Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

Let It Be: Redux

let-it-be-album-cover copy

Author’s Note: In the Oscar nominated film Boyhood, Mason Senior, played by Ethan Hawke, gives his son a mix CD entitled The Black Album. On it, he explains, is a mix of all the best songs recorded by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in the decades that followed the band’s break-up. Hearing this explanation frustrated me because for over a year I’ve been planning to create a similar list (although much more specific), and I realized that my idea wasn’t quite as original as I had once thought. I decided I’d better write this post before Boyhood takes the “Best Film” award this weekend and everyone and their mother goes and sees the film.

Let’s make something clear form the outset – Let It Be is not a classic album. Heck, it’s not even a great album. Songs like “Across the Universe,” “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Let It Be” are certainly excellent songs that belong in the pantheon of the band’s biggest hits, but once you get beyond these classics, you’re left with an album of filler. The members of the band would probably have agreed with this assertion. Lennon himself described the recordings as “the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

Despite their reservations, the band, which happened to be on the verge of breaking up, were forced to gather leftover material from their botched documentary, Get Back, and piece together an album in order to relieve contractual obligations. As a result, you get two tracks that clock in under a minute and a handful of sloppy blues songs. Even the songs that live on in infamy are swathed in unnecessary orchestral swells as a result of Lennon asking Phil Spector to come in and try to rescue the shambolic tapes that remained.

The Get Back Sessions, or Lennon called them, "The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

The Get Back Sessions, or as Lennon called them, “The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

What bothers me more than the lackluster songs on Let It Be is the fact that John, Paul, George and Ringo all released solo albums that same year – 42 original songs that could have been used on Let It Be instead of their own projects (at this time, the members of the band had become very territorial with their songwriting, and the one-time collaborative spirit was all but dead).
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That Guy Who Sang “Closing Time”

As I watched Adele accept her Grammy for “Album of the Year,” I had a moment of surprise (the first shocker after three hours of predictable performances, winners, and speeches).  There, behind the teary eyed songstress, stood a be-speckled gentlemen with a goofy smile on his face. Something about the guy felt strangely familiar…and then it hit me. Dan Wilson! (Or as you may know him, the lead singer from the 90s alterna-pop band Semisonic.) I’ve been a fan of the band since I was 17, back then jamming out to “The Great Divide” on what seemed like a daily basis.   The instant I saw him, I knew exactly why he was there – he must have written music for Adele.

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End of Summer Albums 2010

Summer’s almost over.  But that makes this even more pertinent.  And it’s not like the value of these great albums will diminish in the first few days of fall—although we may have to do another one for autumn.  We decided to do this after Android50’s Best Summer Albums of 2010. Not that we hated the list or the music of 2010.  Our input just wasn’t asked for, like Android50 had some sort of monopoly on summer tunes.  So here is our list, no restrictions, just albums we have been listening to this summer.  Looking through it, it gets me all excited, as it just might turn some on to some new tunes.  As for me, Kid Kilowatt took my Jawbox (I love Novelty), but besides that Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums (Lust for Life & the Idiot) are great to bike around to and have been in heavy rotation, Yo La Tengo have made a huge comeback (I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One) would be perfect for this time of year and autumn, but it was played constantly this summer as well.  I got hooked on Will Oldham’s Palace incarnations, especially Viva Last Blues and Sleater-Kinney (especially One Beat & All Hands on the Bad One)  once again—it had been a while.  Oxbow, Beach House (an obvious pick), Smog, Destroyer (City of Daughters is soooooo good), Dinosaur Jr.’s Beyond, Guided by Voices, High on Fire, Modest Mouse (I think I have Songssuck to blame for this one, as he made me revisit Moon & Antarctica due to the 2000 list), My Morning Jacket (their first three, don’t talk to me about them after that), Neurosis, Mastodon, and the Woods made up the majority of my playlists this summer.

Of course the start of the summer saw me listening to nothing but Isis, Dio and Black Sabbath.  It was a sad time for a while.  But I said goodbye to Dio and Isis in my own way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still miss them.  Lots of stuff to check and revisit (for some reason the 90s were in VERY heavy rotation this summer, hum), enjoy what’s left of the nice weather with these great picks!

