on August 1, 2005
George Martin (in the "Anthology" DVDs) and others have said that the White Album could/should have been edited down to a single album, which, if done well, would surely have placed it along with Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's as one of the finest albums in the history of pop/rock. I agree, but the downside is that by so doing, you would lose so many of the quirky but wonderful songs that are on the album, songs that don't have "hit" written all over them, but which are nevertheless memorable. Some of the songs we might not have gotten if this had been cut down to a single album might include "Wild Honey Pie," which is nuts, but I love it anyway (Paul showing us he's capable of dementia too, and not just carefully-crafted great pop hits), "Don't Pass Me By," a derivative piece of C&W fluff by Ringo (but which is nevertheless unforgetable; I find myself belting it out for no reason at all while on road trips, much to the consternation of my kids), "Revolution 1" (acoustic version of Lennon's hard-rockin' classic, slowed down a bit, and still great), and "Good Night," written (I'm guessing) by Paul and sung by Ringo in what is arguably the most overproduced song the Beatles ever did. Basically, it sounds like it was recorded in the 'forties, complete with syruppy strings and heavy, roller skating arena reverb. Again, it's strange, but I'm glad it's there.
Maybe the most interesting thing about the White Album is that it shows just how far apart John and Paul had grown, artistically and, as we found out later, in other ways too. A lot of the songs are basically solo projects by either John or Paul (John: "Julia;" "Cry, Baby Cry -- Paul: "Martha my Dear;" "Blackbird," "Rocky Raccoon:), but mostly, I'm struck by both Paul's artistic range -- he shows us once again that he deserves to be included amongst the best pop songwriters in history, with songs like "Back in the USSR," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Blackbird," "I Will," "Mother Nature's Son," and "Honey Pie," but he also shows us he may arguably be the most versatile pop song writer in history too, with "Rocky Raccoon" (which is hilarious), "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" (this too is hilarious, but in a different way; again, Paul draws on the demented part of his personality!), "Birthday" (again, Paul summons up the dementia within; I love it!), and "Helter Skelter," the most racous, crazy, lettin' it all hang out, doing permanent damage to the voice song Paul ever wrote. Fantastic stuff.
John, on the other hand, is not really in Pop mode at all on this album, with a couple of possible exceptions ("Bungalow Bill" might be considered poppish, but with John's wonderfully cynical twist). "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is similarly satirical and brilliant, and includes John rapping (well, at least talking). But he's clearly in a lot of pain here, and laying bare his heart for the world to see; "Yer Blues," is a scary cry for help ("The eagle picks my eye/The worm he licks my bones/I feel so suicidal/Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones/Lonely wanna die/If I ain't dead already/Ooh girl you know the reason why"). Pretty heavy stuff.
The most unusual piece on the album is not a song at all; it's "Revolution #9," which, when I heard it as a teenager (only about thirty years ago; not long, really) I thought was just too strange, and I couldn't appreciate it. But now I appreciate even that; it's pretty avant-garde, experimental stuff, probably the first time a pop group had included "Musique Concrète" (taped sounds manipulated to make art music) on a record. Who's idea was this? I'm curious.
The White Album is by far the most unusual Beatles album of all, but it also covers the widest artistic territory. Well worth having, if you're a Beatles fan.
Today it is new to many people. However, for me it is a slice of time from my history. As with all great art after one does the best that can be done with the standards, the next step is to go out to left field that threatens to lose followers and may or may not work. Just when you thought The Beatles time had come to take that step, they came out with "The White Album" and proved that no one knows where the classics end and experimental must begin.
I was fortunate enough to obtain one of the scarce copies in 1969. In addition, it seemed funny to be playing "Back In The U.S.S.R." at West Point New York. As for the rest of the album, many reviews look on this as an eclectic collection. On the surface it maybe. Then you can hear and feel the underlying pattern of the Beatles. They are just extending their range and keeping that which makes them unique.
I believe this album is addictive.
Most people look favorably on this album others look at it as a transitional time for the Beatles. Either way they realize the Beatles as any artist have down the universal fundamentals that make good music and have adapted it to a unique style.
The few detractors are usually people that do not understand what goes into music and would benefit from an appreciation class.
True some tracks probably would not be purchased as a single. It is the peril of many albums that they must carry some of the weaker contributions.
