Monday, February 28, 2011

PJ Harvey & John Parish-Dance Hall at Louse Point

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/21/09.

Following the release of 1995's To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey was riding high on a wave of critical acclaim and massive attention from the press. Along with a 10-month world tour including opening for the alt-rock band Live in the U.S. for 3 months in which Harvey sported strange clothing and makeup for her look. Harvey was becoming overwhelmed with the attention that she received as she turned to longtime friend John Parish who co-produced To Bring You My Love as well as being a former band mate of hers before she became famous. The two decided to collaborate on a project in which Harvey would go under her full name of Polly Jean Harvey for the record entitled Dance Hall at Louse Point.

Produced by PJ Harvey, John Parish, and Bad Seeds multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, Dance Hall at Louse Point is an album that takes PJ Harvey's love of experimentation by taking on John Parish's art-blues sound with Harvey's blues-influenced vocals with lyrics delving into different themes that she hadn't explored. It's a record that has Harvey going back to basics of sorts but without going into the rocking sounds of early albums. Along with a cover of a Peggy Lee classic written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Dance Hall at Louse Point is an excellent album that shows Harvey's versatility as a lyricist, musician, and vocalist with help from John Parish.

The album opener Girl is an instrumental track with washy, scratchy yet somber guitar riffs by PJ Harvey and John Parish. The first song Rope Bridge Crossing is an acoustic blues track with twangy, sliding guitar riffs and smooth, sweep-like beats as John Parish leads the way with his guitar. PJ Harvey sings the song in a smooth, quiet vocal with dark lyrics as she goes into a wailing vocal for its chorus filled with imagery-laden lyrics reminiscent of the blues. City Of No Sun is a mid-tempo track with swift, washy guitar riffs from Parish with Harvey singing vocals with lyrics of love as it plays to a smooth, somberly vocal. Then Parish's guitar becomes intense with Harvey going into wailing vocals that becomes quiet and loud again. That Was My Veil is an acoustic ballad with Parish's smooth, rhythm guitar track with Harvey's calm, somber vocals with lyrics of longing and sadness. With its simple presentation that includes a harmonium keyboard performed by Harvey, it's a song that unveils Harvey's vocal range and work on other instruments.

Urn With Dead Flowers In A Drained Pool is an upbeat song with Parish's swirling arpeggio riffs with Harvey's smooth, wailing vocals with melancholic, morose lyrics. Even as it features thundering beats on some parts, it's Parish's guitar playing with sliding riffs and Harvey's wailing vocals in the chorus that really shine. Civil War Correspondent is a chugging rocker with driving riffs and warbling rhythms that lead the song led by Mick Harvey's production that becomes quiet. With Mick Harvey on a soothing organ, PJ Harvey sings in a cool, eerie vocal with dark lyrics about the horrors of war as Parish plays a ringing, blues-laden guitar near its coda. Taut is a track that starts off with Harvey's vocals singing atmospherically before Parish's intense, washy guitar strumming comes in with clanging beats arrive with Harvey's whispering vocals. With its dark, eerie lyrics, it becomes a louder song with Harvey's wailing vocals and Mick Harvey's full production that plays to the song's unconventional structure.

Un Cercle Autour Du Soleil is a track with thumping bass beats and cymbal clangs that plays along to John Parish's washy, dreamy guitar track. With Harvey's smooth, somber vocals, she sings lyrics of sadness and nostalgia to Parish's ringing guitar that becomes more twangy with its blues-laden guitar work. Heela is a loud, blues-laden song with wailing guitar slides and thundering drums which is followed by a wobbly bass line. Led by Parish's unique yet intense arrangements which includes a wailing organ spurt, it's PJ Harvey's vocals with her growling vocal style and dark, creepy lyrics as Parish sings along with her.

Next is a cover of Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is? with an accompanying, wailing organ as Harvey sings in a spoken word style before going into full-singing mode. With her calm vocal style, it's a unique cover that plays to a dance hall style of thumping, hollow beats and a simple organ with Harvey leading the way with her vocals. The album's title track is an upbeat instrumental with striking guitars with loud, charging beats for a rollicking romp of guitars, bass, and drums which includes clanging beats. The last track is Lost Fun Zone which is a one-and-a-half-minute song with low-mixed guitar tracks with ringing melodies and Harvey's wailing falsetto vocals filled with desperate lyrics about death. With a chorus that includes wailing guitar slides and hollow beats to close the album.

Released in the fall of 1996, the album was expected to match the heights of To Bring You My Love. Instead, low-key promotion and PJ Harvey choosing to go under her full name made the album a commercial disappointment though critically, it got good reviews. While Harvey and John Parish decided to do a few shows in early 1997, Parish did most of the promotional work which didn't help matters due to the fact that Harvey was burned out from all of the work to promote To Bring You My Love. Around the same time, Harvey was at work on her fourth studio release which would be her most personal work to date.

While Dance Hall at Louse Point doesn't have the consistent quality or strong material of her other albums, it's still an excellent and interesting album from PJ Harvey which features great work from John Parish. Though it might be considered minor work from Harvey as it's really a collaboration, it's still got some songs and performances that play to Harvey's talents as a vocalist. One of the record's big strong points in revealing the talents of John Parish who is a brilliant musician which is what Harvey wanted to show and succeeded. In the end, Dance Hall at Louse Point is an interesting yet very good album from PJ Harvey and John Parish.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

PJ Harvey-To Bring You My Love

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/20/09.

Following the success of 1993's Rid of Me and the accompanying 4-Track Demos compilation, PJ Harvey was becoming the new queen of alternative rock. Yet, after a tour to promote Rid of Me in mid-1993, Harvey disbanded her longtime backing band consisting of bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Rob Ellis. Hoping to reinvent herself from her stripped-down, guitar-bass-drums sound of earlier albums, Harvey wanted to expand her musical palette as she turned to former band mate John Parish for help in creating new songs for her third studio album. Harvey also enlisted the help of famed producer Mark "Flood" Ellis, who had been known for his work with U2, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails. Delving into newer music territory which included more string arrangements, atmospheric production, and other techniques while retaining Harvey's love for the blues. The album would be considered her greatest work to date entitled To Bring You My Love.

Produced by PJ Harvey, John Parish, and Flood with songs written by Harvey, To Bring You My Love is an album filled with an array of different musical styles ranging from blues, straight-ahead rock, cabaret, and electronic music. With lyrics delving into darker territory with themes of heartbreak, death, and other worldly themes including religion. It is Harvey's most sprawling yet versatile record to date as she takes on different instruments with an array of musicians including John Parish and from the Bad Seeds, Mick Harvey (no relation). The result isn't just PJ Harvey's best album but also one of the best albums of the 1990s.

The album opens with its title track, a blues number with melodic, droning, twangy riffs with PJ Harvey's vocals going into a growling, bluesy presentation. With lyrics dealing with religious themes as it's a song that is true to the idea of the blues. Notably with an accompaniment of Mick Harvey's smooth, wailing organ and clanging percussions from Harvey herself as she sings like a possessed blueswoman. Meet Ze Monsta is a mid-tempo, foot-stomping number with monstrous, electro-beats and growling, droning guitars with Harvey's growling, somber vocals. With lyrics filled with sexual overtones and horror references, it's a song that has a nice, chugging rhythm with the atmospheric, buzz-droning production style of Flood. Working For The Man is a smooth, upbeat track with bopping beats and low, thumping bass lines. With Harvey's smooth, quiet vocals with percussion shakes in the background, she sings in a sensual vocal style with lyrics filled with dark metaphors as she's accompanied by Mick Harvey's ringing guitar flourish.

The album's second single C'Mon Billy is an acoustic ballad with washy acoustic riffs and tambourine striking rhythms as Harvey goes into her wailing vocal style with heartbreaking lyrics. With a somber string arrangement accompanying Harvey, Harvey's vocals delve into the heartbreaking tone of the song as it's one of the album's highlights. Teclo is a blues number with smooth, washy riffs that growling riffs accompanying the song with Harvey's piano as she sings in a somber vocal style. With her lyrics of desperation and enlightenment, it's a rich cut with melodic guitar flourishes, tingling percussions, and Harvey's cabaret vocal style. Long Snake Moan is a loud yet abrasive song with growling, driving guitars and hard-hitting mid-tempo beats with Harvey's growling vocals taking charge. With thumping bass lines playing along to Harvey's dark, eerie lyrics, it's a song that is filled with amazing production from Flood as it reveals that Harvey is still engaging as she was in her previous albums.