Emitt Rhodes

s/t
(ABC/Dunhill Records: 1970)

8.6

Being a big Paul McCartney fan I was hesitant to try Pthestudp’s recommendation of this album. I started to hear about it in other places, and Pthestudp insisted we listen to it.  Forgive me, I should have proponent of Emitt long ago.  The McCartney comparison is unavoidable, as even his voice sounds like Sir McCartneys.  But unlike Paul’s work with Wings, these songs never veer towards overkill and are brilliant.  His four solo albums have been re-released, but it was his self-titled debut that one HAS to have in their collection.  Perfect summer listening.  – Suzy Creamcheese

Unwound

Fake Train/New Plastic Ideas/The Future of What/Repetition/ Challenge for a Civilized Society/Leaves Turn Inside You
(Kill Rock Stars: 1993/94/95/96/98/01)

Really I could have picked any Unwound album (and I did).  They are all fantastic.  Start with the beginning, (93’s Fake Train) if you wish.  I have always told people Unwound are Sonic Youth plus Fugazi.  And I don’t fucken lie about shit like that.  So fucking underrated it pisses me off. – Songssuck


Gandalf

s/t

(Capitol Records: 1969)

8.4

Psychedelic, poppy, spooky—this one, in a sea of lost 60’s artifacts, stands out as being legit. No hype here, these guys have it.  I dig it out every summer and it is a required listen on summer road trips, with no one I have played it for not being enchanted and won over. – Willie Rambo Strider


Fennesz

Endless Summer

(Mego: 2001)

9.1

I play this album over and over again.  Guitars processed & distorted beyond recognition.  The sounds come from summer, but not summer on this planet.  Summer in a much better time and place. Summer somewhere, when it rains, it rains drops of warm sunshine.  Though maybe, this place is just a summery state of mind. – Tyrannosaurus Banks

Leo Cuypers

Heavy Days Are Here Again

(BVHaast: 1981)

AK-47

I wanted to highlight this one during our ‘Best of 2000’ list, but Songssuck said absolutely no reissues.  So here we are, with an unheard of classic from 1981.  Have you ever seen those ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ posters/decorations?  Well, those schmucks should just hang this LP on their wall instead, because this album is just bursting at the seams with the exuberant energy from those three entities.  Pthestudp described it as Schroeder’s soundtrack to Charlie Brown losing his virginity on a roller coaster to Lucy.  Fuck yah! –Tyrannosaurus Banks

Band of Horses

Cease to Begin
(Sub Pop: 2007)

8.5

I did me some listening to the Band of Horses this summer.  Reminds me a bit of old My Morning Jacket, lots of grandiosity, lots of reverb, guitars making the night sky seem small.  Pretty great.  –Dr. Anonymous

Borbetomagus

Barbed Wire Maggots
(Agaric: 1982)

AK-47

Fierce.  Free.  Uncompromising.  Because something has to be.  The problem is most people go into this album looking for jazz.  This ain’t jazz.  It’s the sound of a herd of wild stallions that have never seen a harness.  And the fuck if these ones ever will. –Kid Kilowatt

Cold Sun

Dark Shadows
(World in Sound: 1973)

Deserves its Holy Grail status.

Roky Erickson fronting Pavement.  Captain Beefheart jamming with the Grateful Dead.  Good shit. – Ho Chi Unser Jr.

Jawbox

Novelty/For Your Own Special Sweetheart
(Dischord Records: 1992/Atlantic: 1994)

These are classics, one cannot rate a classic.

For these two, Jawbox may have become mightier than their labelmates, Fugazi.  Some songs on these two remind me of The Jesus Lizard, but Jawbox were always Big Blackier then Minor Threaty.  I like Novelty better than their major label debut (I know, I know, probably wouldn’t have been possible without major label money, but I would like to hear it with more balls), but both are essential 90s documents.  Make sure you take them both with you when rock climbing.  –Kid Kilowatt

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Bullion “The Beach Boys vs. J Dilla- Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee”

Bunion
“The Beach Boys vs. J Dilla- Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee”

Rating: 8

When it first came out, Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” was pretty innovative. I can’t deny that the idea of taking Jay-Z’s raps and mixing them over the Beatle’s “White Album” was pretty ingenious. But as The Wolf would say, “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks just yet.” Let’s be frank: “The Grey Album” was a cute concept; not the earth-shattering work of art that it was portrayed as by music critics (“Entertainment Weekly” named it the album of the year and “Rolling Stone” proclaimed it “the ultimate remix album”). The “ultimate remix album”? Really?

