Lately, I’ve been posting without any real schedule. I know this used to be a Monday post, but I didn’t run as tight of a ship as I’d have liked over the holidays. My plan for now is to do my word & random facts posts on Mondays & talk about my record collection whenever I get a new one. I’ll start it on Monday, so for now I’m going to post about my newest LP.
First, though, the housekeeping:
Stephen Kellogg: Blunderstone Rookery-
No update. There’s no tracking information & the District Lines website still says the order is processing. I’m going to send them an email at the end of the week.
Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers: The Bear
This one was an impulse buy. I own it on CD, but when I stumbled upon it on Amazon, I noticed there are a few bonus tracks. Kellogg also tends to release alternate mixes on vinyl, so I’m getting something a little different than what I already have. It arrived today & I can’t wait to give it a spin when I get home.
Last week, I received an email from the Hanson.net store, saying that the record has shipped. According to the tracking info, it’s been waiting for the post office to pick it up since last Saturday. Maybe an email to hanson.net is in store, too.
Now for the main event:
My copy of With the Beatles arrived last week. I was very excited to get it because along with Let it Be, it was one of the first CD I ever owned. I have wonderful memories of my ten-year-old self placing it in my mom’s parents’ 6 CD (SIX?! Six CDs?!) player & proudly playing it for them.
It was also a landmark album for the group. Originally released in November of 1963 (on the 22nd, the same day President Kennedy was assassinated). The Beatles’ second long playing release was a technological step up from Please Please Me. The production is clearly ahead of what it was on their debut. One thing that stands out is the use of double tracking (not to be confused with the quicker practice of artificial double tracking, which they would invent three years later). Wen you double track, you record the singer’s vocals twice. The engineer delays the second vocal recoding by a fraction of a second, so it doesn’t distort & then splices it in with the original track. It was first used in the movie, Cinderella, but then became widely adapted for album use. Studio engineers originally used the trick to bolster weak singers’ voices, but by the time The Beatles came along, it was meant to give the record a more robust sound.
Two other tricks they used appear on George Harrison’s first composition, “Don’t Bother Me.” John Lennon used Vox AC-30 tremolo effect on his guitar, & also messed around with an early fuzz pedal, the Gibson Maestro. The tremolo made the final cut, while the fuzz didn’t.
With the Beatles also marks the first time a piano was used on one of their records. Most of the piano was played by their producer, George Martin. It appears the songs “Little Child,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Not a Second Time” & “Money.”An electric keyboard is played by Lennon on, “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
That’s pretty much the extent of new sounds on the record. It might not sound like much, but it’s very significant. The use of new things on With the Beatles kick started a love affair with studio experimentation, for which the band would become highly acclaimed.
The cover art for With the Beatles also marked the first time the band had an artistic voice in their album covers. They hired fashion photographer, Robert Freeman, to do the shoot. It was very quick. They lined up in a dark hall with one source of light & shot their photos for about an hour. It would eventually become one of the band’s most iconic photos, as it was also released in the USA as the cover art for the band’s Capitol Records’ debut, Meet the Beatles!
The photo itself, is representative of the early 1960s, while hinting at The Beatles’ future trend setting artsy tendencies. I own it on CD, & on record jacket, it’s obviously much more prominent. There isn’t much to say about it, aside from the fact that it just looks cool.
This is the first record I’d had a chance to play through speakers of a similar size to the ones I will be getting. My roommate, Leo, lent me some of his speakers which he doesn’t use. I’ll be using these until I can get myself a receiver/amplifier & a pair of decent speakers. Until then, these will definitely work. They’re studio monitors, so the sound is exceptional.
This copy of With the Beatles is also a 2012 remaster from the 2009 set, so I was expecting the sound was going to be impeccable. I was right. See my post on Please Please Me, if you want more information on how they remastered it. Just like the other stereo mixes of the early 1960s, the separation was simple. The instruments came out of one channel, while the vocals came out of the other. Remember, stereophonic records had just become available to the public. It’s definitely something to listen to, if you turn down each speaker individually.
While I listened to the whole record & made sure to savor this new listening experience, I paid extra close attention to the two side openers carefully.
Side A starts with the song, “It Won’t be Long” & from the get-go, I was slammed with pure Beatl-y goodness. That link is the 2009 remaster uploaded onto youtube. You can get a feel of how the record opens with a bang. The standout feature of this song is George Harrison’s riff, played on his new Gretsch Country Gentleman. Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar follows the rhythm of Ringo’s drums. It all balances perfectly.
Side B opens with the Chuck Berry song, “Roll Over Beethoven.” The song starts out with an opening solo & after a few bars, the full band comes in. As you’ve gathered from my other posts, I believe bass is very important. It fills out the sound of a record & is a key driving force of the music. Paul McCartney’s bass was always more prominent in this song, & was very much in the forefront of this one.
Buried in the CD mix, is John Lennon’s little Rickenbackr 325. On the CD, it’s way behind everything & is vastly overshadowed by Harrison’s rock & roll riffs & vocals. Every so often, mostly during breaks in the singing, it shows its jangly face on the surface for a beat or two. The engineers at Abbey Road definitely fixed it & made sure you can hear it.
With the advance of recording techniques between the band’s debut & sophomore record, the overall sound improved. The range from bass to treble was already much less sparse before remastering, but the remastering definitely brings out all aspects of the music even more. It was an absolute pleasure to listen to.
So there you have it. With the Beatles is wonderful album & I really enjoy having it on vinyl. As a Beatle fan, I have always wanted to own & listen to their albums on LP. Now, I get to do that & I couldn’t be more excited. So far, they haven’t.
Two down, nine to go.