Monday, June 29, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: The Beatles 1970

Ok, so today I was in a mood and decided to check on each of the Beatles' solo albums immediately following their acrimonious divorce, because as I recall, they all had still sounded Beatle-esque at that time, particularly since a lot of the songs on their solo albums were stuff that they had been writing during the Let It Be sessions.... at least Paul's stuff, anyway.

So I have to say that my original assessment still fairly well holds true.  Except for Ringo's albums, which I did not listen to at the time, I must admit.

To rank them: McCartney's solo foray ranks right at the top.  This one is filled with great little rhythms and really nice riffs.  Definitely is a home-studio album, but the fact that he plays every single instrument is still an accomplishment that cannot be swept aside.  You can definitely see how he made the strung-together side B of Abbey Road, and that he really has an ear for melody or hook.   I have to admit, though, that his ideas (at least in the 70s) really worked best when he had a working band, who could take all his ideas and tap them down into actual songs with structure.  Still, though, of all the 1970s Beatles solo albums, this one is the most listenable.

Second is All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. Still his greatest accomplishment, although I have to say I still find the live third album boring and unlistenable.  The two studio albums I like very much, even though it does seem as though it is one song, done over and over again.  I mean, all the production is the same.  It's just that some songs have a faster tempo than others.   Still though, even though it's 14 cuts of one song, it's a nice pleasant song and good to put as background music.

The third goes to John, but really only because Ringo's albums were written by other people.  John at least wrote this material, but that's all I can say about it.  Plastic Ono Band sounds like John just went through six months of primal scream therapy and this is what he wrote of it.  Everyone prides John on being "raw" and "honest" - which is fine - there have been MANY "raw and honest" albums by artists that were also really good albums.  Just because he's baring his soul does not mean that the songs are good or that the music is good, and the songs and music on this album simply are not good.  "Working Class Hero" is really the only listenable cut on here.  "Love" is acceptable and "God" could have been made into a good song if he'd had a good producer (like George Martin) who would have really taken this song to new heights.

And then there's Ringo... Ringo actually had TWO albums, but one was some lounge jazz covers "Sentimental Journey" and one was a Bakersfield country album "Beaucoups of Blues."  I like Bakersfield music, but this album just sounded like he was singing "Act Naturally" over and over again at a karaoke machine. 

I do think that, had they stuck together for another year, of these four albums, all the chaff would be cut away and they would have probably come out with another album just as good as Abbey Road.  But sadly, they didn't and this is what we have ... but it truly shows you that, in music, it's not always the individual singer/songwriter/musician that counts.  Good music is as much the people who help you craft the music as it is your personal idea.  Good music is also production.  Production is like an instrument unto itself, something that can kill a song or make it great.   This is probably why George Martin truly was the fifth Beatle, and without him to give them guidance, they each spent 1970 trying to find their individual ways in the dark.

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