Bottom line is that this item is worth the investment.
on January 16, 2004
There are alot of complaints about the filler on this album and that none of the songs are the strongest. But I feel that is not what the Beatles wanted, they weren't concerned with what would make up the strongest album, this was about seeing them for what they were. And I believe you can hear it in the album, you hear each song that the Beatles write reflecting the particular writer's personality. You can hear John's Meaningful lyrics and rockin music but see that he isn't afraid to pick up an acoustic and keep it real simple. You can hear Paul's wonderful music arrangements with somewhat silly lyrics (sadly a divider of Lennon/McCartney)but also that he can still do some good old rock music. You can hear George's social/religious messages in his songs plus with the best track on the album in While My Guitar Gently Weeps his emerging as the dark horse. You even get a glimpse of Ringo in his one song writing effort.
Some little jokes are on here to, like the rockin song Back In The USSR made to make fun of the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry's songs Back in the US. Glass Onion to ease the pain of critics trying to figure out songs on their last releases. And Goodnight which was originally written by John to be a simple bedtime song for his son just played on guitar, but he thought to make fun of Disney and just go overboard with orcastral arrangement (which I personally think is quite funny after growing up with the old Disney stuff).
All in all I gave it four stars because some of the songs could have been left off like Paul granny song Honey Pie and the weirdest effort ever by John Revolution #9. And as for filler songs there is always some people that like them better than all the ones that everybody else seemingly likes, and there are like possibly 4 albums on the planet that don't have any filler so I never saw the issue with that anyway.
on June 7, 2001
1968 was a very significant year in pop & rock's music growth and development. The psychedelic mood that started in 1967 together with the experimentation concepts were evolving into a heavier and more aggressive sound that eventually lead into progressive and hard rock during the 70's. The Beatles contributed to the process of change with this album that consists of a combination of solo and group efforts, and a large variety of different music styles.
Regardless of the different music preferences and the like or dislike for the Beatles' music, the "double white" adds value based on the following concepts. First, it offered a summary of almost every style played during the 60's. (1) Rock'n Roll ("Back To the USSR", "Every Body's Got Something To Hide"...), (2) Heavy Rock ("Helter Skelter", "Birthday"), (3) Electric Blues ("Yer Blues"), (4) Jazz ("Honey Pie"), (5) Folk-Rock (the album's version of "Revolution"), (6) Folk ("Blackbird", "I Will" "Julia", "Rocky Raccoon"), (7) Experimental ("Revolution No 9"), (8) Baroque ("Piggies"), (9) Raw expressions ("Wild Honey Pie", "Why Don't We Do It..."), (10) Heavy Ballads ("Happiness is a Warm Gun", "Dear Prudence", "Sexy Sadie") and, (11) Typical 60's pop (from "Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da", "While My Guitar..." through "Don't Pass Me By"). Second, the sound of the instruments evolved significantly as bass was given a protagonic role ("Dear Prudence" or "Birthday") as opposed to being kept in the back of the tracks. Guitars were used to create a forceful atmosphere ("Helter Skelter", "Every body's Got.."... "Yer Blues"). Third, the Beatles' grew as individual musicians and as a result the instrument switching during the recordings increased, thus George gets to play bass and to invite Clapton into one of his sessions, while Paul plays drums and guitars on more than one track. Many of the tracks reflect the work of a "soloist" or of a soloist with a backing group, and the White Album included more of these solo efforts than any of the Beatles previous material. However, I don't find that these characteristics diminish the quality of the album. "Blackbird" and "I Will" relate more to McCartney's solo music than to the Beatles, but so did "Yesterday", "For No One", and "Fool On the Hill". In addition, "Julia", "Cry Baby Cry" and "Sexy Sadie" were totally Lennon and distant from the Beatles music, but also were tunes like "You've Got To Hide Your...", and "Tomorrow Never Knows". The same cold be said for Harrison's compositions, were "Within You and Without You", "The Inner Light", or "Love You To", reflected more George's mood than the Beatles 60's music.
If you have doubts on the value of the "double white" and its subtleties, let me humbly recommend that you "only" compare this material with the sound of the albums issued during 1967 and 1968. Please abstain from comparing the "Double White Album" with 70's rock groups, contemporary artists, or any other group that emerged and developed after this material was released. I've received comments of listeners who argue that many of the tracks sounded raw, unfinished and disconnected from each other. As a result, some seem to think the "White Album" should have been a one record album instead of a double. Analysing the material I find that there are at least 21 songs that have the same quality standard as the material considered as the group's best. Only 9 tunes out of 30 contained in the album could be questionable. Probably the album should have been a "shorter double album".
