Music

Stalk the Line: One Direction, Fandom, and Self-Reflexivity in “One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)”

Posted on Updated on

Here’s something I never thought I would ever say: a One Direction song is brilliant. Yes, brilliant. I have been a bit of a naysayer about the band, more against their rabid, over-zealous, cultish fans than the band itself, but I have no choice to admit that one of their songs is a brilliant example of self-reflexivity of public image. Which track am I talking about? Technically, it’s not one of their original songs; it’s their cover of “One Way or Another/Teenage Kicks”, the former originally by Blondie and the latter by The Undertones. Whether or not this was a PR move or their own sly smarts, choosing the former song in particular, what can be described as a Stalker Anthem of sorts, and blending it with the angst and sensuality of the latter track makes for one of the most interesting tracks I’ve ever heard. Did I mention that the cover is actually pretty damn great?

Read the rest of this entry »

Listen to All My Sh*t: The Music of Spring Breakers

Posted on

yellowIntroduction

For all of its universality in portraying seemingly good people revealing their true nihilistic selves and behaving badly, Harmony Korine purposely focuses his debauchery filled new film Spring Breakers at contemporary youth, or what some people have labeled as “Millennials”. But he does this neither in the choice of Spring Break in general nor even choosing the nubile actresses themselves, but, most notably, in the choice of music. Korine is, like Tarantino (but perhaps less well known), good at choosing music, often to ironically tonally subvert a scene, or, in this case, an entire film. Korine’s choice to hire Cliff Martinez and Skrillex is telling, as well as their decision to include certain tracks and music in the film. All of these points to a focus on a particular group of people and how nasty they really are. Three tracks in particular perfectly illustrate the themes of the film and the personalities of the characters: Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”, Britney Spears’ “Everytime”, and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”. The three tracks work not only as a representation and epitome of the generation that this film is directed at, but also as a distillation of the film itself.

The “Monsters” Within

It may be one thing to choose Cliff Martinez to score your film, whose nostalgia drenched Drive is one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, but it is entirely something else to also have Lord of the Bass Drop, dubstep mastermind Skrillex, to also be on board.  So, while the film’s score oscillates between various transmutations of dubstep, electro-hip hop, and something a little ‘80s driven as well, it might be a little surprising at first to hear Skrillex’s most famous track begin the film. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” is originally off of the DJ’s second EP of the same name, and its title alone suggests the characters. When you listen to the track however, the thematic elements of the title play in reverse, almost as they do in the film. Something sweeter and nice starts playing, sort of like an electronically produced candy land, with something sinister underneath. This is, of course, juxtaposed against images of teenagers “celebrating” in Florida. But that sense of unbelievable, too good t be true pureness in electronic sound suits the film’s four characters, played by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine.

When you just look at these four attractive actresses, you wrongly have the sense that they’re nice and sort of angelic. Their neon bathing suits, streaked hair, and distinctively feminine qualities are exemplified in the beginning notes of the track. Once you get deeper into the film and get to know the characters, the monsters are let loose. For, what is scarier to the general male that the concept of a woman being in control of her own agency, her own sexuality, and using that as a form of power? These “scary monsters” are scary from a popular cultural perspective, a society which undermines young women’s intelligence, their abilities to decide for themselves, and the fact that they can give any man a run for his money when it comes to toting a gun. The femininity of their “sprite-like” façade is subverted by Skrillex’s trademark “bass drop”, where you hear the screams of a young girl saying, “Yes, oh my gosh!” This is a shout of triumph, the girls perhaps being stunned by their own power and subsequent prowess. The progressive house tone that the song transitions to is intentionally cacophonous, thereby showing that the girls can be mean, but drawing the line at evil. Who are we really to classify these girls as monsters? Or are these the monsters we made ourselves by our reflexive oppression and objectifying? However, the song is able to transition back and forth between these two qualities: the sound of the Nice Sprites and the sound of the Scary Monsters. The girls themselves oscillate between being those sprites and monsters; between the immaturity of young girls and the maturity of grown women. These women are in control, in such a way that we, as an audience, cannot even fathom it.

 

Hit Me Baby “Everytime”

The centerpiece of the film and what is, by consensus, said to be the very best part, is the use of Britney Spears’ “Everytime”. I made a point in my review to make some comparisons to Britney Spears as a person and as a songstress, but “Everytime” is the kind of majestic scene that only one could ever hope to conceive, never mind execute flawlessly. Calum Marsh wrote a very good, very interesting article about how the song and the scene essentially prove that Spring Breakers isn’t a satire. I would go a step further and assert that, not only is the song not used ironically, but that it fits the relationship between the girls and James Franco’s Alien. The song originally appeared as a single off of the Princess of Pop’s fourth album In the Zone, and was allegedly written in response to ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake’s hit single “Cry Me a River”. The song plaintively apologizes for all the harm and wrong that occurred in a relationship, where Spears’ persona basically “owns up” to most of those faults. Why is the song played at all? The remaining three girls, Hudgens, Benson, and Korine, ask Alien to play something inspiring and uplifting. Perhaps a little odd considering that the song is basically a breakup… but is it?

by the water

This is well into the film, and after the young women have asserted their power over Franco himself. So, now that the girls essentially have shifted the power hierarchy in their bizarre relationship, why not sing a breakup song? Or, rather, a “post-Breakup song”. The girls are saying goodbye to Franco, for they know, for all of their feminine power, they can supersede him in Florida and then return home as if nothing ever happened. That is what college spring break is all about: creating momentary relationships with people you don’t really know, creating a dynamic that doesn’t last, and then leaving it all behind. Not only that, but the song opens with the words “notice me”; by exerting this power, the girls are able to get people to notice them. Even Gucci Mane. It feels a little ironic and a little satirical, though, because of where the song is used and over what. In beautiful slow motion, “Everytime” is played over scenes of Franco’s gang assaulting people, pistol whipping them, while the girls are just as much a part of the action. Who the leader of this gang is becomes incredibly blurred. Even from an aesthetic point, the use of the song is transcendent and one of the film’s most dizzyingly beautiful moments. Like Korine said, it’s all about that haunting piano. It’s sinister yet innocent, and completely beautiful.

