(How did I used to do this seven days a week? Clearly 2015 has done a number on my attention span.)
Whether you’re new to this blog or you’ve been here since last year, you’ve probably noticed things I’ve talked around. The movies, apart from the songs used in them. The Beatles’ personal lives and solo careers. “Across the Universe” and Guitar Hero. Today I’m here to start fixing in some of those holes by discussing “Love.”
What is “Love?” (Baby, don’t hurt me.) It’s kind of a remix album, but more importantly it’s the score for the Cirque du Soleil show “Love.” I have to admit, I have not seen this show (or any Cirque show… they kind of freak me out) so I can’t speak to the visual aspect, but a good friend of mine loves it, so her endorsement set me on this path. Also, I adore mash-ups, so I’m biased.
According to a review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “[‘Love’s’] genesis lies with the Beatles agreeing to collaborate with performance dance troupe Cirque du Soleil on a project that evolved into the Las Vegas stage show LOVE, an extravaganza that cost well over 100 million dollars and was designed to generate revenue far exceeding that. During pre-production, all involved realized that the original Beatles tapes needed to be remastered in order to sound impressive by modern standards when pumped through the huge new theater… and since they needed to be tweaked, they might as well use the opportunity to do something different with the familiar music, too: to remix and re-imagine it, to make LOVE be something unique to both the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil.”
After receiving permission from Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison, George Martin and his son Giles set to work. According to Giles, they used “the [Beatles’] original four tracks, eight tracks and two tracks and used this palette of sounds and music to create a soundbed.”
The Martins mixed elements from 130 Beatles tracks (both official releases and demos) to create roughly 30 pieces for “Love.” 26 were used in the show while two were eventually released as bonus tracks when the Beatles’ catalog hit iTunes [you guys remember when The Beatles songs weren’t on iTunes? Man, that takes me back]. Quoth Wikipedia, “While a complete list has not been disclosed, highlights of how the elements were mixed have been noted by the press.” You can find more detailed breakdowns of these elements on Wiki and The Beatles Bible; you don’t need me for that. You can also watch the creation process in the documentary “All Together Now.”
Quoth Erlewine, “This isn’t an art project and it isn’t underground, either: it’s a big, splashy commercial endeavor, one that needs to surprise millions of Beatles fans without alienating them, since the mission is to please fans whether they’re hearing this in the theater or at home. …With a few exceptions scattered throughout the record, all the mash-ups are saved for the very end of the song, which has the effect of preserving the feel of the original song while drawing attention to the showiest parts of the Martins’ new mixes, giving the illusion that they’ve changed things around more than they actually have.“ Erlewine also noted, “It also has to be said that the craft behind LOVE is impeccable: it flows as elegantly as the second side of ‘Abbey Road,’ which is an achievement of no small measure. But there lies the rub: even if LOVE elicits a certain admiration for how Giles and George have crafted their mash-ups, it elicits a greater admiration for the original productions and arrangements, which display far more imagination and audacity than the mixes here.” Fair enough – it’s hard to improve on greatness.
The “Love” soundtrack was released Nov. 20, 2006. Critics were somewhat divided (Erlewine’s full review isn’t exactly glowing), but Paul and Ringo loved it, with Ringo saying the album was “really powerful for me and I even heard things I’d forgotten we’d recorded.” Typical Ringo.
More importantly, the masses liked “Love.” The album debuted at #3 in the UK and #4 in the US. It cracked the top 10 charts in 25 countries in 2007, reaching #1 in Argentina, Canada, France, Greece, and Ireland. “Love” was also certified double or triple platinum in most countries.
Fun fact – the original version of the album I listened to online got pulled by Apple Corps in the time I spent writing.
According to Wikipedia, “The DVD-Audio and iTunes release have longer versions of ‘Revolution’ and ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.,’ increasing the total running time by about two minutes.” Rock on.
“Love” also won two Grammy Awards in 2008 — Best Compilation Soundtrack Album and Best Surround Sound Album. I was not aware that last category was a thing.
Naturally, I like this a lot. It was an awesome experiment, and it is very cohesive. More importantly, I think the album is in the spirit of the Beatles. It’s something old and something new, it’s commercial and experimental, it’s familiar and it toys with your expectations. Most of all, it’s an experience.
Speaking of experience, anyone who has seen the show live, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. (I mean, share your thoughts in the comments regardless, that’s not meant to be a restriction. I’m just curious about a live perspective on the subject.)