So, a few quick thoughts after spending a good chunk of the last 24 hours obsessively listening to the entire Abbey Road Deluxe Edition set.
One, I highly recommend any Beatles fan giving it a go (and any fan of music, period). In addition to the welcome clarity of the remaster, we get copious out-takes that range from interesting to revelatory: hearing the extended Side Two suite pre-orchestration is incredible; as ever, being able to see works-in-progress, particularly from the best of the best, is a necessary reminder that even GENIUSES need to work, revise, refine. Little details like slightly tweaked lyrics or musical notes make the final product, already perfect, something higher. Oh, and Ringo, the most maligned famous musician ever, is always on point….on every take he is totally locked in, full of invention and grace.
Two, I see no reason to revise my assessment from 10 years ago: “Whenever I listen to Abbey Road, I find myself feeling grateful that the collective world of musicians did not, upon hearing it for the first time, throw up their hands and get day jobs. Why bother? they did not ask, allowing us to remain thankful for everything that keeps filling our ears, all these years later. But what must it have sounded like, to mortals simply trying to occupy the same planet, when this one originally dropped?”
Two, Too: The other week I was disappointed and astonished to read a critic I admire trashing this album. We briefly corresponded and he refused to give an inch, going so far as to call “Come Together” a Chuck Berry rip-off. Aside from the fact that the opening lines are a respectful hat-tip to CB’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” the song is completely original and Lennon at the height of his playful, inscrutable powers. AND Ringo and Mac rolling and tumbling in support (my GOD those bass lines)? Unassailable, unbelievable. (And that’s just the opening track……..)
Three: no matter where you happen to fall on the whole Lennon/McCartney thing (and who was most to blame for the Beatles breaking up, etc.) two –of many– things remind me how magic their brotherhood was, and why only the music matters: during the height of Lennon’s obsession, he wanted to quickly record “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Mac, who of course must have been bristling at how JL’s focus had shifted, nevertheless was not only game, but, with RS and GH being unavailable, happily filled in on piano and DRUMS, as well as (ebullient) backing vocals. And on “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” which is the most thinly veiled dig at Yoko (and a pretty brilliant one, at that), who but John is right there lending his heavenly harmonies. IT WAS STRICTLY BUSINESS. And while it’s now indisputable that the band –at this juncture– was *not* falling apart, they were certainly not nearly as close or collegial as they’d once been; the fact that they rose to the occasion, by sheer will and ability, remains almost heroic. And ceaselessly inspiring.
Four: Paul’s ‘voice of God’ vox on the “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” medley > anything, ever. (At least that’s how I feel *every* time I listen, and that counts for everything. Still, somehow, utterly exhilarating, after alllll these years.)
Five: Even though it’s become a cliche for all the best reasons, the final lines and harmonies “and in the end….” are beyond music; beyond art. A gift to humanity.