Turn On the “Lights”

The song that plays over the final the neon end credits is fitting to the film: Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”. Off of her album of the same name, Goulding’s ethereal vocals and equally bedazzling song production become sonic manifestations of the glowing and neon soaked cinematography. Deep in the rain and under the water, on the streets and as they drive, the lights shine representing the danger that so entices the girls. But, that danger is what they find alluring and safe. As Ellie Goulding said, she feels safe sleeping with the lights on. By that, the lights reveal things about the characters that they seem to come to understand towards the end of the film. Their Malickian voice over messages colliding with their Godardian rhetoric and a little bit of a sneer of insincerity are the result of this change.

From the 120 beat per second drum/bass line to the star studded eletronica (reminiscent of bounding lights and bouncing piano keys), “Lights” assaults the listener with dark thoughts and a boom that seems like a blast of darkness and then of light. The lights flicker, as they sometimes do in the film. However, here the lights don’t obfuscate. They may be blinding, they may be alluring, but they reveal desire, lust, and dreams. They offer safety and clarity. The importance of light is evident in the film, as lens flare, bright colors, and the lettering of the title are used to intoxicate the viewer and the characters. There is a small bit of irony here, though. Since the song is about feeling safety when the lights are on, this reveals the childish aspect of the four girls’. They may be fascinated by the lights, but they don’t want the dark. Again, as I mentioned earlier, the girls, and the songs, oscillate between the immaturity of young girls and grown women.

Conclusion

Generationally, it makes sense for these tracks to be used. Dubstep is popular amongst the party scene, so Skrillex is an obvious choice. The girls, and the audience, grew up with Britney Spears, watching her rise to fame to her fall from grace and then resurgence years later. And Ellie Goulding is one of the hottest new artists on the scene. It was therefore a wise choice for Korine to use these tracks, appealing to his main demographic and yet fitting them to the characters specifically enough that the film’s commentary on youth culture was that much more on the nose.

If you couldn’t tell by the fact that this is my third post in a row about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, I’m totally enamored of this film, from every aspect. Every element, thrown against the wall or not, seems to fit. But the key tracks of the film shed light on the characters, the environment, and the commentary. Thus, Skrillex, Britney Spears, and Ellie Goulding all accentuate the atmosphere of the film. Spring Breakers is film fueled by its ability to stagger and stun every sense, and sonically, the film couldn’t do better.

“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” – Skrillex

“Everytime” – Britney Spears

“Lights” – Ellie Goulding

The Bond Sound

Posted on Updated on

The music of James Bond has always been one of the highlights of the entire franchise. From the likes of Sheryl Crow, Tina Turner, Carly Simon, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, and even Jack White and Alicia Keys, the Bond music has become its own form of iconography within the canon. But, really, how similar are they and do they really deserve such praise? Granted, from song to song, the opinion has changed and varied, as it should. But everyone talks about a certain song, even if it’s not even related to the Bond series, as having certain Bond-esque qualities, or a song that would seemingly fit the series for one of the films. If anything, the music should embody the film and the character, the themes and the style of the movie, and the music will always, realistically speaking, reflect something of the times. With the big brass of Shirley Bassey’s voice on the title track to Goldfinger to the electronically manipulated sound of Madonna’s take on Die Another Day, each song has its unique place in Bond history. I’ve been enamored of the Bond films since I was 6 and I first heard the strumming sounds of the James Bond theme from, not Dr. No, but the video games 007: Agent Under Fire. It did not, nor ever will, compare to the one featured in Bond’s first adventure from 1962. There will always be something compelling about that music, something very interesting, even if it’s not very Bond-ian. It’s a trademark of the series, which often fits together with some intoxicatingly beautiful images of nude women in each film’s stunning main title sequence. I will be looking at each of the film’s theme songs and see how they compare as truly Bond-esque. The yardstick I will measure the songs against will be none other than John Barry and Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme”, first featured in the film Dr. No.

1. “The James Bond Theme” from Dr. No (1962), performed by Monty Norman

The theme that started it all. Creeping up on the audience right from the get go, as Bond shoots his gun at the audience and through the gun barrel, thus revealing a gorgeously minimalistic title sequence from title creator Maurice Binder, the Bond theme will always be incredibly iconic with all film goers. The strumming guitar riffs, which were held to a microphone and then manipulated in the studio adding a kind of echo, were originally intended for a musical Norman had been writing. After that had been scrapped, Dr. No composer John Barry requested to use it for a new spy/espionage/action movie. And then history was made. The theme plays in all suspenseful moments, being utilized for, what else, mood music. It makes the most indelible impression, and makes cinematic history, with a simple, “Bond. James Bond.” The heavy brass of the chorus is what it’s all about. The strumming riffs are like the stealthy entrance from the super spy and the big brass is Bond kicking ass. The theme is so smooth, so suave, and so cool that no one could possibly think of another theme being better suited for such a cold, calculated character as James Bond. Despite it being Bond’s first time on the screen, Sean Connery and the music burst onto the silver screen with as more confidence one could have thought. They know exactly what they’re doing here. It’s become a part of popular culture, and has inspired countless rip off and pastiches. But, really, nobody does it better. – A+

2. “James Bond is Back” (John Barry) and “From Russia with Love” (Matt Monro) from From Russia with Love (1963)

Maybe trying to chase the high that was the first James Bond theme, John Barry opted to use another instrumental for the titles of Bond’s second outing, From Russia with Love. Combining the title song (written by Barry, performed by crooner Matt Monro) and the James Bond theme, it feels very much like one of those “A new adventure, but still the same spy” kind of track. The exciting brass will always be iconic within the Bond music. The brass represents that thrill of the Bond films, an element that would disappear later in the themes. The song itself is an interesting piece. It doesn’t quite fit the character, but it somehow fits the film. Bond has never been an actual romantic. As Judi Dench’s M tells him in 1995’s GoldenEye, he’s a “misogynist dinosaur”. Thus, it’s kind of odd to encounter such gorgeous refrains worthy of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in a James Bond film. Bond sleeps with women and then disposes of them, and even though it was the second film, audiences already knew this. How many women did he go through in Dr. No? Three. The lyrics are cute, with the bridge pleading, “I’ve seen face, places, and smiles for a moment; but oh, you haunted me so”. The film’s Bond girl, Tatiana, is hardly the love of Bond’s life and would barely leave an impression on him. That being said, although the lyrics most definitely do not fit the film itself, the general composition and tone of the song certainly does. Full of lush strings, and gypsy-sounding tambourines, the tonal quality fits the locale and feel of the film. It’s a personal favorite of mine to listen to, yet it remains fairly underrated and obscure. – A-/B+

