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Beatles Recovered: White Album

November 22nd, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

Among my most treasured albums is a limited edition CD of The Beatles’ “White Album” which is a miniature replica of the double LP, including the lyrics sheet/poster and four cardboard posters of the four.

In the original release, released 50 years ago today, on November 22, the packaging was as extravagant as the decision to stretch the material recorded for the album to four sides. That extravagance was offset, of course, by the plain white design of the cover and the singularly unimaginative album title (adopted when the working title, A Doll’s House, was abandoned. Just over a year after the colourful titles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, the new album’s plain title, simply The Beatles, and white cover were ostentatiously austere. Almost immediately, the informal title was jazzed up to “the White Album”.

Musically, the album had several highlights. Most of them were provided by John Lennon, especially the sublime Happiness Is A Warm Gun. Lennon also provides the low-light, the avant-garde and very much acquired-taste Revolution #9 (represented here in a bearable version). George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps is another contribution of genius, and Long Long Long and Savoy Truffle are fine.

But the White Album is the low-point in Paul McCartney’s Beatles output. That isn’t to say that all of his contributions are poor; Helter Skelter, Back In The USSR and Blackbird are superb, and Mother Nature’s Son is good. But there are also what Lennon called “granny music shit” like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Honey Pie, and disposable tracks such as Martha My Dear and Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?. Had I Will appeared on Revolver or earlier, I’d love it. But on the White Album, it might as well be followed by a “yeah yeah yeah” track.

So, if it wasn’t a double album, what should stay? Making allowance for the formula of two George and a Ringo track, and cutting a few great John tracks (Bungalow Bill, Cry Baby Cry) to accommodate Paul stuff, I’d go for the following:

Back In The U.S.S.R.
Dear Prudence
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
I’m So Tired
Blackbird
Don’t Pass Me By I Will
Julia
Birthday
Mother Nature’s Son
Sexy Sadie
Helter Skelter
Long Long Long
Revolution
Good Night

But here we have the full two-CD set of cover versions. Many come from the two years after the White Album was released, though Ramsey Lewis was really quick off the mark, bring out an album of interpretations of many of the album’s songs before the year was out.

In several cases, the covers are superior to the originals. In Celia Cruz’s, even Obladi-Oblada is enjoyable. I also prefer Kenny Rankin’s version of Dear Prudence to John’s. The psych-rock of Mud (not the pop band of the mid-1970s) improves Why Don’t We Do It… Country-rockers Commander Cody sounds very 1978 but is very catchy. And look out for Prince’s guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Finally, including Nina Simone’s Revolution, from 1969, is not really fair. She really samples The Beatles’ song rather than covering it. In fact, the songwriting credit excludes Lennon/McCartney. But, hell, what a track!

The two sides are time to fit on a standard CD-Rs each and include home helter-skeltered covers. PW in comments.

Disc 1
1. John Fred & his Playboy Band – Back In The U.S.S.R. (1970)
2. Kenny Rankin – Dear Prudence (1969)
3. Arif Mardin – Glass Onion (1969)
4. Celia Cruz – Ob-la-di Ob-la-da (1996)
5. Phish – Wild Honey Pie (2002)
6. Young Blood – The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill (1969)
7. Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (2004)
8. Tori Amos – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (2001)
9. Madeleine Peyroux – Martha, My Dear (2011)
10. Susan Carter – I’m So Tired (1970)
11. Neil Diamond – Blackbird (2010)
12. Theo Bikel – Piggies (1969)
13. Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Rocky Raccoon (1970)
14. Georgia Satellites – Don’t Pass Me By (1988)
15. Mud – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road (1970)
16. Tuck & Patti – I Will (1998)
17. Charlie Byrd – Julia (1969)

Disc 2
1. Underground Sunshine – Birthday (1969)
2. Jeff Healey Band – Yer Blues (1995)
3. Harry Nilsson – Mother Nature’s Son (1969)
4. Kristin Hersh – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey (1999)
5. Ramsey Lewis – Sexy Sadie (1968)
6. Mötley Crüe – Helter Skelter (1983)
7. Tanya Donelly – Long Long Long (2006)
8. Nina Simone – Revolution (1969)
9. Barbra Streisand – Honey Pie (1969)
10. Ella Fitzgerald – Savoy Truffle (1969)
11. Commander Cody – Cry Baby Cry (1978)
12. Kurt Hoffman’s Band of Weeds – Revolution #9 (1992)
13. Linda Ronstadt – Good Night (1996)

GET IT!

More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    November 22nd, 2018 at 07:13 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Stinky
    November 22nd, 2018 at 15:30 | #2

    I’m giving thanks for this mix! Have a good one! – Stinky

  3. Jay Schiavone
    November 22nd, 2018 at 20:49 | #3

    I might have gone with Chubby Checker’s “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

  4. russ
    November 25th, 2018 at 16:58 | #4

    Awesome!

  5. November 29th, 2018 at 18:23 | #5

    FWIW, here’s my single disc White Album:
    Back in the U.S.S.R.
    Dear Prudence
    Glass Onion
    While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    I’m so tired
    Blackbird
    I Will
    Julia
    Birthday
    Mother Nature’s Son
    Helter Skelter
    Revolution I
    Cry Baby Cry
    Good Night

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