The album's first single is the electronic-driven Down By The Water with its droning bass lines and smooth, pulsating drum machine beats. With Harvey's sensual, smooth vocals with dark, blues-laden lyrics, it's Harvey's most famous song with its eerie, electronic presentation of tapping percussions, screeching arrangements, and Flood's eerie production. Especially as Harvey delves into dark lyrics with whispering vocals with bleeping synthesizers showcasing her range in vocals. I Think I'm A Mother is a bluesy song with washy, melodic riffs and hollow, rumbling beats as Harvey sings in a low, growling vocal style. With its dark lyrics about motherhood, it's a song that encompasses the range and presentation Harvey presents as a vocalist and songwriter.

Send His Love To Me is an acoustic ballad with rich, washy acoustic flourishes that's in a flamenco-style but with bass-thumping beats and Harvey's wailing vocals. Along with a soothing organ accompaniment, Harvey sings heartbreaking lyrics filled with desperation and sadness while a soothing string arrangement plays through the song. Even as Harvey maintains her bluesy persona as a woman possessed. The album closer The Dancer is a ballad with shimmering guitar flourishes, soothing organs, and bouncy drum beats as Harvey sings lyrics of death with her somber, growling vocals. With lyrics referencing God and death, it's a song that shows Harvey's vocal range as well as her songwriting techniques as it's a fitting closer that ends the album on a high note which includes a sliding guitar solo in the middle and an organ performance to close everything.

From a limited edition of the album is a bonus disc of 9 b-sides from the singles released from soundtracks and material from To Bring You My Love. Two of these songs were originally heard from the 1993 4-Track Demos compilation. First is Reeling that previously appeared in demo form from 4-Track Demos, that is similar to the original demo recording with swift, driving guitars that are bit louder than its demo. Even with its squealing organ-keyboard track as Harvey sings in a growling vocal style with lyrics of pain and such. Daddy is a ballad led by Mick Harvey's somber organ performance with PJ Harvey singing in a falsetto, cabaret-vocal style. With sad lyrics along with a dirge-like rhythm reminiscent of New Orleans-style jazz, it's a wonderful track that shows Harvey's musical range. Lying In The Sun opens with warbling, feedback-sliding guitars and drones that take charge for nearly a minute-and-a-half until smooth, driving riffs come along. With Harvey singing in a growling vocal style, the song is filled with lyrics relating to the blues as it's a dark song with a soft, thumping bass beat accompanying the song.

Somebody's Down Somebody's Name is a mid-tempo blues track with sliding guitars, bouncy beats, and melodic guitar swirls as Harvey sings in a calm, somber vocal style while being quiet in some parts. With lyrics delving into dark, eerie territory reminiscent of the blues, it's Harvey's wailing vocals that is the song's highlight. Darling Be There is a song led by a somber organ with Harvey singing in a cabaret, melancholic vocal style with sad, desperate lyrics of heartbreak. It's simple presentation along with its atmospheric production is key to what makes this song standout from the material in the bonus disc. Maniac is a song with vibrant, Latin-rhythms along with droning bass lines for a soothing yet wavy presentation. With Harvey's wailing vocals filled with desperate, bluesy lyrics about wanting a man, it's a song that is a weird yet insatiable track with whistles, screeching violins, and out-of-tune piano strikes.

One Time Too Many is a track with growling, scratchy, driving guitar riffs that becomes this bouncy, upbeat track with Harvey's growling, angry vocals with direct lyrics about being hurt and men. With an accompanying organ background and a funky instrumental break, it's Harvey's moaning vocals and guitar spurts that take charge. Harder is a charging, rocking song with crashing cymbals and beats with growling guitars with Harvey singing in a hollow vocal style with striking pianos. With its dark, bluesy lyrics, it's a song that embroils itself in its charging presentation and Harvey's wailing vocals. The last track on the bonus disc is Goodnight from 4-Track Demos which is similar to its original demo with sliding guitars and quiet, growling vocals. With Harvey's wailing vocals filled with dark lyrics, it's simple, crisp production is the highlight as Harvey accompanies herself on vocals with a foot-stomping rhythm and guitar slides.

Released in late February of 1995, the album drew rave reviews from critics as it would be voted the top album of that year from Rolling Stone, USA Today, New York Times, and The Village Voice along with landing on several top ten lists from several major critics. The album's surprise acclaim led by the huge modern rock hit Down By The Water raised PJ Harvey's profile while her live shows proved to be different from her previous live performances. Sporting weird makeup, leotards, a Wonderbra, and other lavish costumes, Harvey changed her persona from a guitar-wielding alt-rock queen to an androgynous figure. While the record was a huge commercial success in Britain while in the U.S., a moderate hit selling over 300,000 copies. Harvey found herself overwhelmed with its success as she retreated to work on a side project with friend John Parish.

To Bring You My Love is an atmospheric, heavy, and engaging masterpiece from PJ Harvey. While it may not have the sheer, abrasive attack of 1993's Rid of Me, To Bring You My Love is a much different record showcasing Harvey's versatility in her songwriting while expanding her sound. Thanks to the production work from John Parish and Flood, it's easily Harvey's most fully-realized to record as it covers all of the bases in the abrasiveness of earlier albums and the experimentation of later albums. In the end, To Bring You My Love isn't just one of the best albums of the 1990s and of all-time. It's PJ Harvey's crowning achievement in her illustrious career.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PJ Harvey-4-Track Demos

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/19/09.

Around the time PJ Harvey was working on her sophomore album Rid of Me in December of 1992 with her bandmates Rob Ellis and Steve Vaughn along with producer Steve Albini. Harvey was unearthing demos she had made herself featuring songs from Rid of Me along with material that she would later record in other albums. Steve Albini heard the demos which he liked so much that he suggested that she should compile it into an album of its own. After the release of Rid of Me in May of 1993, Harvey went to work on compiling the album of demos she made from 1991 and 1992 for Rid of Me that would be entitled 4-Track Demos.

Written, produced, and performed by PJ Harvey, 4-Track Demos is an album of material that features 8 songs from Rid of Me plus six additional songs that would become B-sides or album tracks from later albums. Filled with songs performed acoustically with electric guitars and keyboards, it's a record that unveils Harvey's genius as a songwriter as well as a performer. The result is a fascinating record that reveals the brilliance of PJ Harvey.

The album opens with Rid Of Me, the title track from the album of the same name. With its fast, driving electric guitar riffs and PJ Harvey's wailing, breathy vocals. With its sexy yet angry lyrics, it's performance maintains the intensity of its final recorded version from the album as it gets angry with its assaultive guitar during the chorus, which includes Harvey singing backup in a falsetto vocal. Another track from Rid of Me is Legs, a song that opens with a soft, piano flourish that is later followed by Harvey's wailing vocals and droning guitar riff as it turns into a washy, dissonant ballad. Filled with grunge riffs and sexually-aggressive lyrics that have a lot of bite, it's a song that maintains its power without the charging rhythms of bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Rob Ellis.

Reeling is a new song that is upbeat with washy, droning riffs and Harvey's hollow vocals filled with lyrics about pain and anger as she is accompanied by a wailing organ-like keyboard in the background. Snake from Rid of Me is a song that has Harvey's angry, wailing vocals with incendiary lyrics as it captures the intensity of its final recording with growling guitars, both electric and acoustic, as it's a song that is angry which includes Harvey's screeching vocals. Hook from Rid of Me maintains the song's angry, intense performance but with growling blues riffs and Harvey's hollow vocals as she also accompanies herself with a tambourine that she stomps on with its dark, sexy lyrics. Another cut from Rid of Me in the single 50 Ft. Queenie, a song that features a punk-like intensity with its driving, growling guitars as Harvey performs the intense, empowering song with an acoustic and electric accompaniment as its intensity is still intact with Harvey's vocals sung a bit quieter than its original recording.

Driving is another new cut that includes a washy riff in an electric guitar track filled with Harvey's calm though wailing vocals which features herself singing backup. With its lyrics that are dark and with night-like imagery, it's a song that features chord changes with more driving rhythms and ringing melodies that play through as it's a fascinating cut. Ecstasy from Rid of Me is given a simple, blues make over with just ringing, dissonant guitar slide performances as if it's performed on acoustic with Harvey's wailing vocals filled with dark, despairing lyrics that is reminiscent of the blues. Hardly Wait is a new cut that is presented as a ballad with melodic-ringing, washy riffs and Harvey's smooth, somber vocals with acoustic accompaniments. Filled with lyrics that are sexually-descriptive with desperation and anticipation, it's accompanied by percussion taps as it's a gem from Harvey. Rub Til' It Bleeds from Rid of Me is a ballad that is given an acoustic presentation as Harvey maintains its sexually-charged performance with moaning vocals and descriptive yet eerie lyrics. The song is later accompanied by growling electric guitars to re-capture the song's original intensity.

