Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: The Beatles' 'On Air—Live at the BBC Volume 2'


The Beatles recorded 88 different songs for the BBC, the cream of which was released in 1994. The most thrilling thing about The Beatles Live at the BBC was getting to hear a plethora of songs they never put out on their proper albums, and it didn’t hurt that they rendered oldies such as “Some Other Guy”, “I Got a Woman”, “Too Much Monkey Business”, “Clarabella”, and “The Hippy Hippy Shake” with such excitement. Perhaps most significant of all was the release of “I’ll Be on My Way,” a pretty and wistful Lennon/McCartney original otherwise unavailable.

On Air—Live at the BBC Volume 2 gets closer to the bottom of the barrel, relying on a lot of material from Please Please Me and a lot already available on the first volume, only offering two otherwise unreleased numbers (the soppy standard “Beautiful Dreamer” and Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” featuring the riff Paul copped for his bassline on “I Saw Her Standing There”), and no revelatory Lennon/McCartney rarities. Still, this is The Beatles’ barrel we’re talking about, which is a pretty good barrel. There are certainly some cool things to hear on On Air. There’s a version of “Words of Love” recorded fifteen months before it made its vinyl debut on Beatles for Sale. There’s a positively vicious version of “Money” (and am I hearing Lennon scream, “I wanna be free, bitch!” at the climax of the track?). There are also several of versions of big hits— “Please Please Me”, “From Me to You”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, an electrified “And I Love Her”—that were surprisingly passed over for volume one (which is receiving a remastering and rerelease in conjunction with its sequel). But what strikes me most about these recordings is the clear differentiation of instruments when compared to the (albeit less weedy) album versions. These recordings were the best ways to hear Paul’s bass work until Revolver. On a less musical note, there are also interesting Rubber Soul and Revolver-era solo interviews with each Beatle, their soberness providing a jarring counterpoint to the goofy clowning of the between-track banter elsewhere on On Air. I actually think this is the only time I’ve ever heard George address his role as the quiet one and Paul discuss his personal cultural renaissance that would so influence Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the following year.

Get On Air—Live at the BBC Volume 2 at Amazon.com here :

…and if you don’t have the more essential first volume, get that too here :
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