Friday, July 30, 2010

Psychobabble recommends 'Lennon and McCartney: Together Alone'

No pop body of work has been pored over more than that of The Beatles. The amount of ink dropped to explain why Revolver or “The White Album” are so fab may be excessive (especially considering how well they speak for themselves), but few other Rock & Roll artists have created material so worthy of deeper analysis. The fascination with Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison’s songs drops off significantly with the Beatles’ break-up. Though there is little doubt that The Beatles as individuals rarely lived up to their accomplishments as a unit, each of the composing ex-Beatles released at least one or two great albums. Lennon (whose solo career receives the most praise, whether deserved or not) had Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. McCartney had Ram and Band on the Run. Harrison trumped them both by crafting the best pop album of the ‘70s with All Things Must Pass. Because these solo careers are rife with ups and downs, there isn’t as much attention paid to them as The Beatle’s collective career, even as those ups and downs make them riper for critique.

John Blaney’s Lennon and McCartney: Together Alone attempts to rectify this situation by taking a look at the solo paths of The Beatles’ two chief writers. As a discography, the book is invaluable. Blaney covers each of Lennon and McCartney’s post-Beatles releases in microscopic detail, providing all relevant dates, personnel, variations between labels and album jackets and inner sleeves. He also supplies a trove of facts about the music’s inspirations and recordings supported by impeccably researched testimonies from the book’s two main subjects, as well as the musicians, producers, and wives who worked with them. Such historical information will be the main draw for fans. Blaney’s critiques of the music are generally sharp but not as deep as the best assessments of The Beatles’ catalogue (Tim Riley’s Tell Me Why or Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head, for example). Occasionally Blaney’s assessments lapse into fanboy fervor. Granted, Lennon’s elephant-shriek guitar runs on Yoko Ono’s “Why” are stunning, but to write “Lennon’s work on this track eclipses anything produced by Hendrix or any other guitar hero” is pure hyperbole. Same goes for the assertions that Wild Life “has several McCartney compositions that are as good as anything he’s written” and McCartney’s embarrassing treacle “My Love” is “on a par with The Beatles.” Such statements are pretty crazy, but instances of them are minimal. Blaney doesn’t flinch when slicing into poor solo efforts like Lennon’s Sometime in New York City or McCartney II. At times his evaluations even made me rethink my opinions of the guys’ solo work. So, even with its minor flaws, Lennon and McCartney: Together Alone remains a book that should be read by both ex-Beatlemaniacs and solo skeptics.

Buy it here at Lennon and McCartney: Together Alone: A Critical Discography of the Solo Work (Book)
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