Easy is a mid-tempo song with driving guitar riffs and Harvey's calm, somber vocals filled with lyrics that are very direct towards easy women. With breathy vocals and growling, melodic-swirling riffs, it's a song that is a mix of blues and grunge showcasing Harvey's versatility. M-Bike is a song that mixes both acoustic and electric blues with a swift, upbeat performance as Harvey's wailing, bluesy vocals sings about a motorbike that she hates which includes a harmonica solo. The last song from Rid of Me is Yuri-G, an upbeat song that is led by a driving guitar riff and screeching strings with Harvey's breathy, angry vocals filled with dark, intense lyrics of rage. The last track on the album is Goodnight, a blues-laden song with sliding guitar riffs and Harvey's hollow vocals filled with dark, eerie lyrics of the nighttime in a bluesy style with a foot-stomp and a sliding solo as it's a fitting closer to the entire record.

The album was released in the fall of 1993 but its release came around the time PJ Harvey disbanded her band with Steve Vaughn and Rob Ellis. The record however, drew rave reviews with some claiming that it's better than Rid of Me. While both records would help raise Harvey's profile, two of the songs from 4-Track Demos would end up be re-recorded as B-sides to tracks for her third studio release. The eventual recorded entitled To Bring You My Love would give Harvey her biggest acclaim and success to date whether she liked it or not.

4-Track Demos is a spectacular record from PJ Harvey. Filled with simple, homemade recording techniques and raw performances of songs from Rid of Me and new material. It's a record that's more than just a simple compilation of demos as the songs have a richness and intensity that lives up to Harvey's early work. For fans, this record is definitely essential as it shows Harvey's genius as a songwriter and the power she brought into her early years. In the end, 4-Track Demos is a superb album of demos from PJ Harvey.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

PJ Harvey-Rid of Me

Originally Written and Posted at on 10/1/01 w/ Additional Edits.

When the 1990s Alternative rock scene broke through, the scene helped showcase new female acts who stormed the male-dominated rock scene by kicking them in the ass. From grrl riot bands like Bikini Kill, L7, and Babes In Toyland through singer-songwriters like Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, and Liz Phair. Another new female star of the alternative rock scene is an English singer-songwriter whose abrasive style made men nervous and even gave MTV cartoon heroes Beavis & Butt-head saying “This chick is weird”. Her name was PJ Harvey. After riding the critical acclaim of her 1992 debut album Dry, Harvey had caught the attention of many young females who had enough of slick-pop acts like Paula Abdul and Martika. Harvey came in with an abrasive rock style with her harsh tales of being a woman. In 1993, she released what many considered an alternative rock masterpiece titled Rid of Me.

Recorded with producer Steve Albini (famous for his work with Nirvana's In Utero), Rid of Me is an album that is harsh yet powerful album that is sprawled by Harvey’s angst-ridden lyrics and abrasive guitar style. With bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Robert Ellis as part of her band, Harvey belts in a powerful album that bring her to the stratosphere of alternative rock and became their diva.

Rid of Me starts off with its title track that starts off quietly when she whispers until Robert Ellis’ drums come and the song starts to rock out as Harvey’s vocals become louder and more angst-ridden especially at the end of the song as she sings loudly. Missed is a melodic-rock tune that shows Harvey’s vulnerability as a vocalist where she sings about a man she’d broken up with the chorus of “No, I’ve missed him”. Legs is an excellent song that features Harvey’s vocals at an emotional and powerful range with her melodic-fuzz guitars with Steve Vaughn’s brooding bass and Ellis’s consistent drumming. Rub ‘Til It Bleeds is a five-minute brooding track that is highlighted by Vaughn’s brooding bass hooks and Harvey’s ominous vocals that becomes angst-ridden as she belts in a powerful guitar assault. Hook is a powerful track that features powerful drums from Ellis and distorted guitar tracks from Harvey who brings in an angry approach to her vocals that makes the song harsh and uncomfortable.

Man-Size Sextet is a string-orchestra track that is performed by Harvey on a cello and violin with percussion by Ellis on the track that is filled with angst lyrics about men sung viciously by Harvey. Highway ’61 Revisited is a Bob Dylan cover that is partially distorted from Harvey’s vocals and guitars with Ellis’ drumming and Vaughn’s bass and the song are re-done in a more abrasive approach. 50 Ft. Queenie is an extremely abrasive track that features powerful drum tracks from Ellis, brooding bass from Vaughn, and harsh guitar assaults from Harvey who proves that she’s not just a great vocalist but an excellent guitar player. Yuri-G is another fast guitar-driven assault that features angry vocals from Harvey and fast drum tracks from Ellis. Man-Size is another classic track that starts off as a slow, melodic track until sprawling guitars come in as Harvey belts in these powerful vocals as if she’s angry about some guy.

Dry is a slow rocking track that features Harvey bringing in a powerful guitar solo backed by the solid rhythm section of Ellis and Vaughn. Me-Jane is a lovely bass-driven track that features quirky bass and guitar tracks that turn into an abrasive, angst-ridden tune of anti-machoism. Snake is a punk-rock track that features fast guitars and drum tracks filled with angst and power in Harvey’s vocals that sound very mean and unapologetic. Ecstasy is a powerful, hard-rocking track that showcases Harvey’s guitar style that is a mix of punk and country-slide guitar approach along with her angry vocals and Ellis’ powerful drum performance.

Rid of Me is an excellent masterpiece from PJ Harvey. The abrasive and powerful approach to the album is what makes this album an essential collection for alternative rock. The album became a huge hit in the U.K. and was a huge cult success in the U.S. Harvey achieved her status as a new queen for alternative rock but she was just getting started. On her next full-length release, she would become the alt-rock diva and blow the mind of both fans and critics alike. Rid of Me is a perfect album for the angry young woman that needed something that is sugar-coated pop.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

PJ Harvey-Dry

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/18/09.

The 1990s alternative rock music scene proved to be a fruitful period for women in rock. Being an alternative to the likes of Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey, artists like Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Kim Deal of the Pixies and the Breeders, and many others gave women something different. Especially since there were more about making great songs and being open to audiences rather than play around on some corporate image. Another artist that emerged from that scene is a British singer-songwriter who was very different from her alt-rock peers as she delved into different styles of music. Her name is Polly Jean Harvey but is simply known more as PJ Harvey.

Born in October of 1969, Harvey grew up listening to the blues as well as the art-rock sounds of Captain Beefheart in Bridport, Dorset of England. Later going into the early 80s new wave sounds to the indie music of the Pixies, Television, and Slint. Harvey played in several bands in the early 90s including one with longtime friend John Parish. She also met drummer Rob Ellis where she and Ellis formed a band for her own solo artwork that would later bring in Steve Vaughn on bass. In late 1991, Harvey released a single on the Too Pure indie label that caught the attention of reknowned DJ John Peel. Harvey would later go to work on her first full-length album that would mark the arrival of a new queen in alternative rock entitled Dry.

Produced by PJ Harvey, Rob Ellis, and Vernon with a majority of songs written by Harvey and four co-written with Ellis. Dry is an album filled with simple, stripped-down songs with just guitars, bass, and drums with bits of string performances of violins, bass, and cellos. Raw and to the point with songs about sex, angst, and female empowerment, it's a record that is aggressive with a melodic sensibility and odes to the blues. The result is one of the most fascinating debut albums from any female artist.

The album opens with Oh My Lover arrives with PJ Harvey's wailing vocals as she's supported by a wobbly bass line with a smooth, mid-tempo track with Rob Ellis' pounding drums. With Harvey playing a washy, driving guitar track to the song's slow, smooth presentation with despaired lyrics of desperation as the track intensifies in its performance though its tempo remains the same. O Stella is an up tempo track with driving, dissonant guitar riffs and swift, bouncy rhythms with angry lyrics. Filled with her wailing, somber vocals, it's a track that includes some scratchy guitars, wobbly bass lines, and driving beats that are wonderfully simplistic yet intense. The first single Dress arrives with a driving guitar riff that is accompanied by Ellis' rumbling, snare-bouncing beats with Harvey's sexual-laden lyrics. With its upbeat rhythm and screeching violin backgrounds, it's has Harvey playing a blues-like solo on the guitar while singing in a nasally, high-pitch vocal style on a section of the song.

