Love – The Beatles
If you really must have another excuse to listen to the Beatles this holiday season, all you need is Love — a fresh-sounding 78-minute mix of Beatles music constructed by producer George Martin and his son, Giles. Created for the use of Cirque de Soleil’s Beatles production, which is probably irrelevant, Love is an authorized almost-mash-up. Scouring the Fab mastertapes, the Martins rearrange at will, snipping and layering and sorting with glee.
The results are far from perfect, but — being entirely made of Beatlemusic — never frustrating, and always compulsively listenable. At its best, surprise follows surprise. During the two-minute outro to "Strawberry Fields Forever," the music effortlessly segues from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (the horn fill), "In My Life" (the baroque piano in the middle), "Penny Lane" (the over-the-head fanfare), "Piggies" (more baroque middle eight stuff, now on clavinet), "Hello, Goodbye" (the "hey la" vocals creating new harmonies over "Piggies" before everything but the drums, probably from another song I'm not placing, drop out). It's all mildly breathtaking, actually, if only for the shock of it. Then, George intones "Within You, Without You," atop Ringo's "Tomorrow Never Knows" drums. Dude. (And for those who hate the wussy McCartneyness, "Blackbird" and "Yesterday" are helpfully mashed into one track, for easy skippability. I'm just sayin'.)
Mostly, one wishes the Martins were more adventurous. Rather than the ADD promoted by genre-defining acts like Girl Talk, the Martins often leave well enough alone — barely tweaking songs for minutes at a time. Despite whatever other weirdness may appear, every song has a firm anchor (which also makes it the perfect introduction to mash-ups for your parents or anybody else). The aforementioned "Strawberry Fields" continues stably as "Strawberry Fields" for a full two minutes before blooming into newness. Always, the songs' original versions exert a moon-like force, pulling the Martins towards equilibrium.
On "Octopus's Garden," the two create a luminous aquatic world for Ringo out of strings and "Yellow Submarine" samples, but only allow him to occupy it for 30 seconds at the top of the track before dropping into the song's proper arrangement. Too bad. (Though, to be fair, they're plenty patient with a new version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," retrofitting George's solo acoustic demo with a string section — perfectly pleasant, though not as transcendent as the unadorned demo, available on Anthology.)
Still, even when the two keep everything apparently as is (hey, there’s not much you can to do "I am the Walrus" to make it weirder), the music is now mixed to 2006 standards, and sounds less one-dimensional than the last remastering of the catalogue. And if you didn’t need another excuse to listen to the Beatles, then — surprise! — Love is for you specifically, because now you have one.