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November's Music Reviews

Looking for the next album to add to your download list? Simon Evans reviews the latest music releases. 

The Beatles 1962-66 CD album coverThe Beatles - 1962-66  and 1967-70 (Universal)

For those just too young to have experienced the magic of The Beatles in their Sixties pomp the release of the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilation LPs in 1973 provided an excellent introduction to the band’s remarkable body of work.

The two double-LP sets, later (but not at the time) known as the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ albums, emerged into a musical landscape already very different from when the group had dissolved in 1970.

Glam-rock filled the airwaves, while earnest great-coated young men carried progressive rock albums under their arms as badges of honour. Both, in their different ways, owed much to the Fab Four – glam’s rock and roll revivalism, prog’s wilful experimentalism – but, such was the quick turnaround in musical fashion at the time, The Beatles had already started to fade from view when the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 albums were released.

It’s striking how different the two sets were, a measure of how quickly The Beatles evolved musically, especially when they stopped touring and were able to focus on the studio.

The Beatles 1967-70 CD album coverThe 1962-1966 compilation was perhaps more fun at the time – it included that great run of singles from Love Me Do to Yellow Submarine and choice tracks from the first six seven albums, but a preponderance of Rubber Soul tracks, and no cuts from Revolver save the Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby double A-side single, meant it was not representative of the group’s remarkable progress over those four years. And anyone who owned the 1966 compilation A Collection of Beatles Oldies but Goldies would have had most of the singles from that period in one place already.

The 1967-1970 collection was the more interesting musically, representing the band’s experimental phase, from the Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane single to the elegiac closing notes of The Long and Winding Road.

The balance of power between the two compilations has, however, been completely upended with the release of these two remixed, remastered and expanded sets.

Of the two 1962-1966 is now the more interesting, mainly because many of the early tracks have been remixed using the same technology as the remarkable ‘reunion’ single Now and Then (which is now the closing song on 1967-1970).

Gone are the original clumsy faux stereo mixes that separated one set of instruments from another in the two speakers; the sound is now warmer, more immersive than ever before.

Of the 38 tracks, 30 are new mixes – the remaining eight are taken from the remixed Revolver that was released last year. Those extra six tracks from Revolver reset the balance of the album, giving a more complete, representative portrait of the band during the years of Beatlemania.

Nine tracks have been added to 1967-1970, mainly stray White Album cuts, with remixes largely restricted to tracks from the two Magical Mystery Tour EPs (released as an LP in the United States). Because most of the mixes are from the recent deluxe reissues there is less novelty value but it’s still an excellent summation of The Beatles at their most musically daring.

Bob Dylan The Complete Budokan CD album coverBob Dylan - The Complete Budokan (Sony Music)

Bob Dylan’s late Seventies tour of Japan and Australia came at a turbulent time for the rock legend, fresh from an expensive divorce and the commercial and critical failure of his four-hour film Renaldo and Clara.

Putting together a new band – the core of which would appear on the Street Legal album – Dylan unveiled lavish arrangements of many of his best-loved songs, including Mr Tambourine Man, Blowin’ In The Wind, Forever Young and Like A Rolling Stone.

This new, user-friendly, Dylan wasn’t to everyone’s taste – some of the harsher critics described it as the Las Vegas tour because of the elaborate arrangements – but the resulting live album, originally just released in Japan, proved to be a hit when released in Britain and the US in late 1978.

And it has proved rather more durable than many items in Dylan’s back catalogue, with the arrangements of Shelter from the Storm and Love Minus Zero/No Limit alone being nigh-on definitive.

Some 45 years later the full shows from which the album was culled are now available, including 36 unreleased tracks, all remastered by the original album’s recording engineer. Fans of the original album will love it, especially such gems as the blues work-out Repossession Blues, and imaginative, previously unavailable arrangements of I Threw It All Away, Girl From the North Country, Oh Sister and One of Us Must Know. Bob Dylan’s many archive releases have thrown up many gems – this is among the best.

Aled Jones One Voice Full Circle Album CoverAled Jones - One Voice – One Circle (Decca)

The popular singer and broadcaster’s new album not only celebrates his 40-year career but also features previously unreleased tracks, recently unearthed by Aled himself.

Browsing through memorabilia at the family home in Anglesey earlier this year he discovered a collection of multi-coloured shirts and bow ties that he wore for a series made for the BBC in 1983, at the age of 13. This prompted Aled to go and find the original programme, in the process of which he discovered recordings that had never been released or even heard since the original broadcast 40 years ago. The album includes brand new arrangements of those performances, including Ave Maria and Bright Eyes.

The new album is the fourth in Aled’s ‘One Voice’ series in which, using up-to-date technology, he is able to duet with his younger self. Highlights include Sailing, Handel’s Where’er you Walk, the Welsh love song Bugeilo’r Gwenith Gwyn and Scarborough Fair. And of course it would not be Christmas without The Snowman, and the album includes a newly recorded piano solo version of Walking in the Air, played by Aled himself.

On recording with his younger self, Aled says: “It’s an honour and a real privilege to step into the studio again with little Aled; so many memories come flooding back and it is a surreal experience to sing with him at his prime. I consider myself very lucky.”


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