Victory is a mid-tempo, twangy song with Steve Vaughn's wobbly bass line driving the song with Ellis' smooth, bass-rumbling beats with Harvey's smooth vocals and warbling guitar slides. With its lyrics of empowerment, the band's performance intensify with its driving guitars and thundering rhythms with its sparse presentation. Happy And Bleeding is a track with Harvey's vocals sung quietly through a mix along with washy guitar riff as she sings sexual-laden lyrics. With Ellis' smooth, hi-hat cymbal accompaniment and Harvey's blues-sliding guitar work, the song's mix comes to a full sound of thundering drum beats and Harvey's wailing vocals filled with seductive vocal notes and wavy melodies. The second single Sheela-na-gig is an upbeat song that starts out as a smooth song with blues-sliding riffs that become a more driving track on the guitar with bouncy rhythms. With lyrics delving in sex and exhibitionism, Harvey sings in a playful manner with a smooth vocal range as it's accompanied by Harvey's bluesy solos and thumping rhythms.

Hair is a song with smooth, tribal-like beats from Ellis' drums with Vaughn's smooth, wobbly bass lines which includes tempo changes and Harvey's smooth vocals. With its descriptive lyrics and a ruthless presentation of loud, driving guitars and Harvey's angry vocals. It's a song that revels in Harvey's diversity in song structures and rhythms. Joe is a fast, upbeat song with punk-driven guitar riffs and fast, energetic beats from Rob Ellis as Harvey goes into some blazing grunge riffs and angry lyrics with her wailing vocals. It's punk energy and Harvey's guitar work with swirling melodies and washy guitar work shows that she can play as it's a nice little ode to punk and grunge. Plants And Rags is an acoustic ballad with soft, hollow beats from Rob Ellis that features a smooth yet swift string quartet in the background. Filled with lyrics of heartbreak and despair, Harvey adds an electric guitar accompaniment filled with screeching violins as it's a song that revels in its performance and presentation.

Fountain arrives with Steve Vaughn's wobbly bass line that's followed by Harvey's dissonant guitar riff that becomes more washy with Ellis' smooth yet bouncy back beat with cymbal crashes. With Harvey's wailing vocals and dark, despaired lyrics, it's a song that has Harvey's vocals filled with lots of angst in this smooth though intense performance. The album closer Water is a simple, bouncy track with Harvey's washy, melodic riffs and a thumping rhythm. With Harvey's wailing vocals and angry lyrics, it's a song that has a lot of power when it features a driving guitar riff that intensifies with Harvey's sexual-moaning vocals right to the end.

When the album was first released in June of 1992 in Britain and later in the U.S., the album was also released with a limited edition extra disc filled with demos of the songs from the album entitled Dry Demonstration which is essentially the entire album performed acoustically by Harvey track-for-track in its same sequence. Yet, some songs feature an electric guitar accompaniment from Harvey herself. The overall recording of demos show a richness in its performance and simple presentation showing there's a lot of magic Harvey puts into the demos, some of which are superior to the actual recordings.

The album was released to rave reviews though Harvey managed to attract controversy by posing topless and showing her unshaven armpits on the cover of NME magazine. Harvey also gained attention in the U.S. as one of the new leading singer-songwriters of the alternative rock music scene. The attention Harvey received resulted in a bidding war where Harvey signed with Island Records while the album was reissued by the label itself. The album Dry was hailed as a favorite for Nirvana vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain while noted alternative rock producer Steve Albini also was a fan of the record. Albini's praise caught Harvey's attention as Albini would produce her next album Rid of Me released in early 1993.

Dry is a raw yet stellar debut release from PJ Harvey. Featuring a simple, crisp production and amazing performances from Harvey, Rob Ellis, and Steve Vaughn, it's an album that is fierce yet sexy. Though it's a record that isn't as consistent as later albums, it's a record that has a lot of bite while its additional material filled with acoustic demos is a must-have for hardcore fans. In the end, for a record that is sexy yet rocking, Dry is the album to get from PJ Harvey.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cut Copy-In Ghost Colours

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/6/09.

With the resurgence of electro-pop coming into the indie music world, one of the key bands to lead this resurgence is the Melbourne, Australia trio of Cut Copy. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Dan Whitford, bassist/guitarist/sampling performer Tim Hoey, and drummer Mitchell Scott. Cut Copy are a band that mixes rhythmic synth-pop with the dance-punk styles of the DFA label bands. 2004's Bright Like Neon Lights that featured former bassist/keyboardist Bennett Foddy received good reviews from critics though Foddy's departure after the release did force Cut Copy to become a trio. After a DJ mix compilation in 2006, the band returned in 2008 with their sophomore release with help from renowned electronic producer Tim Goldsworthy of the LCD Soundsystem and the DFA label. The result isn't just the band's best album but one of 2008's best dance records entitled In Ghost Colours.

Written and performed by Cut Copy with production by Cut Copy and Tim Goldsworthy, In Ghost Colours is an album that features hypnotic synthesizer melodies, breaking rhythms, house sound collages, and melodic pop hooks. With songs ranging from the melodic, accessible, and catchy pop songs to a few experimental instrumentals, it's an album that challenges the idea of dance music into being something more than just rhythms people can dance to. The result is overall, an album that really shows how much work it takes to create a consistent, enjoyable, and certainly mesmerizing album from Cut Copy.

The album opener Feel The Love arrives with swirling, shimmering layers of synthesizers with Dan Whitford's calm, earthy vocals with an acoustic guitar and a mid-tempo, rhythmic back beat from drummer Mitchell Scott. With Tim Hoey's throbbing, pulsating bass lines and hypnotic synthesizer melodies, it's an excellent album opener spurned by its layered production and bouncy arrangements of synthesizers. Out There On The Ice is a more disco-driven track with pulsating beats and rhythms led by its synthesizer. With its throbbing rhythms and beats, Whitford's cool vocals lead the way as it's a song that shimmers through its rhythm and hypnotic vocals along with house-style production of heavy synthesizers and beats. Lights And Music continues the album's house-drenched vibe with throbbing bass lines from Tim Hoey and thumping back beats by Mitchell Scott. With Whitford's funky guitar riffs and serene vocals, the track features a layer of fast, fuzzy synthesizer lines that drive the song into house territory.

We Fight For Diamonds is a one-minute instrumental suite of dreamy, ambient-like textures of guitar drones, soothing synthesizers, and layers of mixed vocal harmonies from the previous track. Unforgettable Season takes the drones from the previous track for an upbeat, throbbing song with Whitford's earthy, serene vocals. With its upbeat rhythms, washy guitars, and loopy bass lines, it's easily one of the best songs on the album with its shimmering layers of synthesizers, dance beats, and Whitford's vocals. Midnight Runner is a smooth, guitar-swirling track with Whitford's atmospheric vocals and airy production that is later followed by Hoey and Scott's thumping rhythm. A dreamier song with Whitford's reverb, melodic guitar that is an exploration of dance rhythms and ambient. So Haunted is an upbeat song with wailing guitar drones and Scott's hard-hitting beats as Whitford goes for a calm but intense vocal style. With its chorus filled with washy layers of guitar chimes, swirling synthesizers, and layered production, it has a unique structure of a shoegaze-style drone to dreamier textures which includes a house-style synthesizer bridge.

Voices In Quartz is another short instrumental suite at a minute, twenty-one seconds with soft, warbling synthesizer shimmers and noises of trains, cars, and such. Hearts On Fire is house-influenced track with hypnotic synthesizer shimmers, throbbing bass lines, and rhythmic beats as Whitford sings in a cool, serene vocal style. With its bass-synthesizer throbs and wails along with a saxophone solo, it's easily another standout cut while it's a re-recorded version from an EP done in the previous year. Far Away is an upbeat, synth-pop track with melodic synthesizer lines, thumping beats, and Whitford's high, calm vocals. With its melodic synthesizer spurts popping up along with a thumping bass track, it maintains its dance-like presentation. The twenty-nine second Silver Thoughts is a droning, scratchy guitar-driven instrumental with swirls that leads to the song Strangers In The Wind. The smooth, mid-tempo track with acoustic guitar accompaniment, swooning synthesizers, and Whitford's vocals is a calm track that features swirling drones and a thumping rhythm in the song's second half.