My final comment is that the "Double White" was an innovative concept at the time it was released and I remind music lovers that most of the Beatles' music was "perfectly simple", which made it "simply perfect".
on May 4, 2005
I was outrageously impressed with other Beatles albums when I first listened to this album, and so I was disappointed with what I heard. It's nothing like the previous or latter music that they made. Many of the songs have an outtake quality to them. I thought at the time that only 5 or so songs were top notch. But on repeated hearings I have grown to appreciate this album. I would agree with another reviewer that this album, along with Abbey Road, did not have as much immediate appeal but soon grows on you.
For instance, I didn't like 'Helter Skelter' for a long time. Now I consider it a really electrifying performance. At first, I never really noticed 'I'm So Tired'. Now the bass guitar accompaniment and the vocal lethargy comes across as brilliant.
Many of the songs have beautiful melodies and harmonies.
'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' demonstrates how great the Beatles functioned as a composing team. The original, as heard on the Anthology, is pretty boring to my ear. Although George had a great melody to act as a backbone for this song, and his/Clapton's guitar melodies are wonderful, listen to McCartney's intro and contributions from the others to make this a real masterwork. (George Harrison himself credited the intro to McCartney, by the way. Don't think that McCartney was a non-participant in those songs that weren't his).
This is a fantastic album.
on July 19, 2004
The Beatles left very deep footprints, and, love them or hate them, they are a cultural force to be reckoned with. The White Album represents both the peak of their art and the nadir of their personal relationships within the group (only to be surpassed by the gruesome Let It Be sessions...). Less of a group effort, each of Fabs here showcase their individual songwriting and singing talents, using the others as session players. They decisively destroy the image of the four happy pop clones of 1964. It was a liberating move for the musicians, but it can also be a jarring experience for the listener. It is a massive, sprawling masterwork that occasionally verges on complete collapse. The Beatles were never afraid to push the envelope to breaking point and beyond: The White Album is a case-in-point. As a historical document, The White Album can be heard as the "come down" from the Summer of Love, a testament to the idealism and disillusion (and dissipation) of 1968 (the year that saw the murder of both Martin Luther King and the death of the dream of peace, both within the US and internationally with the escalation of the Vietnam War). The minimalist cover artwork can be seen as the inevitable antidote to the colorful and florid excesses of Flower Power fashion. The White Album is a historical moment preserved in song. Matching the anguish and uncertainty of the era is the anguish and schizophrenia of the Beatles music on this record.
Many (including producer George Martin) have complained that the album is too long and includes tracks of inferior quality, that it could have been boiled down to a single album of solid gold. Honestly, there is something here to offend everybody. While most people (including Paul McCartney) find Revolution #9 unlistenable, it was a major achievement of experimental electronica at the time, and it bears repeated listening (but not when you're in an Obla-di Obla-da mood!). You may find yourself consistently skipping over several tracks, like Why Don't We Do It in the Road?, Wild Honey Pie, Good Night, Don't Pass Me By because they're all put-ons.
I find myself skipping over some tracks, like Yer Blues, not because it's a poorly written tune, but because it's just too emotionally painful, which is actually an acknowledgement of Lennon's success as an artist. He was in pain, and he conveyed it all too clearly. Helter Skelter, on the other hand, is completely empty of meaning, yet is absolutely hair-raising, perhaps the most terrifying pop song ever (after I Am the Walrus). The frantic clanging of Everybody's Got Something to Hide matches perfectly with Lennon's manic mood and mystical mind at the time. He describes the most profound LSD and/or meditation experience - "Your outside is in/when your inside is out" - but the way he sings it, it sounds like he's being torn apart by the experience, making the song both inspiring and frightening. I'm So Tired is such an effective evocation of apathy, insomnia, and frustration that it also makes my hair stand on end, esp. when he screams "I'd give you everything I've got for a little peace of mind!" That song has fit into the soundtrack of my life alarmingly well. In short, some people might be put off by The White Album because it is too emotionally charged and artistically adventurous. It wasn't designed as musical wallpaper and refuses to be reduced to that. You have to be prepared to listen to The White Album. When you are, it's an exhilirating experience. If not, it might make you want to puke.
