Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com 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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