Sunday, February 2, 2014

Retro Record Review #1, Part 2

Well, first of all, I'm changing the name of the series to "Retro Record Review" instead of Retro Album Review.

This is part two because in my last post I took over 1400 words and only managed to talk about two songs and the cover of one of the most important albums ever made, Rubber Soul, released in December 1965 by The Beatles. Let me see if I can do two more songs from the album. One song that everyone seems to know is one by Paul that has a French touch to it--even some of the words are French. You might have noticed Lady Gaga also did this in "Bad Romance". Here's the song, "Michelle" from Rubber Soul, the last song on side one:

The thing that has alway stuck in my mind the most about that song is the guitar solo. But this is one of those seemingly innocuous little tunes that Paul just seemed to toss off--like "Yesterday". But they do seem to stick in your head and finally you realize they aren't innocuous, they are great, though unpretentious, songs. Back in 1967 this song won the Grammy for song of the year. Incidentally, this year that same award went to this song:

Now that's not a bad song, certainly better than the other nominees, but I don't think you could call it unpretentious. When did pop music get so over-produced and bloated? Oh, right, the 80s...

But the one song on Rubber Soul that really stands out and was perhaps the most innovative instrumentally is "Norwegian Wood", a song with rather coy lyrics about an affair John (yes, this song is one of John's) supposedly had. The instrumental innovation was the use of the Indian instrument the sitar for the first time in a popular music recording. The song has an interesting echo in a song by Bob Dylan that appears on Blonde on Blonde, "4th Time Around":

The resemblances are pretty strong. I'm not sure if it is important to say which song came first. The truth is that John Lennon and Bob Dylan had a big influence on one another around this time. Ok, now let's listen to "Norwegian Wood".

There's just a tiny bit of bass drum in there, but that's it for percussion. This song shows what a really great rhythm guitarist John was--the whole texture is based on that driving, chunky rhythm guitar. Nice melodic interjections by the sitar. But the thing about this song is its extreme simplicity, both harmonically and melodically. Simple, but, in its way, perfect and no harmonic clich├ęs, in fact some very interesting harmonies.

I don't think I will talk about the other songs on the album so I will just send you to listen to the whole thing. The whole album is only a bit over 35 minutes in length, and all of it is good:

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