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Album reviews: Abbey Road, by The Beatles

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1 Album reviews: Abbey Road, by The Beatles on Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:30 am


Novi Clan
Novi Clan
Forty years after its release, Abbey Road remains as one of the best rock albums of all time. It was not only the swan song for arguably the greatest rock band the world has ever known, but it is also regarded by many as the best LP in the Beatles' portfolio. Following increasingly mounting tension as well as musical differences between the four members, producer George Martin convinced them to put forth one last effort at making a record like they "used to do".

Few in the public eye were aware that the Beatles had essentially drifted apart beginning with the White Album (also known simply as The Beatles), which had been released a year earlier. As far as the average fan knew, the lovable moptops may have grown their hair a bit longer and added some whiskers along the way, but they surely remained a happy family. In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. It is not well-known that John Lennon had considered leaving the group as far back as 1966. Of course, he didn't, but by the time the White Album sessions took place, the collaboration between Lennon and Paul McCartney had all but ceased. They instead wrote their own respective material, and the other Beatles more or less served as backup musicians. George Harrison grew weary of only being allotted two songs per album as well. As for Ringo? Well, he just played the drum kit; although every once in a while he would get the lead vocal on a song. Following the White Album, the Let it Be sessions commenced. A documentary film was made of this project, which was essentially a big jam. The Beatles alternated between playing old songs that dated back to their days in Hamburg and new material. Amid considerable discord, the project was shelved. Eventually, producer Phil Spector picked the best of the recordings, added his signature touches (some of which were quite cheesy), and put together an album, but it would not be released until 1970, after the band's breakup.

So let's get back to Abbey Road, shall we? The album opens with Come Together, a Lennon rocker with nonsensical lyrics. This was a testament to his preference of LSD at the time. The next song is Something, George Harrison's most successful commercial single. A trained listener can pleasantly appreciate his rather unusual chord progressions and voicing. It was a love song and a tribute to his wife, Patti Boyd. Ironically, it would be just four years later when Eric Clapton also sang praises for the same woman. Does Layla ring a bell? Another

note of interest is that Frank Sinatra, who notoriously disliked the Beatles' music, mistakenly said that Something was the best love song Lennon and McCartney ever composed! Sorry, George.

The third cut, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, was a McCartney yarn about a serial killer/medical student. In one verse, Paul hits a note a bit on the flat side and starts laughing about it! They just left the recording as it was. On another note, Lennon would say years later that he particularly "hated" this tune. Oh! Darling is another McCartney blues that features the then-fantastic range of his singing voice. Octopus' Garden is a Richard Starkey (alias Ringo Starr) creation. A bit childlike in content, it nevertheless puts the listener into a happy, carefree state of mind. The next cut is one of the best tunes the Beatles ever recorded. I Want You (She's So Heavy) is a Lennon-driven song that alternates between straight-ahead minor blues and a spellbinding refrain that makes use of a shrilling augmented chord rarely found in the rock genre. The song ends Side One suddenly and abruptly by being deliberately cut off. After forty years, one would think I'd know when it's coming, but to this day, I still jump out of my skin when I hear it.

On to Side Two. Well, I guess that has little meaning to you CD owners. At any rate, Here Comes the Sun is a Harrison masterpiece. His brilliant acoustic guitar technique is highlighted quite nicely against a mellotron, which can be thought of as a sort of early synthesizer. Next in line is Because, a sort of Beethoven-in-reverse influenced Lennon ballad. As the story goes, his wife Yoko Ono was playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano. John asked her to play it backwards, and thus Because was written. The ninth track, You Never Give me Your Money, is one of McCartney's best. The tune makes use of ragtime jazz elements as well as the straightforward rock of the late 1960's.

The next three songs are all Lennon: Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, and Polythene Pam. Respectively, they consist of a slow ballad, a mid-tempo piece featuring the electric piano, and a guitar-driven rocker. She Came in Through the Bathroom Window is a fun song from Paul that Joe Cocker would virtually own a few months later. Golden Slumbers is a beautiful ballad that was also a McCartney creation. He still performs this song often today. The LP moves on to Carry That Weight; a sort of chant led with Ringo's voice which includes a brief reprise to the melody of You Never Give me Your Money. As the reprise ends, the album jumps right into The End, a McCartney rocker that features Ringo's only recorded drum solo followed by alternating guitar riffs from Paul, George, and John. This song was the perfect representation of hard rock as it sounded in 1969.

Just when the listener thinks the album has reached its end with; appropriately a song with the same title, a ringing acoustic guitar chord makes its presence known. Her Majesty, Paul's jovial poking at Queen Elizabeth II, lasts a mere 23 seconds to conclude the album.

Classic rock music has become quite popular; not only among those who were there before it earned vintage status, but also for fresh, younger audiences. One would be hard-pressed to find a finer example from this genre than Abbey Road. This album has crossed virtually every age barrier and will continue to withstand the test of time.

I guess this is why The Beatles saved their best for last.

Manayunk, PA Plastic Surgery

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