sound. At the controls was none other than Beatles producer Sir George Martin, along with his son Giles. From the master tapes at Abbey Road Studios, the two have created a distinctive soundscape that effectively captures the spirit and timeless sheen of the Beatles' legacy.
Altering tempos, matching keys, and blending bits and pieces of one song with another often results in fresh, startling renditions. "Drive My Car," "The Word," and "What You're Doing" skip along together, almost arm in arm. Who’d have thought “Within You Without You” could be tastefully decorated with the addition of the drum track from “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Just when “Lady Madonna” goes into a familiar turn, it dovetails into the chugging rhythm of “Hey Bulldog.” Original acoustic demo versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” germinate and take shape with each pass of the verse. There are other numbers virtually untouched, like "Eleanor Rigby," "I Am The Walrus," "Something," "Help" and "Day In The Life" — polished up, specks of gold dust sprinkled in spots where and when appropriate. Without seeing the show, it's easy to understand how one could have a hard time digesting new interpretations from a sacred pool of songs like these. And certainly no fan in his right mind would agree that all you need is Love to complete the picture. But for anyone unopposed to teaching an old dog a few new tricks, this collection is a fun and exciting experiment that literally works on multiple levels and celebrates the sound that changed the face of pop music forever.
~ Shawn Perry