Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Music Review - The Beatles - Rubber Soul

I'm trying to remember exactly where I first dipped my toe into The Beatles. It's either the movie Yellow Submarine and accompanying record (whose side two was also my introduction to classical and film music) or the red and blue double-album sets by Capital that contained all their singles. It's odd how I can't rememeber if we owned the red set, the blue set, or both. There's so much of my childhood that I can't remember but that's another story for another time.

What I DO remember, though, is having the album Rubber Soul at my disposal. What a great introduction to The Beatles! What a great introduction to music that isn't sung by Big Bird!

Created in 1965, Rubber Soul is their second album without cover songs and was the first to be recorded as a single time instead of piecemeal in stolen patches in between touring or filming. The luxury to focus, plus two years of studio experience and being pawns of the music industry, resulted in a darker, more cynical album with the boys trading in pure pop for folk rock. Gone are the simple boy-girl love songs, replaced instead by songs that better reflect the complexity of real life relationships.

It's a chicken-and-egg thing to decide if I was drawn to this melancholy sounds of this album because I was a lonely kid or if music like this made me melancholy. But melancholy is quite a fitting label for this album. In the jaded "Nowhere Man" you can almost hear the band pleading for a break in their touring schedule, that is if you listen close enough through the gorgeous vocal harmonies. "Norwegian Wood" is also a bit dour and I understand it was Lennon trying to tell his current wife or girlfriend of an affair. Then there's Lennon's "Girl" with its unorthodox but essential long, deep breath and the retrospective "In My Life" is pure nostalgia. And finally "Michelle" is the very definition of "bittersweet."

On the upside is "The Word" with that great western melody line during the bridge and "Think For Yourself" whose delicious fuzz guitar is almost flatulent. Ringo apparently taps on a matchbook on "I'm Looking Through You" which is punctuated by stabbing organs and who can listen to "Drive My Car" without shouting for "MORE COWBELL"?

Also recorded during these sessions, but released as singles, are "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out", both seriously amazing pieces of songcraft. Can you tell that I like this album? I expect great things from these lads!

And speaking of lads, how about a fantabulous cover of "We Can Work It Out" by PFR and Phil Keaggy? Take it away, boys!

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