The contrast in mood between the tracks is most jarring. Lennon snarls at his fans in Glass Onion, layers sarcasm on gun lovers in Happiness is a Warm Gun, pointedly berates the Left in Revolution #1, savagely attacks the Maharishi in Sexy Sadie, wails of suicide in Yer Blues. In contrast, McCarney offers some of his mildest, sweetest songs - I Will, Blackbird, and Mother Nature's Son, as well as the syrupy, music hall kitsch of Honey Pie, Martha My Dear, and Rocky Raccoon. None of McCartney's tracks here are "deep," but if you're in the mood for some tasty musical candies, these fit the bill quite nicely. Obladi Oblada is perhaps the best of the fluffy treats here. If this is your first exposure to the Beatles, you might well wonder how the group could contain such dramatic differences in temperament. (In fact, it couldn't, and would soon collapse because of those very differences in personality).
The classic tunes of this collection certainly more than justify the purchase of the two-disc set. John offers the stunning ode to his lost mother (and to Yoko) entitled Julia. George Harrison scores perhaps his greatest triumph with While My Guitar Gently Weeps (featuring Eric Clapton on lead guitar). Lennon's Dear Prudence is another touching masterpiece, written to order to induce Prudence Farrow to quit hiding out in her bungalow at Rishikesh. Ultimately, The White Album has something to delight everyone. If you prefer to avoid some tracks, you are among the majority of listeners. That's par for The White Album course. Once again, the inconsistency of the album accurately portrays the mind of each of the Beatles at the time as well as the larger cultural environment of 1968. It is required listening for anyone interested in 20th c. pop music. But be forewarned, it's not a smooth ride.
on July 15, 2004
This album took the feat of taking a whole year of violence, love, power, and change and turned it into an epic double album. In this album you see a raw Beatles never seen before. you see the cracks in the amour, but if you look into those cracks you see four extremly talented young men who are putting themselves out there with no fear. Featuring John's pain influenced lyrics such as Yer Blues, Revolution, and I'm So Tired to his thoughtful Julia, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, and Glass Onoin.
Paul comes out with some of his best love songs he's done to this date (I Will, Honey Pie, and Blackbird). But also shows he can get down to some rock with songs like Helter Skelter and Why Don't we do it in the Road?
George really comes out with his best songs on this album (maybe all the meditation?) with the sad and thoughtful While my Guitar Gently Weeps to the social commentary of the rich in Piggies. He also shows his hand at making fun sing-a-long songs such as Savory Truffle and the haunting Long, Long, Long.
And guess what, even Ringo made a song for this one. Don't Pass Me By is not the best Beatle song, but it's a start.
Overall this album conjers up a feeling an album has never brought up before. From Back in the U.S.S.R. to the excellent Happiness is a Warm Gun, the craziness of Revolution 9, and finally leaving you at peace with Good Night you have turned it off a more imformed person. A better person.
on July 12, 2004
I will be the first to admit that I am not an avid beatles fan. I certainly appreciate their music and contribution to that wonderful institution known as rock and roll. However, I am not of the school of thought that they are somehow above criticism, or (as a natural progression) that everything they touched turned to gold. No band has ever had a career like that, and the beatles are no exception.
The main problem with the White Album, as I see it, is the narcotics the band was taking at the time of recording. There is no other explanation for the existence of songs such as "Bungalow Bill", "Why Don't We Do It In the Road", and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide", to cite a few examples.
As a friend of mine explained to me, within these two discs resides one solid disc of tunes, which I can accept. "Back in the USSR", "I Will", While My Guitar gently Weeps" and others are among the best of the band's career, and showcase each band memeber's strengths (my personal feelings about Ringo aside...) Pared down to one disc, the White Album would rank as among the finest releases of the Beatles career.
But the album is weighed down by the songs that *wouldn't* make it onto the "one disc", and it suffers tremendously as a result. Too many songs are experimental to the point of being unlistenable, drug-induced, or simply nonsensical. I know some people claim that each song has a greater meaning, they all fit together with a theme the album has, etc. Well, I don't hear that. i find myself hitting the "skip" button far too many times to consider this album an all-time classic.