3. “Goldfinger” from Goldfinger (1964), performed by Shirley Bassey

The brass is back and louder than ever. Strong with the strings and ominous tone, “Goldfinger” is one of the most memorable tracks Bond has ever produced. With Shirley Bassey at the front, this began a grand tradition of hiring famous people to sing the Bond themes. The lyrics here are probably a lot weaker than people are willing to admit. It’s not the lyrics that make the song (“Such a cold finger; beckons you to enter his web of sin; but don’t go in”), it’s Bassey’s great voice. Resounding with thunder, Bassey makes the track so good; you kind of forget the lyrics are kind of terrible. Who else can hold a note like that end note? This most definitely fits the Bond type of music, and with good reason. – A

4. “Thunderball” from Thunderball (1965), performed by Tom Jones

With big brass remaining a hallmark of the Bond themes, we also have music whose lyrics talk about the film’s villain, rather than Bond himself. I don’t know if I quite agree with that, but it would work for the next forty or so years. Tom Jones powerful voice thunders during the track, which uses big brass much better than “Goldfinger”. With a title like “Thunderball”, it’s a good thing they took it to heart and made it as jazzy, classy, and loud as possible. It a strange way, although the lyrics are relatively simple, it manages to explore certain themes within the villainous canon of Bond bad guys than any other song in the series. Yet another winner in my book. – A-

5. “You Only Live Twice” from You Only Live Twice (1967), performed by Nancy Sinatra

Her boots are made for walking, she was shot down, and apparently, she only lives twice. Yes, Bond managed to snag Old Blue Eyes’ daughter for a Bond theme. But, the trend of songs only very vaguely related to the villains, themes, characters, etc. can be once again found here. Although Ian Fleming opened his original novel with a haiku (“You only live twice/ Once when you are born/ and once when you look death in the face.”), the song itself speaks vaguely of love and danger and being a stranger. It’s muddled and lacks enough of the Japanese influence to really suit the movie. It’s also kind of boring. – C

6. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Theme” (John Barry) and “We Have All the Time in the World” (Louis Armstrong), from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Was it because “You Only Live Twice” kind of sucked or did John Barry just have an itch to have an instrumental “reminiscent” of the original Bond theme start the film? Either way, it was unsuccessful. Using a strange, maybe electronic technique for the bass guitar, the music does not truly allude to the style of Bond, even with the use of the brass. I suppose I can give them kudos for making it sound like you’re going down a mountain, sort of. But, OHMSS was the introduction of the first new actor to play James Bond, Australian actor George Lazenby. So, I guess a new theme was in order for a new Bond? The title sequence uses images and scenes from past Bond films and passes them through an hour glass. And then we have the great Louis Armstrong, Satchmo, on his last recording ever with the sweet, melancholy “We Have All the Time in the World”. This wonderfully romantic tune does make sense here, as James Bond marries Tracy Vicenzo (Dianna Rigg). However, I’m not a big fan of his voice, so it isn’t something I would listen to. – C/B-

7. “Diamonds Are Forever” from Diamonds Are Forever (1971), performed by Shirley Bassey

Once again, Shirley Bassey returns to make mediocre lyrics look splendid in a very chilling theme. Also, Sean Connery makes his final return as James Bond, after Lazenby had stepped out after only one film. The main problem of many of the Bond songs is you have no idea who’s narrating the song. But here, again, it doesn’t really matter. I suppose one could assume that it’s Blofeld, because he’s the villain, but then she begins talking about men, so maybe Jill St. John’s diamond smuggler Tiffany Case. The song combines the chilling tone, the brass we know and love, and carefully chosen strains of disco-esque tones. It creates something pretty perfect, and that’s mostly thanks to Bassey’s helluva voice. – A

8. “Live and Let Die” from Live and Let Die (1973), performed by Paul McCartney and Wings

If you can’t have the Beatles, I guess you might as well have McCartney and Wings. The lyrics have nothing to do with the movie or anything. It’s only vaguely, and I mean vaguely related to the title. McCartney and his wife apparently could barely muster enough wit to explore the actual philosophy that Fleming satirizes in his title. If anything, it’s an exercise in self-indulgence and excess. Yes, the loud parts of the song are action pack and thrilling, but it means nothing and fails to leave any real mark emotionally on the viewer other than “oh that is so cool”. Even though it is, in my opinion, one of the series’ weakest songs, and honestly, most pointless, it has enduring strength. It’s like a half-assed version of “Band on the Run” in the way that it transitions (without reason) from style to style, but here it’s back and forth and not nearly as well composed. Despite the movie taking cues from Blaxploitation movies like Shaq and the films of Pam Grier, there’s no obvious influence of that music style in the theme. This was also Roger Moore’s first Bond, one out of seven. I guess they wanted to market him as exciting. Instead of honestly marketing him as kind of pithy and corny. – D

9. “The Man with the Golden Gun” from The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), performed by Lulu

Again, we find ourselves going back to our roots and vaguely talking about the villain in question, one Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee). Where “Live and Let Die” failed to marry Bond’s jazzy roots with newer, cooler rock and roll, “The Man with the Golden Gun” does so much more successfully. It feels like a crossover of jazz to rock, probably more the latter than the former. The electric guitar slashes through the song, and Lulu’s pop-esque voice works well for the song. While not nearly as skilled or convincing as Bassey, Lulu still manages to some extent disguise the fact that the words are poorly written and lackluster. – B+

10. “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), performed by Carly Simon

This song is definitely about you, Mr. Bond, and it is one of the first to have the lyrics explicitly address James Bond himself. I’m not sure why everyone loves this song, and I’m not sure why I even love it. It’s sweet, tender, and honest; qualities that do not match the Bond series in any way. Marvin Hamlisch’s disco inspired song manages to work, somehow. From the beginning piano riff, it’s totally romantic and somehow totally works. Carly Simon’s beautiful voice, so pop inspired and so recognizable from her song about that other singer, just fills the speakers with sweetness. I don’t know how, because it shouldn’t work. It doesn’t fit the rest of the music, where even “You Only Live Twice” hypothetically makes more tonal sense than this song. But it just does. – A