Visions is a one-minute, nine-second instrumental piece of windy drones and reverb synthesizers that swirls throughout the track until the second half features a throbbing, rumbling disco-like rhythm of bass drums and bass. Nobody Lost, Nobody Found arrives with its thumping disco-like bass lines, thumping back beats, and Whitford's smooth, calm vocals as he sings with his funky guitar riffs. With a shimmering synthesizer in the background, the song features a wonderful chorus that swoons along with its thumping, disco-like rhythm and a scratchy, synthesizer-driven bridge. The album closer is the three-minute instrumental Eternity One Night Only that starts off with droning, scratchy swirls of guitars and voices along with samples of people talking and such. Then it becomes this dreamy, acoustic-driven track with swooning vocals and enchanting string arrangements by synthesizers as it closes down with its droning swirls and distorted vocals.

In Ghost Colours is an extraordinary, hypnotic, and enjoyable album from Cut Copy. Thanks in part to Tim Goldsworthy's layered and atmospheric production, this is an album that certainly proves that dance and indie rock can still create something unique. Fans of indie-dance, dance-punk, or other non-mainstream forms of dance will certainly enjoy this while mainstream audiences should get a chance to hear this record since there's songs that are catchy. In the end, In Ghost Colours is a tremendous, soothing, and enchanting album from Cut Copy.

Cut Copy Reviews: (I Thought of Numbers) - (Bright Like Neon Love) - (Zonoscope)

(C) thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Beatles-Past Masters

Originally Written and Posted at on 2/18/10.

With new formats to present music coming in such new places and times, every artist often takes the advantage of the new technology.  When the CD emerged in the 1980s, it was something new though for artists that came out before the new format.  It gave them a chance to upgrade their old music for their fans along with new ones.  The Beatles however, came in quite late in the game as it was often due to legal issues with their label EMI as well as some publishing issues when the Lennon/McCartney songs along with pre-1968 material that George Harrison and Ringo Starr contributed was sold for $47 million to Michael Jackson after outbidding Paul McCartney in 1985.

So when the Beatles catalog finally was set to come out in the new CD format in 1987, fans were excited as the U.K. albums were finally release to the public.  Another package that came with the studio albums was a two-disc compilation that consisted of the band's non-LP singles, B-sides, the entire Long Tall Sally EP, and alternate versions of songs that were released as singles.  The collection filled with more than 95-minutes of music in a two-disc set entitled Past Masters.

Past Masters is a compilation that chronicles the Beatles' non-album recordings from 1962 to 1970 in an expansive, two-disc set.  With the first disc featuring material from 1962 to 1965 which includes singles, B-sides, a song from a U.S. album, two tracks recorded for a German single, and four tracks from the U.K. only Long Tall Sally EP.  The second disc features material from late 1965 to 1970 consisting of singles, B-sides, and an alternate version of Across The Universe that was recorded for a charity album.  All produced by George Martin with a majority of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney plus two tracks by George Harrison including numerous covers.  It is truly one of the best compilation material that explores the Beatles evolution as a singles act.

Opening the compilation is an original single version of Love Me Do featuring Ringo Starr on drums instead of session drummer Andy White on drums that appears in the album Please Please Me.  While it's largely similar to the album except it doesn't feature a soft tambourine performance in the background, it is still a remarkable first single that features Starr playing a steady, mid-tempo drum fill to accompany John Lennon's soothing harmonica.  From Me To You, the band's first number one hit single in the U.K., is an upbeat track with wailing, melodic vocal harmonies from Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison as Lennon and McCartney sing poignant lyrics of love.  Featuring a bouncy, tapping drum fill from Starr with McCartney's bumping bass line and driving guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison, the song includes a wailing harmonica solo from Lennon as it also includes some crisp production work by George Martin.

Thank You Girl, a B-side to From Me To You, is a driving, upbeat rocker with washy guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison with Starr's bopping drum beats and McCartney's soft bass work.  With Lennon singing the song with McCartney joining on harmony vocals, the song's lyrics shows some gratitude from the Beatles to their early female fans as it includes some pummeling drum fills from Starr.  She Loves You is an upbeat, rousing song with a famous chorus of "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" with driving guitars and a bouncy rhythm courtesy of Starr's pummeling drums as Lennon and McCartney sing poignant, innocent lyrics of teenage love.  With Harrison's ringing guitar washes, it is without a doubt, one of the band's most quintessential singles.  The B-side to that song, I'll Get You is a mid-tempo track led by Lennon's harmonica as he sings lead with McCartney on harmony vocals.  With a bouncy rhythm led by Starr's tapping hi-hat cymbal and drum fills that is followed by Harrison's driving guitar, the song has somber lyrics of naive love as it is one of the band's fantastic B-sides.

The band's U.S. breakthrough single in I Want To Hold Your Hand with its driving guitar riff with swanky, ringing notes by Harrison and a bouncy beat led by Starr's pummeling drum fills.  The song is sung by Lennon and McCartney in a simple plea of love as it features some superb, layered production by George Martin.  The U.K. B-side to that track in This Boy, a ballad led by washy, spurting guitar by Harrison with Lennon's soft acoustic performance as Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney sing melancholic lyrics with Starr's soft, shimmering hi-hat taps in the background.  Lennon sings a lead part with his anguished yet somber vocals as it is one of the band's best ballads.  The next two tracks are part of a German single release in tribute to the band's early years when they started out playing clubs in Hamburg.  The first is a German-sung version of I Want To Hold Your Hand entitled Komm Gib Mir Dien Hand as it a fantastic version with the band singing in German.  The second German version in the single is She Loves You entitled Sie Liebt Dich that is exactly like its rousing, English counterpart.

The next four tracks are from the band's June 1964 EP entitled Long Tall Sally that features three covers and an original song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  Opening that EP is the title track that is a famed Little Richard song.  With McCartney singing in a growling vocal style with bopping rhythms from his bumping bass and Starr's rumbling drum fills with rousing guitar riffs from the band including a rousing piano to give the track a raucous feel that is a noteworthy tribute to Little Richard.  I Call Your Name is a recreation of a song the Lennon and McCartney wrote for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.  With Harrison's ringing guitar and Starr's bouncy drum fill with a tapping cowbell performance, Lennon sings the song with his washy guitar and McCartney's bumping bass line.  The song is filled with melancholic lyrics as it includes a rousing, ringing guitar solo from George Harrison showcasing the band's ability to re-create one of their own songs.

Larry Williams' Slow Down is a rousing, upbeat track led by a flourishing, 12-bar blues piano performed by George Martin with Starr's rapid, pulsating drum fill as it features driving guitars and Lennon's growling vocals.  It is one of the band's remarkable covers as they pay tribute to one of their favorite songwriters.  The last track of the EP is a cover of Carl Perkins' Matchbox that is sung by Ringo Starr with his drawling vocals and a steady, bouncy drum track with growling guitars from Lennon and Harrison.  Featuring George Martin on a flourishing piano track and McCartney on a wobbly bass, the song includes Lennon playing a ringing solo with Harrison on a washy 12-string guitar.  The single I Feel Fine opens with a bit of feedback from McCartney's bass as it is then led by ringing, melodic guitar tracks as Lennon sings the song with Starr's bouncy, bass-pounding drum fills.  Featuring poignant lyrics about heartbreak, the song is one of the band's most inventive thanks to a famed, arpeggio-laden riff that is performed by Harrison as it also features tempo changes from Starr's drums.

The B-side to that track is She's A Woman that opens with swanky guitar riffs and Starr's bopping beat with jangly cymbal crashes as McCartney sings the song with growling vocals.  Featuring haunting lyrics about a woman, the song has McCartney playing a soft piano accompaniment as the song's tempo picks up a bit with Starr's tapping cymbals and McCartney's rousing bass line.  From the U.S. album Beatles VI is a cover of Larry Williams' Bad Boy is an upbeat, guitar-driven track with Lennon's growling vocals singing snarling lyrics as Harrison plays a ringing, double-tracked guitar solo with McCartney's driving bass line and Starr's pummeling, bopping drum fill.

Next is a B-side track from the Ticket To Ride single in the love ballad Yes It Is.  With a swooning, ringing guitar track from Harrison with double-tracked vocal harmonies from Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison with somber lyrics of heartbreak.  The song also includes a slow yet steady drum fill from Starr maintaining the song's melancholic tone as it features a solo singing section from Lennon singing with anguished vocals as it's another of the band's fantastic B-sides.  The closing track of the first half of the Past Masters is another B-side in the song I'm Down from the single for Help!  A rocking track led by McCartney's growling vocals and wobbly bass line with driving guitars from Lennon and Harrison.  Along with Starr's bopping drum track with pummeling bass fills, the song features rousing lyrics that includes a ringing guitar solo from Harrison and wailing organ tracks by Lennon as it is a fantastic, raucous rocker.

