Saturday, February 23, 2008

163. The Beatles: Past Masters Volume One (1988)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

This album was a bit of a curiosity to me at first. It was released in 1990, long after the band's other albums, and appears to be some sort of compilation. But of what?

So I did some research and discovered that bands used to put out something called 45's or "singles". And, get this, the songs almost never appeared on any proper album! Can you believe that? Apparently, The Beatles did it all the time.

Covering singles from their first three years (1963 - 1965), this is a collection that draws a strong dividing line. You see, singles were somewhat poorly named. There was not just one song on the record, but rather one on each side, the back side (or b-side) being often a throwaway track from the artist. Going by Past Masters Volume One, The Beatles put populist, sweet songs out as singles, and used the b-sides to work out their rockier tendencies.

As a bit of a format change, I'll talk about each pair songs that were released together.

From Me To You / Thank You Girl: The a-side is a bang-up, harmony-rich toe-tapper with shrewd lyric that allow the listener to pretend that they are the he or she the band is singing directly to. The back up is a bit raw, with a garage sound to the instruments that contrasts nicely with John and Paul's strongly blended voices. Like its partner, the use of the 2nd person is very effective. This is a rare case where either of the songs, in my opinion, could have been the lead.

She Loves You / I'll Get You: More "you" usage, but She Loves You has a deceptive complexity, in that the narrator is somewhat removed from the proceedings himself and is merely encouraging another guy to go after a girl. The song is strong and energetic, with a chill-inducing "ohhh!" right before the chorus. How did this not end up on an album?! In contrast, I'll Get You is sort of plodding and pedestrian.

I Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy: These two win the best combo award hands down. The lead is a hand-clappy John confection punctuated by near screaming in the middle of the chorus. This Boy is a transcendent '50s throwback. A warning though, don't try to follow all of the thises and thats in the song or you'll get a headache. Instead, just relax and enjoy the heavenly three-part harmonies.

I Feel Fine / She's A Woman: I Feel Fine shows of John's increasingly progressive nature, opening with feedback and challenging traditional structure. The lyrics, however, are predictable. She's A Woman is a Paul showcase wherein he creates a compositional and vocal homage to R & B rave-ups. It's charming.

The collection is filled out by German-language versions of She Loves You (Sie Liebt Dich) and I Want To Hold Your Hand (Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand) that are interesting in theory only, a four song EP that features three rocking covers and one rocking original, and the b-sides for Ticket To Ride and Help!. Yes It Is is in the This Boy tradition and I'm Down is another Paul R & B workout.

Taken as an album, Past Masters Volume One simply doesn't hold up. But as a collection of important songs you can't get elsewhere, it's invaluable. How such an obscure group warranted such a comprehensive release, I'll never know, but we're lucky to have it.

Grade: C
Fave Song: This Boy

1 comment:

sexy said...