11. “Moonraker” from Moonraker (1978), performed by Shirley Bassey

Not even Bassey’s flawless voice can save the lyrics of this song. Not only is the title track to one of the worst Bond movies asinine, it is painful to listen to. It does not make any sense from anyone’s perspective. Not Bond’s, not the villain’s, not even the Bond girl’s. This is a new low for Bond.  – D-

12. “For Your Eyes Only” from For Your Eyes Only (1981), performed by Sheena Easton

Yet another song that is only vaguely related to the title and so totally does not make sense to the series or the film. If “Nobody Does It Better” was suited to The Spy Who Loved Me somewhat in tone, this one again fails to make any sense. This track is probably most explicitly related to disco/pop and thus most explicitly nonsensical and annoying. Sheena Easton’s voice is good though, but it would be much more suited for a romantic comedy of some sort than a James Bond film, of all things. – C+

13. “All Time High” from Octopussy (1983), performed by Rita Coolidge

The song that is fun to listen to but has no relation to even the title. It’s like the lyricists are getting really lazy here. Granted, the song itself is pleasant, with its soft rock inflections and pleasant performance, just not right for Bond. – C

14. “A View to a Kill” from A View to a Kill (1985), performed by Duran Duran

By track fourteen, you begin to question why the Bond songs are iconic at all. Besides Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon, and the Bond Theme itself, most of the songs have been incredibly lack luster. Here, with the number one band of the 1980’s, Duran Duran, we do have a little hope., The lyrics are still fairly terrible, but there is some kind of marriage of Bond’s themes and characters with that of very contemporary music. “Dance into the fire” is very action packed sounding, and that’s the best you can hope for this far into the game. (It may be sad that I only knew who Duran Duran was because of this song whenever people would bring them up.) – B

15. “The Living Daylights” from The Living Daylights (1987), performed by a-Ha

By now, Bond’s brassy sound of action had been pretty much thrown away In favor of sounding as contemporary as possible, and thus barely acknowledging the roots of Bond’s style or theme. It’s that theme that made Bond so iconic. Yes, it was all those other factors, but that theme left an impression so indelible on music history, that it’s something exclusive to that brand and to that character. Any spy can drive a cool car, play poker, and have gadgets and girls, but only one man has that theme. I’m not really sure what to make of a-Ha’s Bond theme for The Living Daylights. I’m not sure what the music means. It sounds somewhat orchestral, somewhat electronic, and somewhat like rock. It’s like an amalgam of those genres that is not messy exactly, but it’s far from perfectly executed. The falsetto singing throws one off a little. It’s not a terrible song, but it doesn’t really make sense. – B-

16. “Licence to Kill” from Licence to Kill (1989), performed by Gladys Knight

Much like “Moonraker” and “Live and Let Die”, “License to Kill” is the kind of song I will skip over if it comes up on my iPod. And since I happen to have the album The Best of Bond…James Bond on my iPod, it happens every so often. Continuing the trend of irrelevant lyrics and contemporary style over any relation to roots or the film’s themes, it has a very R&B feel to it. You would think that a film dealing with a Colombian drug lord would have a little spice to it. But, no, instead we get a plodding pseudo-ballad about heartbreak and the singer belting, “I got a license to kill, and you know I’m aiming straight for your heart”. So trite and annoying.  – D

17. “GoldenEye” from GoldenEye (1995), performed by Tina Turner

Is it wrong for me to just expect Tina Turner doing a Bond theme to be damn good? I hope not. The song is a nice return after a series of stupid, trite, and irrelevant tracks, a nice return to quality and mystery, much like the film itself. Pierce Brosnan’s first adventure as James Bond will always be one of my favorites, because, in a nut shell, it’s just a damn good movie. The song was penned by U2’s Bono and the Edge, so that definitely adds to the “hell yes” factor. Paying homage vocally to Shirley Bassey, Turner handles the song with integrity, adding throaty and gritty vocals to every note. The lyrics make sense too! Sung from the perspective of Alec Trevelyan, Agent 006, Janus, and the man who betrayed Bond, the song is actually a deep and interesting look at jealousy and greed. A Bond song that not only makes sense to the film but is also actually good? You’re kidding! I am not. “GoldenEye” begins with string plucks and walks the line of contemporary pop music and sweet, mysterious jazz, and does so beautifully. And Tina Turner is always, shall we say, Onatopp of things. – A

18. “Tomorrow Never Dies” from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), performed by Sheryl Crow

With an entirely new Bond of the 1990’s we get an entirely new kind of song for each film. “Tomorrow Never Dies”, while not the masterpiece I think “GoldenEye” is, is nonetheless an interesting examination of Bond’s cold heart. The best guess as to whose point of view the song is supposed to be would be Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), Bond’s former lover and current wife to villain. Or maybe it’s the cynical view of Wai Linn (Michelle Yeoh), who is, essentially, Bond’s match (one of the first legitimate matches, from what I remember). Sheryl Crow’s soaring vocals are always a treat, and the orchestral nature of the music is a lovely acknowledgement of Bond’s orchestral days. The song, though, is a bit enigmatic, but it at least makes some sense to an extent. – B+

19. “The World is Not Enough” from The World is Not Enough (1999), performed by Garbage

Another one of my personal favorites, and what I can say is a nice psychoanalysis of the film’s villain Elektra King, Garbage’s take on a Bond theme involves lush strings and passionate guitar. A proper homage to the Bond films of yore, with lyrics that correspond to dialogue in both TWINE and OHMSS. It is one of the most perfect examples of a rock crossover to whatever genre also makes up this fantastic song. Shirley Manson, the band’s lead vocalist, hits some pretty great notes in the song, and she looks fabulous doing it in the track’s music video. This span of great Bond tracks is short lived though. *sigh* – A

20. “Die Another Day” from Die Another Day (2002), performed by Madonna

I imagine that when it was announced that Madonna would sing the title track to Brosnan’s last Bond film, some people were thinking, “Wait, why didn’t they ask her in the ‘80’s, or even ‘90’s?” The lady who is still releasing singles to this day brought us a weird electro pop song that is so much less than what it aspires to be. Instead, it feels like the lackluster songs of the Moore films, the ones that basically made no connection between the lyrics of the song and the film itself, as opposed to the title. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, as one could make the connection that it relates to the movie’s bad guy, Gustav Graves. (On the electro pop note, it should be noted that here, more than ever, composer David Arnold employed a lot of electronic manipulation to the music.) But that’s stretching it. They probably should have asked her more than a decade ago to do it. – C