Opening the second half of the collection is Day Tripper, an upbeat track that opens with a snarling guitar riff by John Lennon that is supported by Ringo Starr's pummeling yet steady drum fill.  Lennon and Paul McCartney sing the song with playful lyrics as Harrison fills in with a driving guitar riff with McCartney's bouncy bass line.  The other A-side track from that same single is the mid-tempo We Can Work It Out as it is a song with a fast-driving guitar track with Starr's bopping rhythms.  McCartney sings the track filled with optimistic lyrics with concern about the state of the world while Lennon sings a verse with a more cynical view about life as he accompanies the track with a swooning harmonium.  The single Paperback Writer is a bouncy rocker with Harrison's drone-heavy guitar riff and McCartney's loopy bass line as Starr plays a steady yet hard-hitting drum fill.  Featuring some great backing vocals from Lennon and Harrison, McCartney sings the song filled with a narrative-driven lyrics that shows the band progressing into their lyric themes.

The B-side to that song is the experimental Rain that is led by Starr's bouncy but pummeling drum fill and Harrison's swirling guitar riff with McCartney's bumping bass line.  Lennon sings in a snarling vocal filled with mesmerizing lyrics as McCartney and Harrison sing backing vocals.  Filled with reverb echoes and backward guitar loops, it is one of the band's most spectacular tracks that pushes the boundaries of pop music.  Lady Madonna is an upbeat, piano-driven track led by McCartney's growling, bluesy vocals about a fascinating woman.  Featuring Starr's bouncy drums and driving guitars from Lennon and Harrison, it's one of the band's playful singles as it includes a great tenor saxophone solo by Ronnie Scott.  The B-side to that single is The Inner Light by George Harrison.  A hypnotic, Indian-influenced track filled with vibrant percussions and flourishing sitar as Harrison sings spiritual-heavy lyrics with Lennon and McCartney providing backing vocals.

Hey Jude is a somber, mid-tempo piano ballad as McCartney sings comforting lyrics to John Lennon's young son Julian following his parents divorce.  With McCartney's soothing vocals and melancholic piano, the track is later accompanied by Starr's slow but rumbling drum fill and washy guitar tracks from Lennon and Harrison as it builds up a bit through each section.  The song intensifies with people singing to a melody as they're later accompanied by brass and string orchestra in one of the band's greatest singles.  The B-side to that single is the chaotic Revolution led by a fast-wailing guitar riff by Lennon as he sings angry lyrics about the fallacies of revolutions.  With Starr's hard-hitting drums and drone-heavy guitar and bass from Harrison and McCartney, respectively.  The track also includes a wailing, melodic electric piano track by Nicky Hopkins.

Get Back is led by a bouncy yet riding rhythm by Starr's drum and McCartney's thumping bass line as he sings nonsensical but fun lyrics.  With Lennon's sliding guitar solo and Harrison's spurting rhythm guitar, the track includes a wonderful electric piano solo by Billy Preston that get things going.  Don't Let Me Down is a mid-tempo love song led by Lennon as he and McCartney sing anguished lyrics with Preston's flourishing keyboard track.  Starr's steady yet thumping drum track with McCartney's low bass line and Harrison's smooth guitar riff complement Preston's playing in one of the band's best tracks.  The Ballad Of John & Yoko is an upbeat, bouncy song led by McCartney's thumping bass and bouncy drum track that he plays with Lennon's sliding guitar track and flourishing piano.  The song has Lennon singing about he and Yoko's adventure of their marriage that is filled with playful humor.

The B-side of that single is Harrison's Old Brown Shoe which is a rousing, upbeat track filled with McCartney's bouncy piano and bass with Starr's bopping drums and Harrison's driving guitar.  Filled with bluesy lyrics and a sliding guitar by Harrison, it's one of his best cuts that exemplifies his love of back-to-basics rock music as he also plays organ in the track.  Next is an alternate version of Across The Universe from the 1969 charity album No One's Gonna Change Our World that opens with sounds of birds calling.  Filled with spiritual-laden lyrics and a washy acoustic track, Lennon sings the song as he is accompanied by Harrison's sitar and McCartney's soft piano.  Along with George Martin's soft organ, the track features falsetto backing vocals as it is one of the band's best songs.

The piano ballad Let It Be in its single version produced by George Martin & Chris Thomas is a simpler version than the additions Phil Spector made for the album of the same name.  With McCartney's piano driving the track filled with inspirational lyrics, the song includes Linda McCartney on backing vocals along with a different guitar solo from George Harrison that is more subtle in its performance.  The closing track of the collection is the B-side to that song in You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).  A music hall-inspired track with elements of comedy led by a piano track by McCartney as he sings the song with a bouncy drum track from Starr with Lennon and Harrison's driving guitar.  The track then goes into a wild, calypso-like rhythm as the whole band plays around with sound effects provided by Lennon, McCartney, and Mal Evans along with a blaring saxophone from Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

When it was released on March 7, 1988, the compilation album gave Beatles fans a chance to have something to complete their collection along with the studio albums that were reissued on CD.  The collection was widely received by critics for its collection of non-LP singles, B-sides, and rarities.

The 2009 remastered edition is released as part of the Beatles stereo box set and as an individual, 2-disc collection.  The remastering gives more punch to several tracks, notably for the latter-day stuff of the band as there's more to hear in the songs.  The album is also released in alternate version for the mono box set known as The Mono Masters that is a bit longer than the entire collection as it excludes The Ballad of John & Yoko, Old Brown Shoe, and Let It Be in favor of unreleased mono mixes of Across The Universe (Wildlife version) and the four songs that were from the unreleased Yellow Submarine EP as it's a collection that hardcore Beatles fan would have.

Past Masters is a must-have collection for fans of the Beatles as it features all of the non-LP singles, B-sides, and rarities that will be something not for completists but also for casual fans to hear the famed singles.  The collection is also a great overview of the band's evolution as a singles artists from their early Merseybeat days to the more experimental work they would do in the middle of their career.  In the end, Past Masters is an amazing collection of music 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 - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)

(C) thevoid99 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Beatles-Let It Be

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/25/10.

From 1962-1967, the Beatles were indeed the most popular band in the world as they released countless albums all of which were hits critically and commercially. The release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 was the Beatles hitting their peak as the band were having plans for much bigger things. Unfortunately, something happened with the death of their manager Brian Epstein in August of 1967 of an accidental drug overdose. Epstein's death would mark the beginning of the end as the band's plans to create their own business corporation known as Apple Corps would only create a lot of financial trouble for the band.

Without a manager to handle business things and several of the band's personnel being unaware of how to handle things. Trouble was brewing as the 1968 sessions for The White Album was fraught with tension as the Beatles were coming apart. With 1968 giving way to 1969, tension was at an all-time high as Paul McCartney had a plan to hopefully ease things while making something creative that would hopefully get the back to performing live. The project was entitled Get Back in which it would be a multi-media project with an album, a TV concert special, and a film. At the same time, the music would be a back-to-basics approach with no overdubs or multi-layered recordings as it would involve no studio trickery. All of which seemed like a good idea but once the band got started on the project. Everything however, went wrong.

Joining in the session to oversee things was the band's longtime producer George Martin along with another renowned producer in Glyn Johns. Yet, neither Martin nor Johns had any idea of what role they were playing as the tension between the whole band was becoming toxic. Even the presence of John Lennon's new companion in Yoko Ono only made things worse. Rehearsing at a sound stage in Twickenham Studios was an atmosphere that was unpleasant with the cold weather surrounding the band along with a film crew headed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg documenting all that is happening.

The personal tension within the band came ahead when George Harrison briefly quit following a spat with McCartney along with the feeling of being treated with disrespect by Lennon and McCartney. Following Harrison's brief departure, the band left Twickenham studios to go to the Apple studios due to Harrison's suggestion as he also brought in famed gospel musician Billy Preston for the sessions. Preston's presence eased things where the band played what would become their last live performance on January 30, 1969 on the rooftop of Apple studios with Preston as it would later spawn the single release of Get Back/Don't Let Me Down in April of that year.

