Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/23/10.
Following the release of Magical Mystery Tour in its album and a disastrous TV special, the Beatles were about to enter a chaotic period in their career. The formation of Apple Corps. along with Apple Records where the band can handle their business along with other things. What was meant to feature the involvement of Brian Epstein, Epstein's death on late August of 1967 would trouble things as the band along with several of their key personnel would have no idea on how to run the business. While the band try to work things out for Apple along with a trip to India to meditate with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an animated project that featured the Beatles was in the works. The band only did minimal participation as they filmed their cameo in February of 1968 following their return from India.
The film entitled Yellow Submarine named after the song from 1966's Revolver was released in June of 1968 to widespread acclaim and box office. The film featured four new songs from the band that weren't officially released until January of 1969. The release was part of a soundtrack that featured the title track and the song All You Need Is Love that was released in June of 1967. Yet, the soundtrack would generally regarded among the Beatles' studio recording catalog as their weakest release yet.
The Yellow Submarine soundtrack is an album that features four new songs from the band that were recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper and sessions that would precede the recording of The White Album. With two new songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and two other new songs written by George Harrison. The rest of the album along with two previously-released tracks would feature score pieces written and conducted by the band's producer George Martin. Despite the new material that the Beatles would make, Yellow Submarine is a record that without a doubt the band's worst release in their career.
Opening the album is the soundtrack's title track that originally appeared in Revolver. With Ringo Starr's drawling vocals and lyrics about a yellow submarine, the song is an inventive track that is filled with Mal Evans' pounding bass drum and loads of sound effects. The song's chorus features a group of friends singing along as it is a fun, playful song that children can enjoy. Only A Northern Song by George Harrison that was recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions is a hypnotic, psychedelic-inspired track. With lyrics featuring veiled jabs at the band's own Northern Songs publishing, Harrison is playing a wailing organ track with Starr's steady, pummeling drum fills as it features Paul McCartney playing a wailing organ with John Lennon on a tingling glockenspiel as it also features swirling tape effects by the band with waves of pianos and loopy bass lines.
All Together Now is a skiffle-inspired track with McCartney playing a washy acoustic track with playful, children-inspired lyrics that has a sing-a-long chorus. With Lennon on an acoustic guitar track and singing playful lyrics with a ukelele as also plays a harmonica. Starr accompanies the band with a pounding bass drum and tapping finger cymbals as the whole band sings the song's catchy chorus. Hey Bulldog is a rocking song with McCartney's melodic piano riff that is followed by Harrison's snarling guitar playing the same riff with Starr's rumbling drum fill. With Lennon singing the song with double-tracked vocals as he's joined by McCartney, the song is filled with quirky lyrics as it is a fun song with the band providing some amazing performances including Harrison's wailing guitar track along with howling dog voices with Starr talking in the song's coda.
Harrison's It's All Too Much is another psychedelic-inspired track with Harrison playing both guitar and a Hammond organ, the latter of which is the main musical accompaniment along with feedback-laden guitar drones that is also performed by Lennon. With Starr's pummeling drum fills, McCartney's thumping bass line and blazing horn arrangement that includes a sumptuous bass clarinet, the song is filled with haunting, imagery-laden lyrics by Harrison as he sings the song in a soothing vocal making it one of his finest tracks. The last song on the album is the anthemic All You Need Is Love with its simple message of love with an intro of the French national anthem as it was a song that was played during a climatic moment of the film.
The album's second half which is dominated by the symphonic score work of producer George Martin opens with Pepperland. A piece with serene string arrangements and soothing oboes to convey the beauty of Pepperland that includes an elegant harp flourish. Sea Of Time opens with a sitar drone and wavy string arrangements to convey an Indian-style tone for what started out as dark only to become this somber yet airy track of lush strings and flutes. Sea Of Holes is a dark yet mesmerizing score piece with ringing bells and oboes that play to the dark tone of the track.
Sea Of Monsters is a playful yet quirky track with twangy notes and sumptuous arrangements of strings and woodwinds carried by a driving cello and wailing flutes that is played calmly for the track's atmospheric tone. March Of The Meanies opens with a flourishing yet chilling vibraphone track with driving string arrangements playing in a suspenseful tone that works to convey the Meanies wreaking havoc on Pepperland. Pepperland Laid Waste is an eerie track filled with somber yet screeching strings and haunting oboe pieces with harp flourishes to convey the destruction that the Meanies have done. The album closer is Yellow Submarine In Pepperland is a score piece featuring the melody of Yellow Submarine played with tapping xylophones and bouncy string arrangements as it is a track that plays to the Beatles arrival as they emerge victorious in beating the Meanies.
Released on January 13, 1969, the album was widely considered to be the weakest release of the band's catalog. Particularly since the Beatles had little involvement to make it a proper album. Though it was successful in-conjunction with the film that was released seven months earlier in the U.K., many felt it was a throwaway release as the Beatles were about to embark on what would be a chaotic period that ultimately lead to their dissolution.
The 2009 remastered edition of the album that only appears in the stereo box set remastered series is wonderful for many of the remastering of the songs in the record. Yet, the only track that doesn't appear in stereo but appears in Mono Masters of the mono box set is Only A Northern Song. While the remastering work is superb, it's the weakest release of the catalog.
The Yellow Submarine soundtrack is without a doubt a hackneyed release from the Beatles. While the four new songs on the album are spectacular and George Martin's score pieces aren't bad. It's just that it's not a real proper album in comparison to many of the Beatles' other recordings. Though there's an improved version in the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album released in 1999 that features all the songs that was in the film. It's a record that is really only for hardcore Beatles fans and completists that they need to get as it's an okay record but not really an essential album from the Beatles.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - 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)
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