21. “You Know My Name” (Chris Cornell) and “The James Bond Theme” (David Arnold) from Casino Royale (2006)

Apparently, an origin story calls for a whole new theme, so rocking and rollicking that it’ll blow your mind. We’ve had songs that talk vaguely about the title, or about the villain, or talk vaguely about James Bond himself, and the occasional one that talks explicitly, and well, about Bond. But we’ve never had a James Bond theme that’s from the point of view of the Master Spy himself. Woo, we get an existential self-evaluation about what it’s like to be a cold killing machine. And, because it’s addressed to someone, we can then assume he’s talking to Vesper Lynd, the gorgeous beauty. What do I love about this song? Besides everything, the lyrics are powerful and relevant, the music pulsates, and, as an origin song, it totally makes sense. Is there any homage to the Bond theme itself? Not really, and with good reason. Yes there’s a little bras, but this is Bond for a new generation, one that is starting from scratch. So, the musical motif throughout the film is not the James Bond theme, but actually refrains from “You Know My Name”. But that isn’t to say Bond’s theme has disappeared completely. On the contrary, just as Bond finally discovers that he is the man with the license to kill, and we hear his “first” utterance of “Bond. James Bond.”, David Arnold serves us up with a retro, neo-classical update of the Bond theme. It honors the original but has its own kind of cool tone. I would say “You Know My Name” is my all-time favorite Bond theme, for it is song writing and storytelling at its best. – A+/A

22. “Another Way to Die” from Quantum of Solace (2008), performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys

I will forever resent Jack White and Alicia Keys for even stepping foot in the studio to do this song. The opening riff sounds like it was literally ripped from “You Know My Name”’s opening riffs and just put in bass form. The lyrics seem strangely more suited to something like, I don’t know, a hybrid of rap, pop, and R&B. The overall sound is a confusing mess, trying to do what Casino Royale did, but failing completely. That’s how I feel about Quantum of Solace in general; Casino Royale was so good that they wanted to recreate that feeling. The voices aren’t suited to the song and here we have a song that, perhaps like “All Time High”, seems to have nothing to do with the movie. A huge letdown, like the film itself. – C-

Conclusion:

The Bond music will always be memorable, but the only reason that is because of a select few songs that are deservingly iconic. There are a couple that are underrated, but for the most part, that “Bond sound” only exists in about six or seven of the over twenty-two themes produced in the entire franchise. The longest lasting franchise has inexplicably created the longest lasting impression of a certain kind of sound. Yet that “sound” is inconsistent, and nearly disappears for an entire set of the songs, which means almost a decade. Let’s hope that with the new song for the upcoming Bond film Skyfall, it’ll be a song with integrity and with good lyrics. We need that music to let us know that one man is on the screen, Bond. James Bond.

Top 5

1. James Bond Theme – Dr. No


2. You Know My Name – Casino Royale


3. GoldenEye – GoldenEye


4. Goldfinger – Goldfinger


5. Thunderball – Thunderball 

The Little Monster Within: Why I Love Lady Gaga

Posted on Updated on

So, I have some exciting news! I will be attending the Monster Ball Tour in September, starring the one and only Lady gaga! I have to say she is quite a character. I’ve been up the past for the few weeks studying her style of music, her lyrics, and her videos. And I think she is simply AMAZING. She’s so tongue-in-cheek. I’m really impressed with her vocal range.

In all honestly, the genre she works in, which is sort of an electronic pop, is really quite the most annoying and my least favorite genre. The ability to so easily manipulate the sound and the artist’s voice is a bit scary. Who knows what you’re really listening to? A prime example of pop being the demise of good music is Ke$ha, an artist who is so drunk on electronic techniques and auto-tune, you can’t tell what you’re listening to. Her singles “TiK ToK” and “Blah Blah Blah” completely alter her voice, and yet her record producer spotted her and signed her because her voice sounded like a “guttural orgasm”. One can’t be sure if this is true, seeing as her backup vocals on Flo Rida’s “Right Round” are also auto-tuned.

But what’s interesting about Lady gaga is that she has so much to say. She has her personal message to fans and she has her subtext within her music. One could easily make a song up about strip poker and get it on the Billboard’s top 100, but to get it to number one and have it mean something is really good. What’s it all mean? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard it before. In “Poker Face”, she’s talking about her hiding her sexuality. Who’da thunk that? The psychological fears and anxieties of being able to tell your lover you’re also attracted to the other gender are complex and simply juicy.

And what about “Paparazzi”? That song is one of my favorites, as one can draw extremely close comparisons to the musical Chicago. The song can have so many different interpretations. 1. A stalker follows a star and “follow you until you love me”. 2. What do you want more: love or fame? 3. You can do anything when you’re famous and people will still keep fleeing to give you power. There are others, but this song has so much depth. I admit that they aren’t the best lyrics of all time, but because it does have several layers beyond its superficial beat and catchy tune, this single marked her place as someone who has style and most importantly substance.

“Bad Romance” is another favorite of mine, as it goes into the psyche of someone who is in love with a bad boy, someone who fears what may happen if she loses him “I want your love and all your love is revenge, you and me could write a bad romance”. The song continues with Hitchcock-ian references: “I want your Psycho, your Vertigo shtick/ When you’re in my Rear Window, baby you’re sick”. This line shows that the singer loves her lover unconditionally. Every flaw, every inadequacy, she accepts regardless.

Another great song of hers is “Paper Gangsta”, a song about what it’s like trying to write songs and not sell yourself out. And Gaga has managed to do exactly that, while maintaining her “Fame”. I think one of the most important aspects of her career is that she’s matured into a great songwriter so quickly. She went from “party-hardy” in “Just Dance” in the beginning of The Fame to more mature songs such as “Paper Gangsta”. And from there, she jumped the ball and floored us with her next album/EP The Fame Monster. Containing some of her best work yet (sure, there are only 8 songs, but still great nonetheless), The Fame Monster is simply a mini-contemporary masterpiece to behold. With “Bad Romance”, she’s also got my favorite song by her of all time, “Speechless”. The ballad tearfully, powerfully is about her father and it oozes emotion in every chord. It sounds great live and may be her best work she will ever do. It’s all organic, so those annoying haters who hate pop can go and listen to this and see her as both a great pianist and great composer.