Though the live performance was a hit with the band despite being stopped by the police over noise complaints. The sessions for Get Back however, was a miserable experience as the band shelved the project while handing the recordings to Glyn Johns to oversee things. Though it was planned for a July release, problems were continuing within the band over business issues that would later see the loss of the band's Northern Songs publishing though George Harrison and Ringo Starr both made their own publishing for songs they made from 1968 and so on that they've managed to keep. At the same time, the planned TV concert special was scrapped while the documentary was in delay. The album was pushed back from September and later to December as the band's last studio album Abbey Road was released in late September.

By late 1969/early 1970, John Lennon had already left the band though it wasn't revealed publicly while the rest tried to help Glyn Johns in another attempt to mix the Get Back album. McCartney and Starr were also helping Harrison finish recordings on a song as the results for the second version of the album was unsatisfactory. With Johns out of the project, a new producer was brought into the fold in renowned American producer Phil Spector. Spector, who had created numerous hit singles with his Wall of Sound production style in the early 1960s, had just worked with John Lennon on the single Instant Karma! as the band's manager Allen Klein asked Spector to go to England. Though Lennon and Harrison were enthused by the idea of Spector overseeing the material that had been largely recorded in January of 1969. Yet, the final results of the album would end up playing a large part into the band's break-up as it would be entitled Let It Be.

Let It Be is an album in which the Beatles attempt to go back to basics with just a guitar, bass, and drums along with some keyboards provided by Billy Preston. While a large part of the material features a simple rock n' roll sound which includes covers and fragmented material that was made during those sessions. The album is largely remixed by producer Phil Spector who would add overdubbed strings and choir arrangements. While the band's longtime producer George Martin along with Glyn Johns provide some production work on a few tracks. The result is a fascinating yet stellar release from the Beatles but not a worthy epitaph that lives up to the band's legendary stature.

Opening the album is Two Of Us, a plaintive folk-style track with John Lennon and Paul McCartney singing together with acoustic guitars about the relationship of two people in a playful manner. With Ringo Starr's simple, thumping back beat and George Harrison's soothing bass line played on a guitar, it is a highlight of the album as it is a wonderful duet between Lennon and McCartney, the latter of which sings a solo section in the track. Dig A Pony is a mid-tempo rocker with driving guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison along with Starr's rumbling, pulsating drum fill. Lennon sings the track with lyrics filled with his devotion to Yoko Ono as McCartney plays a smooth bass line that features Harrison's flourishing, bluesy guitar track and a wonderful drum fill from Starr.

The ballad Across The Universe, which is presented in a re-recorded fashion from its original 1968 recording that was released as part of a compilation in 1969, has Lennon singing imagery-laden lyrics with spiritual chants as he plays a washy acoustic guitar track. Featuring Harrison's flourishes of sitar and tambura with Starr's performance on the maracas, the track also includes lush arrangements of choir and strings by Phil Spector that adds an atmospheric texture to the track. Harrison's I Me Mine is led by McCartney's wailing organ and Harrison's bluesy guitar solo as it starts off as a swooning ballad that features Spector's overdubbed yet soothing string arrangements. Harrison sings the song filled with harrowing lyrics of neglect. The song's tempo picks up a bit for a raucous jam with Starr's pulsating drums and Harrison's swirling guitar as it returns to its soothing tempo as it one of Harrison's stellar songs. Dig It is a short, fifty-one second track written by the band which is an excerpt of a jam as it is written by the band. The track features Preston playing a wailing organ with Starr's thumping drum and Lennon singing nonsensical lyrics with McCartney on piano and Harrison on a driving guitar track.

The album's title track is a piano ballad that is presented in a very different version than its original 1970 single version that was produced by George Martin and Chris Thomas. Though the main, somber piano melody with McCartney's lyrics inspired by McCartney's late mother remain intact. The song features some overblown string and horn arrangements by Phil Spector that really loses the simplicity of the song while Harrison's guitar solo is more heroic with Starr's drums having a more delayed feel in its performance during Harrison's solo. Maggie Mae is a traditional folk song arranged by the band as they jam through the track with Lennon and McCartney on swift acoustic guitars as they sing the track filled with playful lyrics as Harrison plays a driving guitar with Starr's bouncy drums.

I've Got A Feeling is a bluesy rocker with swirling, arpeggio guitar riffs from Harrison that is accompanied by Preston's melodic organ track. McCartney sings the song with growling vocals as it intensifies in its performance with swanky guitars and Starr's thumping drum tracks. With McCartney singing soulful lyrics about love, Lennon would sing a part in the song filled with more cynical lyrics in a playful manner as the song is one of the band's standout cuts. One After 909 is an old song Lennon and McCartney wrote back in 1957 as it is led by a bouncy, melodic electric piano solo from Billy Preston with thumping beats from Starr. A song about a freight train, it is a playful number with Harrison's driving guitar as Lennon and McCartney sing the fun song with Lennon leading the way as it is one of the band's most fun tracks.

The band's final single in The Long & Winding Road is a piano ballad sung by McCartney as he plays it with a piano with somber lyrics. While it's a fantastic ballad, what keeps it from being great is Phil Spector's overblown string and horn arrangements along with choir arrangements that makes the song sound very sappy that forces Billy Preston's organ performance to be barely heard. While the song in its original recording by George Martin that appears in the Anthology and Let It Be... Naked versions are superior in what McCartney wanted, the final version by Spector is without a doubt one of the worst additions to any track.

Harrison's For You Blue is an upbeat blues song that has Harrison playing a washy acoustic track with Lennon on a soothing lap steel guitar. With Starr's bouncy drum and McCartney's flourishing piano, it's a song that works with Harrison's playful lyrics to a girl as it shows a great enthusiasm to the jam that is happening throughout. The album closer is a live performance of Get Back that is remixed by Phil Spector. With the band talking before the performance and Starr's rollicking drum fill with a back beat rhythm and Lennon's sliding guitar. It's a playful ditty that is a bit different from the famed single version as it still includes Preston's playful electric piano solo as it a fantastic song that closes with Lennon saying that he hopes the band had passed the audition.

When the album was completed in April of 1970, the result was mixed with Paul McCartney being very unhappy about what Phil Spector had done on several tracks, notably The Long & Winding Road. This would force McCartney to publicly announce that he's leaving the Beatles as the news of the break-up emerged where by the end of the year, McCartney was suing the band as a legal dissolution would go on for a few years. The album was released on May 8, 1970 to mixed reviews with critics divided over the album and its content. Many of the criticism was leveled at Phil Spector's production and remixing on several tracks. While the album would top the charts in the U.S. and U.K., the album also divided fans who were also critical of Spector's work as the album was re-released as Let It Be... Naked in 2003 with Glyn Johns' work of the album without Spector's work to mixed reviews.

The 2009 remastered version of the album that appears in the stereo box set and as an individual album does feature some of the best remastering that is available. The studio chatter is heard much better along with some of the instrumentation that isn't overshadowed by Spector's production. While the simple sounds of tracks are heard in a much clear form, the stuff with Spector's remixing and production does work as they're remembered but will probably still be hated by Beatles purists. Still, the remastering of the album is overall superb in what recreating what it sounded like back in 1970.

Let It Be is an excellent album from the Beatles but one that is quite flawed. Despite an amazing amount of material and songs that the band created along with studio chatter. It's a record that never felt complete. The one negative aspect that isn't new to anyone is the work of Phil Spector. While he is without a doubt an amazing producer, the work he does for this album for the most part isn't very good though his remix of Across The Universe is phenomenal. In the end despite some flaws, Let It Be is a fine album that is fun to listen to but hardly the great epitaph that lives up to the legend of 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 - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)

(C) thevoid99 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Beatles-Abbey Road

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/24/10.

Following the release of The White Album, things for the Beatles were not going well. Creative and personal tension were rising as it was clear that the band were heading into some very serious problems. Apple Corps, the company the band had hoped would become their sanctuary as a record label and other things was a financial disaster. A project headed by Paul McCartney to get the band to play music again was part of a huge project called Get Back. A project that would be an album, a concert special, and a film in hopes for the band to get back to their roots.

Unfortunately, it became a disaster with George Martin unsure about his role while the band brought in Glyn Johns to help oversee things as he had no idea what to do. The project eventually folded in late January in which the band played their last final performance. The band at this point were now more concerned with business issues as the band minus McCartney chose to get the Rolling Stones' manager Allen Klein to oversee things while McCartney chose his future father-in-law Lee Eastman to help oversee things. Ultimately, it would lead to the loss of the band's publishing rights known as Northern Songs though George Harrison and Ringo Starr had already created their own publishing for their own songs.