In hindsight, the album consists primarily of Jay-Z’s raps while The Beatles play second fiddle. Often, you can’t even make-out what Beatle’s song is being used, and more commonly, the background music is a garbled distraction with bleeps and squeaks popping out of the speakers sporadically. When you get down to it, Danger Mouse’s mash-up creation didn’t take much talent at all (a lot of patience I suppose).  My friend Tim always joked that he could do the same thing using his basic audio mixing program Acid, although his idea was to mix Jay-Z over Journey (he wanted to call it “Journ-Z”).

You can't deny the possibilities of "H-to the Iz-Open Arms".

Maybe “The Grey Album was the best remix album in the early days of the mash-up, but looking back, Danger Mouse’s opus sounds amateurish.  Since then we’ve seen other DJs take DM’s concept into more interesting horizons. For example, this past year, Bullion released “The Beach Boys vs. J. Dilla”. Instead of just tossing some rapper vocals over remixed audio, British DJ/Producer Bullion has taken two of the best producers of the past 50 years (hip-hop producer J Dilla and the Beach Boy’s mastermind Brian Wilson) and intertwined their sounds in a way that is intricate and refreshing. I should point out now that this actually isn’t even a mash-up. Rather, Bullion took “Pet Sounds” and ran it through his interpretation of J Dilla’s sound; his legacy. It’s more of a re-imagining, answering the question that I’m sure no one has ever asked: “What would it sound like if J Dilla produced ‘Pet Sounds’?”

J Dilla, possibly the greatest hip-hop producer of all time, died back in 2006. Over the past two decades he was involved with albums for some of the biggest names in the rap community: Tribe Called Quest, Redman, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, etc. Within Bullion’s tweaking of the Beach Boys you hear echos of J Dilla’s classic sound, although it’s impossible to fully capture what J. Dilla did within his production.
Speaking of production, The Beach Boy’s “Pet Sounds” is looked at as a benchmark in the field. This is due to Brian Wilson’s orchestration, complex arrangements, and his vast use of track-layering. It is impossible to overestimate the expansive influence this one album had on music as we know it. “Sergent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” would not exist, and if “Sgt Peppers” was never made…well…there may not be any Nickelback. Paul McCartney went so far as to call it “…the classic of the century”.  Of course, he also said that he’s “…often played Pet Sounds and cried.” Then again, we always knew Paul was a little mary.

Bullion has taken these two classic sounds and created something that tastes refreshing.  In recent years we’ve seen the re-emergence of a focus on vocal harmonies in bands like Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective, and on this album we are reminded that The Beach Boys were mastering this approach decades ago.  While there is the classic B-Boys vocals, there are no rap vocals here. At times it feels like without a rapper spitting rhymes that the songs may be missing something, but then again, the lyrics would only hide the brilliance going on in the background.

Each track runs 2-3 minutes, and this is more than enough. Actually, the album seems to run a bit long. You can only listen to garbled Brian Wilson for so long.  Of course, you can always just listen to the album in pieces, or even better, as background music. If you’re one of those headphone wearing folk who sit and dissect ever nuance of a song, you may be disappointed.

On the album, Bullion doesn’t rely solely on the two producers at hand.  On “God Only Knows” he brings in audio of soul singing sisters, taken from some cover version of the tune, giving the track a GZA vibe.

At times interview audio of Brian Wilson emerge, talking about the spiritual power of music and on “Let’s Go Away for a While” he even pops in to make some producing requests. If you don’t smile when he calls for the drums, you simply have no soul.

No, I’m not going to name this the “greatest mix-tape ever” (that honor goes to the mix-tape I made in 9th grade entitled “Master Scab” featuring Dinosaur Jr AND Fugazi), but I do believe what Bunion has accomplished here is much more complex and intriguing than the pseudo classic “The Grey Album”.

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