I won’t even begin to talk about her music videos. There’s just too much to love. From her more fun early videos to her emotionally created videos like “Paparazzi, “Bad Romance”, and the recent “Telephone”, she is just simply the artist of our day. She can be fun too! Not all of her songs need that deep analysis I give them. “Teeth” and “Telephone” are great for simply listening to or dancing to. “Teeth” is like Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment”; it’s about rough, rough BDSM sex. The thing is, Gaga’s is more fun, catchier, better composed, and…just better. Significantly so, as it doesn’t sound so filthy and unclean. The line in Lambert’s song that goes “raise the alarm” is a warning signal of “ewwww, gross” as his AMA performance perfectly demonstrated what a perv he can be. There are boundaries that can be broken and doors that can be shoved down for the better of art. But simulating felatio on stage is just crass and vulgar. “Telephone” pairs up Gaga with Beyonce for an upbeat song about…clubbing and ignoring your cell phone. What could be better?

Her ability to transition from genre to genre is also a veritable talent. From grungy rock like “Boys Boys Boys” to a more Lady-Gaga-sings-the-blues composition like the Canadian track “Again Again” and to a weepier ballad like “Speechless”, her style has great range. As does her voice. One is hard put to find such an enormous pop star with such an enormous voice. Her flowing tonal qualities last throughout her songs. AND SHE ALWAYS SINGS LIVE! Watch her live performances on YouTube and you can TELL she sings live.

Did I hear avante garde? Yes, you did. The word of the conceptual artist has welcomed her into their family. Her fashion, some may say, is completely ridiculous. And, in a way, it is. But is it really fashion? Well, not really. Her most bombastic pieces are pieces of art she chooses to wear. Her bizarre Muppet coat, her red lace outfit, and it goes on and on and on. The great thing is, is that her wearable art has what we may call as an Artist Statement. It can be interpreted, it has a meaning. It’s not just something outrageous to wear at the Grammys. There’s always more to it. Her skeleton suit she wore to the American Music Awards was a statement on anorexia in fashion. Her Muppet coat was a statement about wearing fur. Her fire bra was about the woman’s body as a sexual weapon. This isn’t just some crazy drug addicted pop star; this is a woman with a brain. She’s articulate, smart, and very pretty.

Her fan base is huge. Her “little monsters” as she lovingly calls them absolutely adore her. And for good reason. She gives then an outlet where they can be comfortable with themselves. Being the freak for most of her high school life, she’s able to emulate that emption in her music and give her little monsters a place of acceptance at her concerts. While I think it’s a stretch to call her fans her best friends, I am quite happy at how modest and kind she seems to be. Hopefully, it’s not a horrid façade like most stars.

I simply love Lady Gaga now; she’s such a weird and amazing character. Hopefully, she won’t be a flash in the pan.

“Telephone”:

“Bad Romance”:

“Poker Face”:

“Paper Gangsta”:

“Again Again”:

“Speechless” live at the Monster Ball:

“Speechless” Royal Variety Performance:

“Speechess” Vevo Launch performance:

“Poker Face”/”Speechless”/”Your Song” performance at the Grammys with Elton John:

“Paparazzi”:

“Paparazzi” Live Monster Ball Performance:

The Fab Fourteen: Review of the Beatles Stereo Collection Box Set, Remastered

Posted on

Even if you hate their music, you can’t deny that the Beatles is one of the most, if not the most, influential band in music history. Their transitions from prudent pop stars with mop tops to their psychedelic period (Think “Day Tripper”, not “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”), to their spiritual and political transition made them what we remember today. And the Beatles were particularly excellent and making those moves, always making them smooth, and they would always include a song or two from their previous period, as if to say that they weren’t quite done with that style. On September 9, 2009, EMI and Apple Corp. released the Beatles in a stereo box set containing all 13 studio albums (in their original UK track listings) and a limited edition mono set with 10 albums. Both sets contained the two disc set of EP B-sides and non-album singles called Past Masters (for the mono set, Mono Masters). I’ll review each album and note the sound quality in particular. The digital upgrades took for years for engineers to perfect and George Martin was most proud of the mono mixes. The sets include mixes of songs and albums never before released. I will be reviewing the Stereo mix.

Please Please Me

The Beatles took only 12 hours to record this album, basically a compilation of their repertoire when they played at the Cavern Club. Many may say that the stereo mix give them a headache, due to the separation of vocals and back tracks in different channels. That may be a valid point to some, and George Martin even condemned the mixes when they had been released in 1987 for some of the albums (first four albums mono, rest stereo, all crappy), but what it does enhance is the music itself. I would recommend not listening to them with ear buds, but on a good sound system like in a car. The bass is stronger and adds a layer of fun to everything. Some choice songs are “I Saw Her Standing There”, where this whorl of fun lifts you up and makes you promise you won’t dance to another band again. “Twist and Shout”, where John shredded his vocals, sounds cleaner and so much more fun to dance to. According to my mother, the sound hasn’t sounded this great since the original LPs were released. Grade: A

With the Beatles

The second album contains some songs that didn’t end up on Please Please Me. It doesn’t really matter, but it just gives you another opportunity to pop in a disc. The guitar in “All My Loving” suggests more fun and heart than before and on most of the tracks, there isn’t a sharp pang in the notes that ends up leaving your ear buds sounding like static and having you rip them off after a time. “Till There Was You”, a song from the musical The Music Man is included and the charm and sweetness of that boy band makes you remember (if you can) your first love. There’s a cover of “Please Mr. Postman” and it sounds great. The Beatles kept it going great with their second outing, proving they were here to stay. Grade: A

A Hard Day’s Night

Released the same year as With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) served as sort of a pseudo soundtrack to the film that Paul, John, George, and Ringo had starred in. The soundtrack is probably the best that they would ever produce, with the title song rhapsodizing about working as a pop star 24/7 and being chased by females around town. “If I Fell” sounds clearer than ever before and you can hear Paul’s voice crack in one of the verses, which adds even more emotion to the song. “And I Love Her”, a song declared by John Lennon as “Paul’s first ‘Yesterday’” is a beautiful tribute to the one he loved and is perfect for a dedication to someone. The sound quality on the guitar solo makes it sound all the more amazing. “Can’t Buy Me Love” in the film is very silly and kind of pointless, but alone on the album, it sounds fantastic. The album is a strong disc filled with classic and after hearing it, will make you wish you had the film to watch again. Grade: A

