The Beatles | LOVE
(Capitol/Apple) Grade: B+
Imagine Salvador Dali as the fifth Beatle, or maybe Timothy Leary as the Fab's fave pharmacist, and you'll get the kaleidoscopic vibe of LOVE, the trippy soundtrack to a Cirque du Soleil show playing at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
The acoustic flutters of Blackbird melt into Yesterday, Sun King runs backward as Gnik Nus, I Want to Hold Your Hand is jazzed by the "live" roars of teen adulation. On LOVE, the Beatles songbook is no longer individual pieces; instead, it's one cohesive collective of beloved beats, hooks and lyrics, chopped up and put back together again.
This tribute doesn't just mess with your head, folks - it messes with your musical DNA.
This "mashup" was helmed by legendary Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles. Almost every second of the 26-track disc was created (re-created?) using the band's original tapes. So although it might be twisted, it's also completely organic. Robust approval of the project was reportedly given by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and John Lennon and George Harrison's widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.
(By the way, you have to believe that Martin & Martin were inspired by Gnarls Barkley's DJ Danger Mouse, who infamously "mashed" together Jay-Z's Black Album with the Beatles' White Album - and started a revolution with 2004's The Grey Album. An acknowledgment of such in the liner notes would have been nice.)
Cynics will scoff that LOVE is merely another way to repackage and reap millions from the Fab Four. But although I haven't seen Cirque's music-meets-acrobatics performance, I've listened to LOVE repeatedly (obsessively?). The soundtrack is delirious fun, with iconic song bites jumping albums, years, visions - and landing in strange but satisfying places.
Is the "new music" better than the original material? Of course not. Not even close. But Beatlemaniacs and related purists should appreciate the Martins' warm touch and reverent approach. As both sonic experiment and warm tribute, LOVE soars.
Plus there's a great deal of parlor fun in name-checking the source material of each puzzle. For instance, Get Back features the opening guitar thwang! of A Hard Day's Night, the drum solo from The End, and the crescendoing strings of A Day in the Life. An echo of Hello Goodbye plays under Glass Onion. Mr. Kite mingles in Helter Skelter. And so on.
Sometimes the producers are content to play within the confines of a single song. The string section of Eleanor Rigby is now sky-high in the mix, which makes all those lonely people sound even lonelier. And as the album's most heartbreaking moment, Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps is now completely unplugged and features the only newly recorded music on LOVE: a devastatingly sad string section. If the Quiet Beatle was always your man, you'd be wise to keep the Kleenex handy.
On the Web: To hear clips, go to links.tampabay.com.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.
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