Luckily, the band released better material (by way of Let It Be--the original version, not the crap stripped-down version McCartney just threw out there) before they called it a day. The White Album has it's moments, but it's not one of the all-time greatest, not even by them.
on July 2, 2004
When I was a kid, this was the third Beatle album I had yet bought, and I didn't know what it was. Other than probably a Beatle ablum. It really didn't advertise itself much. I was hoping it was a greatest hits or something and was disappointed when I opened it up and didn't recognize a single title. Upon listening, I wasn't immediately floored but this ended up being my favorite Beatle album. Along with Abbey Road. I remember the songs slowly making an impact and it was nice. I remember suddenly realizing how beautiful the song Blackbird really was. I've probably listened to the White album more often than any other record because it's so varied. However, I don't like Revolution number 9. I'm wondering what else they would have come up with if they had had to fill up that much space on the album. John Lennon was coming off that healthy pure lifestyle he experienced in India(he wasn't doing drugs) and, creatively, is in fine form and contributes a lot of great material. As does Paul and George and Ringo has his first solo writing credit. Officially, this was the first Beatle album on the Apple label.
on June 24, 2004
These are just some of the adjectives to describe this amazing collection of music. The first time you listen to it, you probably won't be able to stop, and it remains fresh after all these years because despite some familiar songs this actually has some of the Beatles' lesser-known material (still, we ARE talking about the Beatles). After a year and a half, what a follow-up to Sgt. Pepper (not including Magical Mystery Tour which wasn't a full album at first). The White Album, or THE BEATLES as it's properly called, has a reputation for simplicity following the heavily produced psychedelic output of 1967. True, there's a lot of straightforward rock and quiet acoustic ballads, and the production is much less adorned, but it's not quite "simple." There's an astonishing range of music here. Honey Pie sounds like it came straight off a 20's record. Back in the U.S.S.R. combines good old fashioned rock and roll with Beach Boys harmonies and really clever lyrics. Blackbird is as acoustic as they get: Paul playing his guitar with a metronome ticking in the background. That's it. Helter Skelter on the other hand is probably the heaviest Beatles song, showing they could rock hard if they wanted to. Long, Long, Long, which has caught on with me recently, is a beautiful George songs, with that transcendent quality he was able to bring to pop so easily.
The last three songs on the album were written by the Lennon half of Lennon/McCartney. It's a fascinating indication of how much John was opening up in his songwriting. He'd always been a personal singer, even from his earliest songs, which had a morose, introspective air. But now, with the influence of Yoko, he is baring his soul as honestly as he can. Cry Baby Cry is surreal, said to be influenced by Syd Barrett, and expresses a skewed, very unsual perception of reality. It's followed by what sounds like Paul singing, "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back home..." The perfect introduction to Revolution 9 which, contrary to public opinion, is essential to the White Album. Some interpret this aural collage as the "sound" of a revolution, of chaos turning over society; while it's also been read as the story of John's life, including a baby crying and the eventually the voice of his new lover, Yoko Ono. In fact, Revolution 9 is probably more abstract than that, but it is definitely more than just a random assemblage of noise. It feels more like a journey into the subconscious. Finally, the album closes with one of the perfect album closers of all time, Good Night. This lushly orchestrated number is sung by Ringo, but written by John as a lullaby for his son Julian. After what's come before, this is an excellent, comforting send-off.
In 1969, John would tell the other Beatles he was leaving the group, a dozen years after he'd met Paul during a Quarry Men performance at a garden party. And so just a year before "the dream is over" we can hear the Four going the separate ways on this album. Some songs are indeed solos. But this is still a Beatles album, and it's one of the best. It showcases the individual Beatles' talents, but within the context of the group. When I listen to it, I picture a rotating stage: as the notes of one song die out, a new Beatles is revealed and begins playing his number.
My favorite songs here: Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. Just pure fun, like an early Beatles song with more musical sophistication and storytelling lyrics. Life does go on.../While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Truly a classic, this may have been the first irrefutable proof that Harrison could be just a good a songwriter as Lennon-McCartney. It's even got Eric Clapton playing fifth Beatle for a day as he lays down the solo./Happiness is a Warm Gun. More than just an exploration of different rock and roll styles, it's a creepy, edgy, ironic ode to drugs, sleaze, sex, and violence. Check out the raw version on Anthology 3; it's really great./Rocky Raccoon. This is just a fun Paul song, telling a humorous story with a hummable tune./Julia. Touching tribute to John's mother with some references to Yoko (ocean child)./I'm So Tired. First he was only sleeping, now John's an insomniac. The chorus is great./Martha My Dear. Great piano playing, this is an underrated Paul opus./Mother Nature's Son. A quiet, relaxing ode to the great outdoors...Ok, I'm going to stop here because this could go on and on. Every song on here is essential; without a piece of crap like Wild Honey Pie the album would be less sprawling, and we can't have that now, can we?