"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, December 20, 2003

In Your Ear

Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer


Concert for George

Warner, 3,400 yen (CD)

Whether you view them as long-lost musical gems, heartfelt tributes or crass attempts to turn leftovers into cash, CDs and DVDs hitting the store shelves for Christmas this year prove that phony or not, Beatlemania has not yet bitten the dust.

Of the three items here, Concert for George is the only one to provide anything that approaches new music. A live two CD recording of a tribute concert held on the first anniversary of George Harrison's death, the album provides a better musical look at the concert than the film of the same event, which cuts back and forth between rehearsals and performances by concert organizer Eric Clapton, former bandmates Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and others.

The first disc features Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar, performing and conducting mesmerizing yet impressively energetic Indian music.

The second disc is more conventional rock written by the Quiet Beatle and performed by those who knew and loved him. While it suffers from some of the usual excesses of live tribute concerts, such as Billy Preston's overlong "My Sweet Lord," Concert For George provides a showcase for a terrific songwriter who was too often overshadowed by the Lennon-McCartney hit factory.


Let It Be...Naked

Toshiba-EMI, 2,667 yen (CD)

Let It Be...Naked is, in essence, something of a correction. The original album was recorded in 1969, before the lushly layered Abbey Road. The original intention was to rehearse a number of new songs with an eye to performing a live concert and to film the whole process with the concert providing the film's climax. The four lads from Liverpool were unable to settle on where and when the concert would take place, finally compromising on an impromptu gig on the roof of the recording studio.

The film was made and the tapes handed over to hit-making producer Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector, who added strings and choirs to the live recording and even slowed down the tape on "Across the Universe" to turn out a chart-topper.

The 2003 version is stripped of Spector's dross and uses different takes for some songs. Six of the 11 tracks are virtually unchanged, though the sound quality has been drastically improved. There are two good reasons to buy this release: to hear what "The Long and Winding Road" really sounds like now that it has been excavated from the mound of saccharin it was buried under for 30 years; and the inclusion of "Don't Let Me Down" not previously on the album.

The bad news is that the bits of studio chatter and telltale Beatles humor have also been stripped away. In Japan at least, an effort has been made to make up for this with a second disc of between-takes banter. "Fly on the Wall" really is only for the truly obsessive, but it does give a brief first look at a few songs that ended up on later solo albums.


Lennon Legend,

EMI Records, 3,890 yen (DVD)

The latest attempt to stripmine the collective memory of John Lennon for cash, the Lennon Legend DVD, is surprisingly good. A number of previously unseen film clips, such as Lennon's last live performance in 1975, and bits and pieces from the family archives are included along with 20 song videos.

The gut-wrenching video that accompanies "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" will allow you to reclaim the song in all its idealistic glory.

Collectors should also note that a two-DVD set Ed Sullivan Presents The Beatles is also available.

Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun

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