Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/12/10.
With the Beatles maintaining a huge degree of success, the band's touring schedule and constant appearances around the world was starting to take a toll on them. The weariness was shown on the Beatles' fourth album Beatles for Sale released in December of 1964 that was still a huge hit album. In February of 1965, the band re-teamed with A Hard Day's Night director Richard Lester to work on their second film project. During the two-month shoot in the Austrian Alps, the Bahamas, and in England, the band was recording new tracks while doing appearances. Going back in April and then May and parts of June, the tracks the band was recording was for their fifth album.
It was at a time the band were taking on new ideas and experiments into their recording. Moving away from the traditions of pop music, the new music was the beginning of a new transition for the band with elements of folk, country, orchestral pop, and early versions of heavy rock as well as the use of keyboards. While half of the material would be featured prominent in their new film, another half of material would show the band's newfound versatility and development while a lot of the lyrics would take on more expansive themes including some introspection for the album and film entitled Help!
Produced by George Martin, Help! is an album where the Beatles take on a new step from conventional pop music into new ideas. With more elements of folk plus country and orchestral pop. The album would be a new creative turning point for the band. With ten original songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney plus two cover songs. The album also features two originals by George Harrison which would mark a new evolution for the band's lead guitarist as he would start to emerge as a key songwriter. While not an entirely great album, Help! is still an amazing transitional album from the band that is just getting ready to move forward.
The album begins with its title track, a plea for help that reveals Lennon's own fragile state of mind. Led by a driving, 12-string acoustic guitar and Lennon's ragged vocals. The song is carried by Ringo Starr's bouncy beat with Paul McCartney's thumping bass and George Harrison's arpeggio guitar flourishes with jangly melodies as it is one of the band's definitive singles. The Night Before is an upbeat song sung by McCartney with lyrics about a wild night. Led by Starr's steady, bopping drums with tapping cymbals and McCartney's bumpy bass lines. The song features Lennon playing an electric piano in the background with Harrison on a driving guitar as McCartney's double-tracked vocals have an air of atmosphere as he also plays a wailing guitar solo in the track.
The folk-inspired ballad You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is one of John Lennon's finest work with its narrative-laden lyrics definitely inspired by the works of Bob Dylan. With washy acoustic guitars from Lennon and Harrison, Lennon sings the song in a calm, gruff vocal style as McCartney plays a soft bass line with Starr on a slow yet haunting tambourine track. The song also includes a wonderful flute solo performed by John Scott that closes the track. I Need You by George Harrison is a touching, mid-tempo song with reverb guitar washes and Harrison's calm vocals featuring somber lyrics of love. Along with McCartney's soothing bass work, Lennon's washy acoustic guitar, and Starr's slow but bouncy drum track that includes a cowbell accompaniment, the song is Harrison's first real breakthrough as a songwriter.
Another Girl is an upbeat song from McCartney with whimsical lyrics about a girl as it includes swanky, playful guitar riffs with McCartney playing lead guitar and a thumping bass with Lennon and Harrison acoustic and electric rhythm, respectively. With Starr's bopping drum track as it a playful, blues-style track. You're Going To Lose That Girl is another upbeat song with Starr's driving drum fills and bongo backing as McCartney plays a bouncy bass line with a rollicking piano track. Lennon sings the song filled with lyrics of warning about a girl being treated wrongly as he's joined by McCartney and Harrison on backing vocals as Harrison plays an amazing guitar solo in the middle. The jangly Ticket To Ride with Harrison's ringing guitar riff, Starr's rumbling drum fills, and McCartney's droning bass line. Lennon sings the song as he is joined by McCartney and Harrison in this amazing song filled with playful lyrics. The song's tempo speeds up a bit in the bridge with Starr's shimmering tambourine which concludes with McCartney playing a wailing, blues-style guitar solo.
A cover of Buck Owen's Act Naturally by Johnny Russell & Voni Morrison is a country-inspired track that features Starr singing the song with his drawling vocals that works for its country-flavored vocals. With Harrison's playful, twangy guitar work and Lennon's brimming acoustic track, the song features some tapping beats as it is one of the highlights of the album showcasing the band's versatility. It's Only Love is led by a twangy guitar riff by Harrison that becomes a swanky accompaniment to Lennon's washy acoustic as he sings the song with its bouncy, mid-tempo track. The song's somber lyrics of love is driven by Starr's slow, steady drum track that picks its tempo up a bit during the chorus with a shaking tambourine track. Harrison's You Like Me Too Much is a bouncy, mid-tempo track with McCartney and George Martin on two piano tracks with Lennon on an electric piano accompaniment. With Starr's steady, bopping drum fill that picks its tempo up a bit, it's a fine song from Harrison with its dark lyrics that includes a great guitar solo playing with the different keyboard tracks in the song.
Tell Me What You See is a mid-tempo track with Starr's bouncy, tapping beats with claves played in the background along with smooth, driving guitars and McCartney's smooth bass as he also plays a melodic, electric piano riff. The song's lyrics revel a new maturity in the theme of love as McCartney sings the song with Lennon and Harrison joining him on harmony parts as it shows a progression of how far the band has come from their debut two years before. I've Just Seen A Face is a country-inspired song that is largely acoustic with Harrison playing a melodic solo as Lennon and McCartney play a fast-paced, brimming acoustic track. With Starr's bouncy beats on brushed snares, the song is filled with McCartney singing swiftly with transcending lyrics of seeing a beautiful girl as it is one of the band's most inventive cuts.
Next is the acoustic-laden ballad Yesterday that is performed mostly by McCartney on a slow, plaintive acoustic guitar track. With his calm, somber vocals, the song's melancholic lyrics of break-up reflects a new lyrical maturity in McCartney as he is accompanied by a morose yet broad string quartet that is arranged by George Martin in what is definitely one of the best songs ever recorded. The album closer is a raucous cover of Dizzy Miss Lizzy by Larry Williams. With Harrison's ringing, double-tracked guitar work and Starr's pummeling drum track, Lennon's driving guitar, and McCartney's blazing electric piano. The song has Lennon singing the track with its crazy lyrics as it is a fitting closer to the album with the band proving they can still bring the rock in all of its wild nature.
Released on August 5, 1965, a week after the film's release, the album continued the Beatles winning streak of hit albums and singles. Notably for the fact that the album had three number one hit singles as the songs showed some new progression from the band. The album also marked the last time the Beatles would record covers until the sessions for what would become Let It Be years later. Shortly after its release on August 15, 1965, the band played to a sell-out crowd over 55,000 people at New York City's Shea Stadium. It was clear at this point, the Beatles were becoming bigger than ever which found the band retreating more and more into the recording studio which had become their escape as it would mark a new period of creativity of what is to come.
The 2009 remastered edition is largely based on a 1986 stereo remix version of the album by George Martin with some new touches. Notably the vocals which has more of an atmospheric quality in some places while the instrumentation and production show more of what was going on musically. It is definitely another superb work in the remastering as part of the 2009 reissue series.
Help! is an amazing album from the Beatles with superb production work from George Martin. While it may not have the same consistency as previous albums with the exception of Beatles for Sale. It is still an album that showed the band growing musically and creatively with new production techniques and ideas. It is definitely one of their essential albums of that early period which would pave the way for what was coming next. In the end, Help! is a marvelous, transitional album from the Beatles.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters -(Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)