Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rubber Soul

I just downloaded Rubber Soul (and The BEATLES, aka the White Album) from iTunes. Why? Because it's an album that I never purchased and that never received the time and attention from me that it deserved. When it was released in December of 1965, I was 11. In those days, 11 year-old boys weren't buying many albums.  

I still don't use P2P services to get music. I now use Rdio or Spotify almost exclusively. But I wanted to "own" these tracks and be able to access them across multiple devices.  

Drive My Car. The whole things kicks off with "Drive My Car." Their raw rock'n roll from the Hamburg-club-era comes through, and it's easy to imagine them performing this one live to a screaming audience. The structure of the song is mostly familiar, the piano riff sounds like it could have been recorded at Motown studios, and the guitar solo is stuck in an earlier era - before most lead guitar players discovered the beauty of "11" on a distorting amplifier with tortured speakers pushed to their limits. Clapton, Hendrix and Page hadn't yet taken center stage in the popular music of 1965. Yet you can almost hear Jimi Hendrix in some of the guitar sounds here. there are interesting surprizes here too.  Lennon and McCartney are pushing boundaries from the start. The harmonies are purposefully dissonant and evocative. There are surpising melodic and harmonic choices. And the edge and timber of the lead vocals is brilliant - pointing the way to successive generations of singers including Joe Cocker, Steven Stills, and much later Ray LaMontagne.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). Sitar! The first use of a sitar in a recording by a rock band.    

You Won't See Me. A great pop tune! Written by Lennon & McCartney. This seems almost to be a throwback to the stylistic conventions of their earliest recordings - Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963), A Hard Day's Night (1964), and Beatles for Sale. 

Nowhere Man. Now we're looking at the future. The a capella beginning sounds nothing like the band's earlier work. The innovation seems to be in the vocals, lyrics and songwriting rather than in the revolutionary combination or introduction of other sounds or instruments.  

Think for Yourself. Nice! This one's a real combination of older and newer sounds and directions. "Do what you want to do. And go where you're going to. Think for yourself 'cause I won't be there with you."

The Word. Great vocal harmonies. Great vocals from both Lennon and McCartney. It often seems to me that Ringo just barely holds it together here and elsewhere on some of his drum fills.

Michelle. This is just brilliant songwriting - melodic line and chord changes - and superb vocal performance. No wonder this has become a standard. 

What Goes On. Country music! Big time! Ringo gets his turn at the vocals. It's not very sophisticated musically or lyrically. 

Girl. Really nice melodic line and harmonies. Feels quite French influenced. 

I'm Looking Through You. It's difficult to listen to these songs and not be blown away by the incredible vocal abilities - particularly of Lennon and McCartney - and in this case McCartney shines. He shines on the bass here as well. 

In My Life. Wikipedia indicates the "harpsichord" solo is actually a piano played by George Martin, recorded at half speed and doubled to match the songs original tempo. 

Wait. Nice vocal harmonies and a cool changeup on the core rhythmic interplay between verse and choruses. 

If I Needed Someone. Classic Beatles beginning: deep bass, arpeggiated guitar. The vocals almost feel like CSN&Y and McCartney plays a great pedal point ostinato in the bass as the chords change.  

Run For Your Life. The guitar lick that kicks this off calls to mind much of George Harrison's work in other contexts - Paperback Writer, Ticket To Ride, etc. Again, the tone of the lead guitar is that thin sound that harkens back more to the 50s that what was soon to come. 



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