Beatles for Sale

Of their early work as somewhat prudish artists, Beatles for sale isn’t my favorite. Not to say that the album doesn’t have its merits, but it sounds as if the band is getting slightly tired of coming out with cutesy songs declaring their love for their girls in the same style three years later as when they first began. You can hear the transition as they mature with songs like “I’ll Follow the Sun”, a song that sings about how I’m going to leave you because I want to. This tired feeling isn’t evident in the sound quality, as it makes it far more enjoyable if you aren’t a fan. But the weariness would disappear and they would be back to their old selves with the next album. Their cover of “Rock and Roll Music” will have you shimmying on the floor. I used to think “Eight Days a Week” was the stupidest song I had ever heard, and that was because I was applying too much logic into its title. Now that I hear it now, I love its quaint ability to tell you that they don’t have enough time in the world to show how much they love you, a wonderful message for a song. Grade: B

Help!

With Help!, you can definitely notice a change of style in the Beatles style and writing, as they progress to more emotional songs and a less pop standard feel. “Yesterday” is one of the most beautiful ballads that has ever been written and the bass guitar that Paul plays in it resounds like it hasn’t since the LP was released back in 1965. They still have their good old kitschy love songs in there, as witnessed by listening to “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, but songs like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” are proof that these boys from Liverpool were growing up. The title song is a lot of fun and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” is a crazy bit of just pure joy. Grade: A-

Rubber Soul

The Fab Four were growing at a very fast rate and even in 1965; they continued to break the barriers of music. “Drive My Car” sounds giddy and raucous, and the separation of the vocals is no longer becoming an issue, as their engineering process was abandoning that method. “Norwegian Wood (Your Bird Has Flown)” sounds sweet and mellifluous. The album utilizes the 1987 stereo remix, which doesn’t make it sounds as noticeably different as the others (the same is with Help!, but that album does have an enhancement in sound). The original 1965 stereo mix in remstered form is included with The Beatles in Mono box set as a bonus. Paul’s song “I’m Looking Through You” was the nastiest song that had been released on one of their albums up to that point. It shows an unwillingness to admit he was wrong and its guitar riff in the beginning, albeit acoustic, is still oddly sweet. “Girl” was also written in malice, but that doesn’t really take away from any magic that their music on the album creates. Grade: B+

Revolver

The Fab Four went from boys to men in this album, writing some of their best ballads on this and using techniques that had never been used before. “I’m Only Sleeping” (a song that perfectly describes what I feel like when I have to wake up for school) contains guitar played in reverse, “Eleanor Rigby” sounds amazing as it tells a story of loneliness, and “Yellow Submarine” continues to create speculation about its meaning, some of the theories being a head trip when taking drugs. Honestly, that is the dumbest thing ever. Ringo, on the All Together Now documentary (about creating Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE show) said he was merely writing it as a kid’s song. And it was a good idea. “Got to Get You into My Life” doesn’t sound as harsh as it did in 1987 and “Here There and Everywhere” improve on the vocal sounds impeccably. Think you hate the IRS and Obama’s bailout giving spree; well have a good time listening to “Taxman”, an ode to the government’s bizarre need to tax us on everything. Grade: A-

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles were tired of touring all the time and Beatlemania (that thing where girls scream at the Beatles), so they decided to create an alter-ego band called the Lonely Hearts Club band, whose head would be called the ever mysterious Billy Shears. The album is like a show you go to, beginning with an overture and a brief introduction and then letting you go on a whirlwind of fantasy and discovery as you listen to each new song. The title track resonates with a happy “Let’s get this show o the road” feeling and its sound quality is far better than its original release. Clearer and more precise are the notes, lacking the flat tone that the 1987 release was afflicted with. “When I’m Sixty-Four” sounds fuller, “A Day in the Life” sounds sadder, “She’s leaving Home” sounds more heartbreaking, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sounds more psychedelic (though, contrary to prominent rumors, the song is NOT about LSD). Ringo’s vocals on “With a Little Help from My Friends” sound so much clearer than before. You can hear the quaver in his voice, which, depending on your view of how the rest of the band let him sing sometimes, is better or worse in result. The show is on the road and it’s not stopping. This album ranks in my favorite CDs of all time list, as well as one of the greatest albums ever released. Grade: A+

Magical Mystery Tour

This is my weirdest disc of the set, mostly because the sound is so wacky and so obviously drug induced, it makes me uncomfortable. Though it’s my least favorite album as a whole, the track list is great and sounds awesome. The songs, when they leave the territory of “Oh, I was high when I wrote that”, sound marvelous, but that happens seldom on this album. The supposedly nonsense song “I Am the Walrus”, while not directly pointing to the death of Paul McCartney, still sounds freaky, and with the upgrade in sound, sounds even freakier. The effects, such as an ominous laughing that sounds like it came from the Devil, give an air of John’s idea of a fun time using weed. For me, it isn’t really fun, but the song itself remains a classic, and through all its nonsense or drug references or death allusions, it remains one of my favorites.”The Fool on the Hill” reminds me of stupid people or people who have fallen in love. They aren’t that much different, but the ballad’s lyrics have a distinct sound as if to give a nod to that village idiot. “Blue Jay Way”, there’s only one thing to say, what the hell were they taking? “Penny Lane” is a very nice ode to a street that you may live on. “Strawberry Fields Forever” is another nice song and “All You Need is Love” is either quite amazing on occasions or simply annoying. “Hello Goodbye” I will say is one of the best tracks and I suggest that you listen to it here and not the cover by the Jonas Brothers. Grade: B

The Beatles (White Album)

