The Beatles Whether (Super Deluxe) Friday outing
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
The Beatles, who split 51 years ago, have never left. Their compilation 1 is the fourth best-selling album in Britain of this century, behind only Adele (twice as many) and Amy Winehouse. Never mind Jesus – The Beatles are bigger than Ed Sheeran.
And soon they will be here, there and everywhere. Next month, Paul McCartney is releasing The Lyrics, a beautiful hardback book telling the stories behind his songs. He’s included so many – 154, spanning 65 years – that the book comes in two volumes.
Later in November, there’s a Disney + documentary by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame. The Beatles: Get Back is based on Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s film about their last days.
Jackson, being Jackson, made it into an epic trilogy. There may be hobbits.
Hired by John Lennon (above) to polish Let It Be, Phil Spector infuriated Paul McCartney by adding a wall of saccharin
The barrage begins with an exceptional edition of Let It Be, the last studio album released by The Beatles, although it was recorded before Abbey Road. An LP that once lasted 35 minutes now spans six CDs.
Costing at least £ 110, McCartney’s book (around £ 75) seems like a steal.
Let It Be was the Beatles’ toughest child. He went through three producers: George Martin, their father figure; Glyn Johns, their young engineer, who compiled the unreleased Get Back LP, included here; and finally the talented but now dishonored Phil Spector.
Hired by John Lennon to polish Let It Be, Spector infuriated McCartney by adding a wall of saccharin.
With this edition, the Martin family strikes back. The producer is George’s son, Giles, who shares his keen ear and gentle wit. He likes to quote his father’s line on Let It Be: “produced by George Martin, overproduced by Phil Spector”.
Born, like the album itself, in 1969, Giles subtly remixed four Beatles records, starting with Sgt Pepper. “Let It Be”, he said, “sounds like a breakup album when it wasn’t”
Born, like the album itself, in 1969, Giles subtly remixed four Beatles records, starting with Sgt Pepper. “Let It Be,” he says, “sounds like a breakup album when it wasn’t. And Abbey Road was a breakup album, but it doesn’t sound like it. ‘
The sessions, perfectly captured here, went from heartfelt to shy. McCartney brought the ballads – the title track and The Long And Winding Road, two classics – as well as the provocative euphoria of Get Back.
Lennon brought in the bile, making bitter little jokes. The only glimpse of his greatness was a draft of Gimme Some Truth.
That left more room for George Harrison, who rose to the challenge with For You Blue, the freshest of blues numbers, and I Me Mine, a waltz-rock hybrid whose theme – self-centeredness – is still about news today.
Ringo Starr, as always, brought swing and social skills.
The Glyn Johns album is aptly named by going back to basics. The set demonstrates the musical differences of The Beatles – but also their magical chemistry.
Back in the present, the concert of the week was Scritti politti. By performing their masterpiece, Cupid & Psyche 85, in its entirety, they proved that there is still life in old white funk.
Their frontman, Green Gartside, ignored his stage fright and clung to his falsetto, while Rhodri Marsden, on keyboards, provides everything from bass to brass.
Scritti is coming back next month, opening for OMD: you won’t find a better support number.
James blake Friends who break your heart Outside now
Did you have a song that got you through the long days of confinement? Mine was James Blake’s sublime cover of Stevie Wonder’s Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer.
It takes courage to step into Wonder’s shoes, but Blake, like George Michael before him, has the courage – and the lungs.
At only 33 years old, Blake is the most influential British musician since Radiohead. Her sleek minimalism has inspired everyone from Beyoncé to Billie Eilish.
It takes courage to step into Stevie Wonder’s shoes, but James Blake (above), like George Michael before him, has the courage – and the lungs
His specialty is the scary electro ballad, which could be a problem now that he’s found domestic bliss in LA with Jameela Jamil, the actress and DJ. But he tends to look on the dark side of life, so he always broods over breakups – friends now, rather than lovers.
It’s a smart move, to examine a type of bruise that everyone is familiar with, and it plays on Blake’s strengths. You’ll have one ear for her golden voice and the other for her daring production, which ranges from a finger snap to a church organ blast.
Minimalism can be cold, but in Blake’s hands, it’s addicting. Less is more-ish.
He varies the pace by bringing in talented rappers such as SZA and JID, but the magic lies in the ballads, from Say What You Will to the fearless and haunting Funeral. Hope they will be covered by Stevie Wonder.