How many words have been written about The Beatles in the last five and a half decades? Too damn many that’s for certain, but it’s also probably one of the greatest indicators of how they still stand like an immovable colossus over popular culture. Almost fifty years after they imploded in a cloud of legal action, arguments over finances and petty one-upmanship, they are still the band that matters the most to most people. Indeed, how else would you account for the major contrast in opinions that greeted this controversial album?
In all honesty, this writer was in two minds of whether to even include Love on this A to Z list of great compilations, given how much it split opinions on its first release, and how it continues to do so. After all, I could equally have made a strong argument for Blur’s Midlife, being a smart rewriting of that band’s history, simply by omitting their most annoying singles, and who really needs to know about another Beatles compilation, especially one that so many saw as an abomination? Then I listened to Love again, and I knew I had to make my case.
To many fans the original recordings by The Beatles are sacred gifts not to be tampered with and the cut and paste, chop and change rejigging of their works are the most heinous crimes imaginable. While I on the whole frown on the dissection, rearranging, remixing and general buggering about with music, an argument can be made that Love is an informative and entertaining demonstration of how, if the original source material is treat with the appropriate reverence and respect, this mucking about with timeless music can actually bring a new dimension to listening to songs you thought you knew off by heart.
Effectively a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, what many of its critics overlook with Love is the fact that if Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison did’t like the end result, then the whole project would have been shelved. Love was not just some chancer spending far too much time in their bedroom on Garage Band, instead it was effectively the proving ground for Giles (son of George) Martin to learn at the side of his dad and demonstrate he had what it took to take on the daunting task of remastering the whole of The Beatles back catalogue for its much trumpeted re-release in 2009. Needless to say, he got the job.
Much of the immediate appeal of Love is the desire to dissect every piece of music and try and figure out which Beatles recording that drum beat / guitar riff / bassline / piano motif came from. For the Beatle anorak this can either provide many happy hours of entertainment or frustration, for the rest of us it’s something which initially distracts us to how good these recordings sound. Eventually though you begin to appreciate just how great these tunes were and how vibrant they still sound, after all, this is the greatest pop band of all time, effectively listened to through an audio kaleidoscope, with each song segueing into the next, giving the impression of one seamless performance piece.
If I do have a grumble about Love, it’s that too much of the material here has been taken from the latter half of The Beatles career, and not enough from their energetic early years, when they were a guitar-driven pure pop act without rival. Also, some of the song choices are just too damn obvious – granted The Beatles released some of the greatest singles ever recorded, but as their albums have always shown, they were so much more than the stuff that topped the pop charts.
These are minor grumbles though, as ultimately Love is a thoroughly entertaining listening experience and which is the whole point of buying albums really. While purists may be outraged that such liberties have been taken with the original songs, the rest of us can sit back and listen to one of the finest Beatles mix tapes ever assembled.