Reissues (November 21): The Beatles, Procol Harum and more

Reissues (November 21): The Beatles, Procol Harum and more

Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including The Beatles, Procol Harum and more...

The Beatles
(Apple Corps/Universal 26757195)

The ninth of 12 studio albums they recorded in a glorious recording career of seven years, The Beatles’ eponymous 1968 album – better known as The White Album – is one of their most diverse and durable collections, and has been extensively expanded to mark its 50th birthday. New Giles Martin stereo and 5.1 mixes of the 30 tracks that comprised the original release are supplemented by a further 27 acoustic demos made at George Harrison’s studio in Esher, and 50 session takes, newly mixed and in chronological recording order, most of which have never been officially released before. This sumptuous new edition of the album, consisting of 6 CDs and a DVD, is housed in a slipsleeved 164 page hardback book with rare photographs, reproductions of handwritten lyrics, an introduction from Paul McCartney and comprehensive track by track annotations from Kevin Howlett. Also included are the large fold-out poster and individual colour photographs of the Beatles bundled with the original release. Giles Martin is on record as saying that the new mixes ‘peel back the layers,’ and they are certainly crisp and punchy, with the Beach Boys style backing vocals of the album’s opener, Paul McCartney’s Back In The U.S.S.R., sounding more exuberant than ever. The more measured John Lennon song Dear Prudence – written for Mia Farrow’s sister in India – is sublime, but the real revelation of the album is how good George Harrison’s songs are, with the elegant While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the lilting Long Long Long, and the more frivolous Savoy Truffle – which nevertheless attracted a cover from Ella Fitzgerald – among his best. Although Lennon is widely regarded as The Beatles’ rocker, and proves his mettle on Revolution and Yer Blues, he also penned the novelty Bungalow Bill, and Julia, an ethereal tribute to his mother, while McCartney gets down and dirty with Birthday and Why Don’t We Do It In The Road. Macca also provided some of the album’s most memorable songs, including the classically-styled Martha My Dear, the delicately beautiful Mother Nature’s Son and the album’s top digital era seller, Blackbird. Kevin Howlett’s excellent notes reveal that although the song – a lilting ballad on which a solo McCartney accompanies himself on guitar – was written on his Scottish farm, its lyrics obliquely refer to civil rights rather than wildlife. The Esher demos are largely stripped back, of slightly inferior sound quality and wholly compelling, with excellent try-outs of Piggies – George Harrison’s anti-establishment rant – Glass Onion and Polythene Pam alongside tracks which failed to make the cut at the time but later emerged on solo albums, including McCartney’s melodic Junk, Harrison’s Circles and Lennon’s Child Of Nature, which evolved into Jealous Guy.  The session takes are richer in sound, and closer to the final tracks in most cases but still throw up some surprises including a full version of Can You Take Me Back, a track which is coupled to Cry Baby Cry and occupies only 30 seconds on the original album but which is nearly five times as long and quite haunting here, although clearly not finished. In addition to the CD/DVD edition, the album is also simultaneously released on 2 LP (6769686), 4 LP (6757201), 3 CD (6757133) and digital editions.


…Don’t Take Your Cash To Town, John
(Jasmine JASCD 853)

Answer discs, parodies and sequels have been around a long time, with Arthur Collins’ tongue-in-cheek I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Don’t Come Home answering his own Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey in 1902. As far as the charts are concerned, the most successful such pair came in 2004, when Eamon’s F**k, I Don’t Want You Back was responded to and replaced at the top of the singles chart by Frankee’s F.U.R.B. (F U Right Back). Sub-titled Improbable Spoofs, Sequels & Answer Discs, this album consists of 29 pairs of tracks, consisting of an original and a response thereto. All recorded during the golden era of the form, between 1952 and 1962, they include some genuinely good records, regardless of their novelty appeal. The best have to be Little Esther Phillips’ R&B/country recording of Release Me – later a No.1 for Tom Jones – which provoked a similarly soulful I’ll Release You from Ted Taylor. Annette’s paean to Tall Paul tempted Carole King, no less, to try her luck with Short Mort, and while The Tokens observed that The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Romeos warned that The Tiger’s Wide Awake. The Bobettes responded to their own Mr Lee with the more sinister sequel, I Shot Mr. Lee, and Ernie K. Doe’s dissing of his Mother-In-Law prompted Louise Brown’s scathing response, Son-In-Law. Sometimes the artists responsible for these songs and sequels were known to each other, sometimes not - but there’s little doubt that Linda Laurie’s Stay-At-Home Sue, one of several responses to Dion’s Runaround Sue, was given his blessing, as it came out on a subsidiary of his label, with what sounds like the same backing track. This engaging collection’s title, incidentally, comes from Ben Colder’s reposte to Johnny Cash’s Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.


The Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
(Esoteric ECLEC 2650)

A Whiter Shade Of Pale hitmakers Procol Harum had completed five studio albums before they performed this legendary concert at The North Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Canada with the city’s Symphony Orchestra and Da Camera Singers towards the end of 1971, with their lead singer and keyboards player Gary Brooker conceiving and writing all of the parts that made this one of the finest (and earliest) collaborations between a rock band and an orchestra. Originally released as an album in April 1972, with just five songs and a playing time of nearly 48 minutes, it added a new depth and dimension to each of them, none more so than Conquistador, which had originally appeared on their eponymous debut album, but which turned from a pleasant album filler to a towering tour-de-force in its new incarnation, being so well received in America that the album was their highest charting set (reaching No.5) while Conquistador was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Newly remastered, the album now has a further five bonus tracks, including rare 1972 b-side Luskus Delph and two concert rehearsal recordings that are previously unreleased.      

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