In casual talk and conversation now some half a century since the explosion of their popularity, The Beatles
can seem a quaint phenomenon from the Sixties. But such a notion disappears when their music is playing as is the case with The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
A companion piece to Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years
, the Ron Howard film devoted to their years on the road, this audio title is a modified and expanded version of the only concert recording of the quartet, originally issued in 1977. The forty minutes plus of live performance hasn't been prettified in the least, but only brought to an increased level of fidelity through the expert use of the most modern technology comparable to that which was applied to their studio discography, as release on this same day September 9 seven years ago.
Overseen by Giles Martin, the son of the Beatles original record producer, Sir George, the team of technicians working on these live recordings is different than the one who applied themselves so meticulously to the album project of 2009, but the attention to detail is the same and wholly proportionate to the impact of hearing the music, whether on headphones or speakers of some reasonable caliber.
Balancing historical accuracy and personal passion in his essay, David Fricke devotes his well-honed writing style to a fairly lengthy essay enclosed within the twenty-four page booklet in this glossy digi-pak (designed identical to the previously-released CD sets). Juxtaposed with period photos and replications of press clippings from the time of the Hollywood Bowl appearances, the Rolling Stone Magazine
scribe's references to the Beatles career at large aids to focus on the significance of these specific shows and the group's performing career in general.
Even in the face of mass hysteria these summers of 1964 and 1965, the Beatles offer a focused measure of dynamics in their setlist. Covers like The Shirelles' "Boys" and Chuck Berry
's "Roll Over Beethoven," were designed to give drummer Ringo Starr
and guitarist George Harrison
, respectively, a chance to sing in the spotlight. At the same time, the co-authors of originals burgeoning in diversity of style handle most of the lead vocals: as bassist Paul McCartney
sings it and the band plays its imaginative arrangement with with appropriate delicacy,"Things We Said Today" foreshadows the emotional maturity of Rubber Soul
(Parlophone, 1965). Meanwhile, guitarist John Lennon
's "Help!" is as stark in its confessional tone as its choreographed, counterpoint harmonies.
As Fricke so astutely points out, such subtlety isn't really lost on the audience, and the level of nuance remains, in more primary colors, on earlier Lennon/McCartney tunes as well as compositions of recent vintage of the time. Accordingly, the quartet doesn't embrace "She Loves You" or "Can't Buy Me Love" with any less relish than "You Can't Do That" or "A Hard Day's Night;" if fact, it sounds as if those tunes of their own pace the band for the outright rock like Little Richard
's "Long Tall Sally" or Carl Perkins' "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby." The compulsion to turn the volume way up on The Beatles: Live At the Hollywood Bowl
arises long before it's over.
Both those latter numbers sound as much like declaration of roots as homage to them. Similarly, the energy of the musicianship is equal to its precision and it's unmistakable in its physical presencearguably no greater in the bass and drums than the electric guitarsin the remixed and remastered music. The patter McCartney and Lennon insert throughout maintains a lighthearted air for the Beatles as well as the seventeen thousand some fans populating the open air venue and, at the same time, give the foursome a chance to breathe between a very quick succession of the seventeen numbers here from the shows in two successive years (four of which are addenda to the initial release).
The graphic design of the Live At The Hollywood Bowl
corresponds to that of the aforementioned movie and, in that respect, may not distinguish it sufficiently within the canon of the Beatles work. Certainly there must be a plethora of stage shots, similar to the one on the back cover of this booklet, that sufficiently communicates the drama of the original occasion and the release of this content: perhaps on the seventy-fifth (or hundredth) anniversary of the dates in in question, one of those might be used. In the meantime, as slight a blemish on the release as this cannot diminish its attraction to, or its impact on, either the duly devoted or the merely curious.