With Apple in turmoil due to Klein getting rid of some key personnel and other business issues becoming troubling along with the lackluster experience of the Get Back sessions. The band's producer George Martin and Paul McCartney decided to make one more album with Martin overseeing everything with engineer Geoff Emerick who also returned despite his vow to not work with the band following the making of The White Album. From the spring to summer of 1969, the Beatles would go back to Abbey Road studios to make what would ultimately be the band's final album simply titled Abbey Road.

Produced by George Martin with engineering work by Geoff Emerick, Abbey Road is an album that has the Beatles going all out. With many of the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney plus two by George Harrison and one by Ringo Starr under his real name Richard Starkey. The album consists of two different halves. One filled with traditional songs that feature a variety of musical styles, themes, and dabbles of experimentation. The second half featuring fragmented material that serves as a medley of songs going into various lyrical themes while Billy Preston contributes Hammond organ to a couple of tracks. The result is a fitting farewell from one of the world's greatest bands as they go out with a bang.

Opening the album is Come Together, a throbbing, mid-tempo track with Ringo Starr's' smooth, pulsating drum fill that turns into a foot-stomping kind of rhythm with Paul McCartney's rumbling bass line. With John Lennon singing the song filled with nonsensical lyrics that is only clear with its chorus that includes a driving guitar track from Lennon. The song also includes McCartney playing an electric piano track that is given a solo along with George Harrison's wailing guitar track in what is an amazing opener. The love ballad Something by George Harrison is led by Harrison's swooning guitar slide and Starr's rumbling drum fills as Harrison sings poignant lyrics about the beauty of his then-wife Pattie Boyd. Featuring Billy Preston's soft, wailing organ accompaniment, McCartney's soothing bass, and Lennon's washy guitar with a soft piano accompaniment. The song also includes a lush string arrangement by George Martin in what is undoubtably, one of the greatest love songs ever made as it features some of Harrison's best work as a vocalist and as a songwriter.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer is a vaudeville-style song with McCartney's playful piano as he sings about a medical student killing people with a silver hammer. With its upbeat tone, it's a darkly, humorous song from McCartney as it includes Beatles associate Mal Evans banging on an anvil with Starr's mid-tempo, pounding drum fill and Harrison's swirling guitar track. The song also includes a wailing, Moog synthesizer that is played through as George Martin plays a soft organ in the background as it is a wonderfully comic though dark song. Oh! Darling is a R&B-inspired love ballad with McCartney singing in a growling vocal style with desperate lyrics. Featuring Starr's steady drum track and swanky guitar tracks, Lennon plays a R&B style piano that features a rumbling drum fill by Starr as Harrison plays a soft synthesizer track in the background as it is one of the band's key cuts that has McCartney delving into a soulful vocal style.

Ringo Starr's Octopus's Garden is a playful, upbeat country-inspired song about an octopus's garden. With Harrison's swirling, country-inspired guitar licks and Lennon's flourishing guitar melodies, the song is driven by Starr's laid-back, drawling vocals as he's joined by McCartney's thumping bass and playful piano. It is without a doubt the best contribution Ringo Starr ever created for a song as it features great sound effects and a full-on, inspired performance from the band with Martin's whimsical production. I Want You (She's So Heavy) is led by droning guitar arpeggios from Lennon and Harrison that is supported by Starr's steady drum fill and McCartney's bass line as it slows down into a haunting, blues-inspired song. Featuring Billy Preston playing wailing organ tracks, the song is filled with lyrics of obsession and desperation as it features numerous tempo changes and unconventional structures. At seven-minutes and forty-four seconds, it is one of the band's most ambitious tracks as it is also one that is brilliant with elements of white noise in the background.

The plaintive Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison is led by Harrison's somber acoustic-guitar track with melodic arpeggios and a swooning Moog synthesizer background. Harrison's somber yet imaginative lyrics with his calm vocals that is spurred by Starr's steady drum fill and McCartney's soft, thumping bass line. Featuring a soft arrangement of strings and woodwinds, it is truly another of Harrison's crowning achievements which includes a pulsating drum fill by Starr and a swooning synthesizer solo in the track. Because is a chilling, vocal-driven track with George Martin's haunting, electric-harpsichord performance as is followed by Lennon's melodic guitar swirl. The track is sung by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison with triple-tracked vocals with imagery-laden lyrics filled with elements of nature. The song also includes Harrison playing a Moog synthesizer solo with McCartney's soft bass line as it is one of the Beatles' intoxicating tracks.

The medley begins with You Never Give Me Your Money that has McCartney playing a somber piano melody with low bass lines and his calm vocals with troubling lyrics about being cheated in relation to the band's own business situation. With Lennon and Harrison joining McCartney on vocals, the song's tempo picks up a bit with Starr's rumbling drums as McCartney sings a bluesier vocal register as Harrison plays chime-laden guitar arpeggios that wail through with Lennon's fuzzy guitar track as it starts to segue into the next track. Sun King opens with somber, arpeggio-guitar flourishes and McCartney's swooning bass as Starr plays a soft, pounding drum track with Harrison's chime-laden guitar track. The song is then carried by George Martin's swooning organ as Lennon, with McCartney and Harrison, sing the song with its dreamy lyrics as the band sing through various romantic languages in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portugese.

Mean Mr. Mustard is an upbeat, mid-tempo track with Lennon singing about a mean old man as he plays a bouncy piano track with Starr's steady drum fill and McCartney's fuzzy bass line. With Harrison's driving guitar accompaniment, the song is a playful ditty as it would segue into the next track. Polythene Pam opens with Lennon's washy 12-string acoustic as it has a rumbling rhythm led by Starr's pulsating drums and Lennon's raspy vocals. With Harrison's blues-laden guitar growls as it sings about a bad woman who likes to wreak havoc as it features McCartney playing a lead guitar where everything moves to the next track. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window where McCartney sings the song with a slower but bouncy rhythm and Harrison's country-inspired guitar flourishes. With McCartney's thumping bass and lyrics about an adventurous woman as it is a song that features a nice groove and superb production from George Martin.

Golden Slumbers is a somber piano ballad sung by McCartney who sings melancholic lyrics with George Martin's lush yet broad string arrangements. The song's ballad tone intensify with Starr's pulsating drum fill and a driving guitar where it would segue to the next track. Carry That Weight is led by the entire band singing the song's chorus with its life-weighing lyrics as Starr plays a steady drum fill with melodic horn blares and Harrison's plaintive guitar solo as it revisits other tracks while it is driven entirely by the vocals of all four band members.

The End is a rocking jam with wailing guitar solos from all three band members and Starr's rumbling drum fill as McCartney sings with growling vocals. Then comes Starr playing an amazing drum solo with pounding bass and ferocious snare hits as Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison each play a guitar solo where they all wail through with McCartney also on bass. The song's lyrics is all about love as it closes a bit with McCartney playing a striking piano as the band sings "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make" with a swooning solo from Harrison closing everything. The secret closing track that is a short, acoustic little number called Her Majesty that has McCartney playing a flourishing acoustic track about a queen making it a fitting close to the album and band.

Released on September 26, 1969, more than a month after the Beatles were all together in the studio one last time. The album was a major hit while it received mixed reviews at the time though it was later considered to be one of their best as well as a fitting swan song. Six days before the album's release, John Lennon told the band he was leaving though they all chose not to announce things publicly until all legal matters were resolved. By that point, Lennon was playing with his new band the Plastic Ono Band with new wife Yoko Ono and various musicians while other members would take on other projects. Even as they would all go back to revisit the material they recorded during the Get Back sessions back in January 1969 where it would play a crucial part to the band's dissolution.

The 2009 remastered version which appears by itself and part of the Beatles stereo remaster box set does present the album in a grand presentation. Notably for all of the production work that George Martin has created including the layer of the instrumentation. The vocals, notably in Because, is more entrancing in its production as the album as a whole is amazing. It is without a doubt another of the best series of remasters ever assembled for the reissue.

Abbey Road is an exhilarating masterpiece from the Beatles that serves as a grand swan song for the band. With George Martin's superb production and notable contributions from Mal Evans and Billy Preston, it is an album that features high-quality songs and material that truly makes sure the band went out with a bang. Fans, of course, will no doubt rank this album very high while as a starting point, it's not a bad place to start at all. Even for the fact that it features two classics songs by George Harrison and another classic from Ringo Starr as they both show their talents as songwriters. In the end, for an album that goes all over the place and leaves the listening feeling good right to the end. Abbey Road is the right album to get.

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 - Yellow Submarine OST - 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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