Another one of my favorites, the Beatles had compiled more songs than ever for this album after spending some time in India. I track list containing about 34 songs, and all but four of them are top notch. The cover is simple; the songs however are deeper than ever before. You have one of their first real rock and roll songs (“Back in the USSR”) and it sounds mind blowing. The airplane noise shakes your sound system and your body and it touches ground and then Paul starts singing about the flight. The transition to “Dear Prudence” is perfect, “Glass Onion” is a really great song about rumors, “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” is a fairy tale with a fun riff, and on and on and on. The album is perfect, with Eric Clapton playing guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, a truly amazing song. John then sings about how “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and creates a masterpiece out of three unfinished songs and melding them into one haunting track. “Blackbird” is a beautiful commentary on the Civil Rights movement, and “Piggies” is a wonderfully amusing commentary on the middleclass (though, like “Helter Skelter”, the infamous Charles Manson interpreted it as a rising revolution against blacks). “Helter Skelter” is one heck of a piece of rock and roll, as the thrashing really gets loud and it becomes a memorable piece of history. “Honey Pie” is a wonderful homage to the songs Paul’s father used to listen to, those of vaudevillian sweetness and it works quite well. Ringo does a great job on vocals on the album’s last track “Good Night”, a sweet lullaby, and “Revolution 1” in its slow version seems dull and slow. “Revolution 9” is just basically having fun with sound effects and “Mother Nature’s Son” is a pretty tune that has a guitar sound that sounds great in stereo. One of the best albums of all time, this gets the Beatles on a great start as rock and roll masters. Grade: A+

Yellow Submarine

Technically, this doesn’t really count as an album at all, and even the group admits that. It’s the soundtrack to the animated film, and the animated film is the trippiest animated film of all time. What the soundtrack does is compile some of the songs used in the film (not all, in 1997, EMI released The Yellow Submarine Songtrack) and includes some of the score from the film. Because of this, it ends up being the weakest albums of the set, only containing about 13 tracks total and six being by the Beatles, two of which had been released previously. The remaining four were songs that had already been written but remained unreleased. “Yellow Submarine” remains a classic kid song, the guitar and piano riff in “Hey Bulldog” is simply masterful (if you want to hear two awesome riffs in one, check out the remixed version of “Lady Madonna” from the Love album. The song also includes part of “I Want You”.), and the rest of the songs are silly, but forgettable. The score is interesting and has a unique melodic quality to it, but it does nothing much as an album by itself. Grade: C

Abbey Road

Another of my personal favorites, this meticulously constructed album was the last one the Beatles worked on, even though it was released before Let It Be. “Come Together” makes an excellent socio-political song and with the improvement in the sound department, you can actually make out the eerie utter of “shoot me” by Lennon in the introduction. “Something”’s beginning guitar introduction sound pure and “Oh! Darling” shreds all vocal chords in a very sweet song. Ringo makes another kid song in “Octopus’s garden”, because everyone knows that if it were for an adult, it would be slightly idiotic. The simply words of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” clash well with its intense and complex music, an 8 minute long piece of music artistry. “Because”, inspired by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” has a very moody quality that enhances the overall feel. “Here Comes the Sun” improves significantly with the remaster, as its beginning guitar drift lightly but powerfully from the speakers. The album marks a period of when the Beatles were drifting apart and we should be glad they created this wonderful album. Grade: A

Let It Be

Their final album released is noted as one of the most difficult creatively and collaboratively. The sessions were recorded amidst tension and walkouts from the members and the recordings themselves are like listening to each process of development. “Across the Universe” is a nice song, and the first to be broadcast in outer space! The beginning bit resonates very sweetly, thanks to the sound quality. The title track is beautiful and one of the most miserable to record. And “Get Back” is fun, as it includes some of the babble before and the dialogue from their rooftop concert. “The Long and Winding Road” is a long and boring song that never made that much of an impression on me. But, the final album is good. Not great, as some of their previous ones, but good. Grade: B+

Past Masters

Exclusive to the set is Past Masters, a two disc compilation of all the non-album singles and B-sides the Beatles released. Originally, the set was released in two volumes in 1988, but in the stereo box set, it’s one set on two discs. The album features stereo remasters of all the songs except for “She Loves You”, “I’ll Get You” (Volume 1) and “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number”)” (Volume 2), which are included in a reastered mono mix. The mono box set includes the mono remasters in a set called Mono Masters. Like the early albums, the early singles suffer from the separation of vocals and music in different channels, but with some of the songs, like “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, this is a great improvement. “This Boy”, which was an instrumental in the film A Hard Day’s Night and called “Ringo’s Theme”, has a sweet tone to it that also is rather woebegone. The guitar riff in “I Feel Fine” sounds absolutely fantastic, as the beginning twang introduces you to the world’s most famous band. And volume 1 even includes their German singles! Yay! Included are “Komm, Gib Mir deine Hand” and “Sie Leibt Dich” (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”, respectively) Volume 2 features their later singles, like “Day Tripper” and “Paperback Rider” (which sounds less headache inducing in mono, by the way). The song that probably improves the greatest on volume 2 is “Lady Madonna”, where Paul’s’ piano paying skills are observed here. “Hey Jude” sounds better than ever and the “nature version” of “Across the Universe” is included. The better version of “Revolution” is here and the political message, though blatant, doesn’t match the actual enjoyment of the song. A great compilation set and if you’re a new to the Beatles, I think you should start with Past Masters. (I think they should have called it Past ReMasters.) Grade: A+

Verdict:

The set is simply amazing. The sound quality is better than the original LPs and gives Beatles fans something to sing about it. But the question is: will people with regular sound systems notice the difference? Well, on some of the albums, like Past Masters, Please Please Me, White Album, and Sgt. Pepper’s, yes, the sound is noticeably cleaner, more pure, and better. Louder, yes, but the subtleness of certain notes and vocal arrangements can be heard on the remasters. The bass is better and palpable, the guitar is amazing, and it makes sound even better than remembered. The albums come with new liner notes and photos, which aren’t that big of a deal. Each disc, with the exception of Past Masters, has a 3-5 minute mini-documentary. These don’t really tell you all that much, but offer small but interesting anecdotes. These are embedded as QuickTime files and with the stereo box set as a DVD. (Note: They were compiled and aired on the History Channel as The Beatles on Record.) This is simply an amazing box set and will thrill a Beatles fan or someone who is being introduced to the Beatles. It allows you to recapture music history and relive the best seven years in music. This set doesn’t let me down at all. There’s certainly “Something” great about the band. Even though musical bliss only lasted seven years, those seven years were of “Revolution” and you can now look back as if it were “Yesterday” to all the great music.

Set: A+++

Sound: A+++

Please Please Me: A

With the Beatles: A

A Hard Day’s Night: A

Beatles for Sale: B

Help!: A-

Rubber Soul: B+

Revolver: A-

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: A+

Magical Mystery Tour: B

The Beatles (White Album): A+

Yellow Submarine: C

Abbey Road: A

Let It Be: B+

Past Masters: A+